‘Robert the Bruce’: Angus Macfadyen on his labor of love reprising his ‘Braveheart’ role and the perks of self-isolation

Angus Macfadyen is on an island off Panama. About as far away as you can get from the highlands of Scotland, or the snowy hills of Montana — more on that in a moment. He has a movie coming out. One he’s waited 25 years to cowrite and star in. He’s Robert The Bruce in a film called, wait for it, he did: “Robert The Bruce.” It’s a kinda sorta sequel to the role he played in “Braveheart.” But Macfadyen says “it stands on it’s own.” He also corrects a little of Mel Gibson‘s history — no not the really bad stuff — about the 1995 Oscar winner.

Angus Macfadyen: “The name ‘Braveheart’ was a moniker that was applied to Robert The Bruce. Not William Wallace. It was something that he was called. So I’ve always wanted to tell the rest of the story. After Wallace died, Robert The Bruce goes on to battle the English many, many times over many years. And was failing and was on the run, hid out in caves. And he gave up and went to a cave to die. The ultimate self-isolation, really. And something happened in that cave over this period which no one knows about, but it’s talked about a lot in myths. So he went in a cave to die and came out a king ready to face his destiny.”

The film presumes that RTB (that’s what the kids are all calling him) was nursed back to health by a Scottish widow and her children. That’s a bit of artistic license, but Macfadyen says something like that had to happen.

AM: “I don’t see how anyone could survive in a brutal winter without some people who were sympathetic to his cause. The guy would have been at death’s door. So he’s helped back to health by this family. A family of three children that were orphaned.”

All of this not only coincides with the 25th anniversary of “Braveheart” but also — and honestly who didn’t already know this — the 700th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath. Don’t laugh, Macfadyen has been traveling around reading that document for Scottish audiences. It’s on Facebook. And Twitter. He takes this Scottish stuff seriously. And so does the film.

AM: “They lived in poverty and all they knew was that their fathers went off to fight for the nobles and aristocracy and are dying.”

The film costars Jared Harris, Patrick Fugit and Melora Walters. Nowhere to be found, even in the credits, is the name Mel Gibson.

AM: “I didn’t talk to him. It’s a historical character. But I’d like to send him a streamer. I’m gonna see if he’ll give me a nice quote.”

The money for the film came through when another completely different movie fell apart and Macfadyen and crew were offered that film’s funding. The moneyman came from Montana.

AM: “We shot for five weeks in a brutal Montana winter. On the first day there was a snow blizzard. No fake snow. No fake breath. Bloody cold. I actually thrive in cold so I kind of enjoyed it. It definitely meant you didn’t have to do any acting. We went to Scotland for two weeks to do pick-up shots in the countryside. It was a humbling process. Almost like Robert The Bruce’s ghost was there saying ‘Well this is exactly how it was.’ You’re going to go through the darkest hours here.”

He compares the film to “High Noon.” RTB is on the run knowing that when the snow melts the enemy will find him. It’s a film about isolation in a time when we’re all in a cave. This was supposed to have a theatrical push. Now it begins streaming on Friday. Macfadyen, speaking from that Panamanian island, likes loneliness.

AM: “I’m used to self-isolation but we’ve all got to make a living. I don’t like cities. I like to live away from the hustle and bustle of things. Right now, where I am, it feels like my own island. Everyone has fled. All ferries and planes canceled. It’s sort of the way I like it. Everybody’s fine. My family is in Scotland. All hunkered down.”

He says that the ghost of Robert the Bruce would tell us to “stay inside until the sun comes up.” Until then, Angus Macfadyen has given us the next chapter in a king’s life. But it wasn’t easy.

AM: “The journey itself was like living through Robert The Bruce’s life. It took so long.”

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