Duncan Kenworthy The Eagle Interview part 1


Duncan Kenworthy The Eagle Interview part 1

The Eagle

Cast:Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland, Mark Strong
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Genre: Adventure, Drama
Rated: PG
Running Time: 114 minutes

Synopsis: In 2nd-Century Britain, two men - master and slave - venture beyond the edge of the known world on a dangerous and obsessive quest that will push them beyond the boundaries of loyalty and betrayal, friendship and hatred, deceit and heroismThe Roman epic adventure The Eagle is directed by Kevin Macdonald and produced by Duncan Kenworthy. Jeremy Brock has adapted the screenplay from Rosemary Sutcliff's classic novel The Eagle of the Ninth.

In 140 AD, the Roman Empire extends all the way to Britain - though its grasp is incomplete, as the rebellious tribes of Caledonia (today's Scotland) hold sway in the far North. Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) arrives in Britain, determined to restore the tarnished reputation of his father, Flavius Aquila. It was 20 years earlier that Rome's 5,000-strong Ninth Legion, under the command of Flavius and carrying their golden emblem, the Eagle of the Ninth, marched north into Caledonia. They never returned; Legion and Eagle simply vanished into the mists. Angered, the Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered the building of a wall to seal off the territory; Hadrian's Wall became the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire - the edge of the known world.

Driven to become a brilliant soldier and now given command of a small fort in the southwest, Marcus bravely leads his troops during a siege. Commended by Rome for his bravery, yet discharged from the army because of his severe wounds, Marcus convalesces, demoralized, in the villa of his Uncle Aquila (Donald Sutherland), a retired army man. When Marcus impulsively gets a young Briton's life spared at a gladiatorial contest, Aquila buys the Briton, Esca (Jamie Bell), to be Marcus' slave. Marcus is dismissive of Esca, who harbors a seething hatred of all things Roman. Yet Esca vows to serve the man who has saved his life.

Hearing a rumor that the Eagle has been seen in a tribal temple in the far north, Marcus is galvanized into action, and sets off with Esca across Hadrian's Wall. But the highlands of Caledonia are a vast and savage wilderness, and Marcus must rely on his slave to navigate the region. When they encounter ex-Roman soldier Guern (Mark Strong), Marcus realizes that the mystery of his father's disappearance may well be linked to the secret of his own slave's identity and loyalty - a secret all the more pressing when the two come face-to-face with the warriors of the fearsome Seal Prince (Tahar Rahim).

Release Date: July 21st, 2011


Centuries, Decades, Years
Late in the 20th century, one of Britain's top movie producers, BAFTA Award winner and Academy Award nominee Duncan Kenworthy, noticed that a certain kind of story wasn't being told any more on-screen; where, he wondered, were the historical dramas of high adventure?

He recalls, "As a boy, I'd read and loved all Rosemary Sutcliff's novels about the Dark Ages, and about Roman Britain, but especially The Eagle of the Ninth. I remember describing it to Mike Newell, when we were on set shooting [the Best Picture Oscar nominee] Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1993, as my favorite childhood book.

"Mike Newell told me one of his kids was at that very moment reading and loving it - many years after me - and that sent me back to it one more time. It's a wonderfully resonant and exciting story, with characters, issues, and emotions as vivid to me today as when Rosemary Sutcliff dreamed them up. I decided there and then that one day I would make a movie of it."

Rosemary Sutcliff had based her 1954 story on a tantalising piece of then-current historical research: the disappearance of Rome's Ninth Legion. Stationed for several years in Eburacum - present-day York, in northern England - the Ninth suddenly vanished from the records in 120 AD, giving rise to the belief that they had marched north into Scotland and never returned. Today's historians are divided as to whether the Ninth did indeed vanish in the north, or whether they were instead posted elsewhere, but the original story of their disappearance remains historically viable. The novel, which has sold more than 1,000,000 copies over the decades, was previously dramatised for the U.K.'s Radio 4; and was made into a BBC serial of six half-hour episodes in 1977.

Duncan Kenworthy reached out to the late author's agents, estate and publisher, but he had back-to-back projects in the 1990s. So it wasn't until 1998, during the making of another of his hit movies, that things progressed. He reports, "I have a vivid memory of standing on location in the Ritz Hotel in London - shooting Notting Hill - on the phone to the Oxford University Press about the movie rights."

At first, Duncan Kenworthy's intention was to make a big-budget sword-and-sandal movie out of the book, and when Gladiator became a blockbuster hit and the Best Picture Oscar winner of 2000, the cinematic pendulum swung in favor of his vision. Then Duncan Kenworthy's pursuit of the rights in The Eagle of the Ninth came to the attention of director Kevin Macdonald. The filmmaker had won an Academy Award for his documentary feature One Day in September and had also recently made the docudrama Touching the Void.

Duncan Kenworthy notes, "I already knew Kevin Macdonald; his brother Andrew Macdonald and I had started DNA Films together and Andrew Macdonald was my producing partner at the time. Kevin Macdonald came to me saying he'd heard I had the rights to The Eagle of the Ninth, and that he'd always wanted to direct a Roman adventure movie and had always loved this book. Could he direct it?

"At that point, though, I didn't yet have a script - I'd been waiting several years for one particular British writer who was passionate about the book but still unavailable - and Kevin Macdonald had never done a narrative feature, let alone a big picture, so I didn't think there was much point in talking. I'd only ever hired a director after I had a script I felt was ready to go; developing a film with a director was something I had never done before."

Kevin Macdonald, like Duncan Kenworthy, had carried the book in his consciousness for years. He remembers, "I read the novel when I was about 12 years old and was absolutely held by it. There was something about the atmosphere on the edge, and the way in which these cultures met - the Celtic, the British, and the Roman Empire - that stuck with me. The book fed my love of history, and now I felt I could tell it on film in a way that did justice to it and depict incredible worlds of 2,000 years ago.

"The story is also about friendship; the lead characters are two people from different cultures who don't understand each other and who see the world in different ways, and who must move beyond that to see each other as human beings."

While the producer considered how to proceed, the movie industry sought to capitalise on Gladiator. Duncan Kenworthy comments, "A couple of 'historical epics' were made and released, and they represented the road I quickly realised I didn't want to travel with The Eagle. They were too big, with too many computer-generated effects - replicated armies, invented cultures, and characters that didn't seem to me to belong to the real world.

"What's always been central to the appeal of The Eagle to me is powerful and credible emotional storytelling about real characters in a real world. Two men struggling through the mountains of Scotland; wet, cold, hungry, once wanting only to die but now driven to succeed. Yes, they pray to different gods, and the world is unrecognisably violent, but we know these men; we feel the passions that drive them. They just happen to live 2,000 years ago. I realised then that it would be wrong to inflate it in any way; that it should be as authentic as a documentary made by Romans, wearing their own clothes, shot in the places they'd actually journeyed to. Exciting, of course - entertaining, certainly - but feeling real in every way. And with that realisation, Kevin Macdonald became the perfect person to direct it."

So in 2005 Duncan Kenworthy contacted Kevin Macdonald, who was preparing DNA's The Last King of Scotland. He notes, "Kevin Macdonald didn't hold it against me that I had hesitated the first time around, and we've been working on it together ever since."

Kevin Macdonald had been very impressed by screenwriter Jeremy Brock's work on The Last King Of Scotland, and immediately proposed bringing him on board to adapt The Eagle of the Ninth. Duncan Kenworthy remembers, "We had another writer on The Eagle at first, one who was great but just couldn't crack it. I was paying for the development myself, so it was a big decision for me as to whether to roll the dice again. Kevin Macdonald suggested Jeremy Brock, whose work I'd admired since Mrs. Brown, so I decided to give it one more go."

"It turned out to be a fantastic threesome. If it's just two of you - writer/director and producer, or producer/director and writer - it can often go smoothly, but it's rarely a marriage of equal voices. But having three people, each with a different perspective, somehow breaks the impasse; disagreement is simply one more way of moving forward. The three of us working together resulted in some of my most enjoyable moments on the film. We used to sit in Jeremy Brock's office high on Highgate Hill, talking about the story all day, testing ideas and coming up with new ones. Jeremy Brock would go off to rewrite and then we'd come back and go through it all again. To have such privileged creative experiences is the reason I'm making movies."

Kevin Macdonald remarks, "The Eagle explores a specific part of history that has rarely been seen on the big screen before. Movie audiences haven't much seen these people, these cultures, and these landscapes. Speaking of which, Black Robe is one film that influenced my concepts for making The Eagle."

The movie could already be seen in Jeremy Brock's pages. According to Duncan Kenworthy, "The key narrative structure of the film - two men on an impossible quest - isn't itself complicated, though it has surprising twists and turns. But there are some very rich resonances. These two men are completely different: Roman and Briton, conqueror and conquered, neither of them liking or even understanding the other, yet tied together - not literally, like the two convicts in The Defiant Ones, but as master and slave.

"Yet they have strong similarities too: both of them are orphans, powered by the memory of the father they've lost, each at one point wanting to die, but saved - unwillingly and even inexplicably - by the other. The potential for all these emotional complexities, of dependency and resentfulness, longing and hope, was certainly there in the book, but Jeremy Brock's work has undoubtedly made the central relationship richer."

Kevin Macdonald explains, "While Jeremy Brock has many great qualities as a writer, what's particularly important is that he understands that characters need not be sympathetic all the time. To me, the more interesting movies are those that have ambivalent characters who can morally cross a line but still keep the audience on their side; Jeremy Brock brings out in The Eagle the tremendous complexity between the two main characters, a friendship that is very hard-won. Marcus and Esca have to go through a lot - physically and emotionally."

Unlike the producer and director, Jeremy Brock had no familiarity with the book, but on reading it he "immediately saw the potential for an exciting and entertaining 'quest movie' that would also provide the opportunity to explore friendship, rites of passage, and the clash of cultures.

"Adapting a book requires the screenwriter to stay faithful to the book, but not so faithful that the screenplay doesn't become a proper movie. What I do is I read a book again and again. Then I put it aside, and I get possessive about the film."

Adapting a book about 2nd-Century Roman-occupied Britain into a major motion picture also required a fair amount of research. Jeremy Brock notes, "We went up to Hadrian's Wall - actually flew the length of it in a helicopter. We spoke to archaeologists and academics to get a sense of what it would have been like travelling north of the Wall, as Marcus and Esca do in the story. It was very important for it to be historically accurate, but not at the expense of the drama; that's a balance the screenwriter needs to strike."

"I find that collaboration in the screenwriting process depends on the producer and the director, and how open they are to your ideas and how incisive they are about the script. Both Duncan Kenworthy and Kevin Macdonald are gifted at development. We spent nearly two years, on and off, meeting in the flat where I write in London."

During this time, the trio made the crucial creative decision that the Romans would be played by American actors and the Britons would be played by British actors. As Jeremy Brock explains, "It was key to our conception of the movie. We drew an analogy between Roman imperialism and the supremacy of the American military in the world today. It affords us a clear and concise paradigm which the audience will grasp; the clash of cultures is clearly projected in the difference of accents."

Kevin Macdonald elaborates, "There is a convention in Roman Empire films that the Romans be played by Brits, and the Americans play the slaves or freedom fighters. In the 1940s and 1950s, Britain itself was more of an empire so that was likely a factor, but nowadays it made far more sense to have Americans playing the Romans because America is the empire of today.

"Through Marcus and Esca, The Eagle addresses the extent of an empire; how far can you conquer a people, and how far you can conquer individuals and change their culture? So there are certainly parallels with world events in the 21st Century; you're always looking at the past through your present."

He adds, "The major change that we made from the book was in making the Marcus/Esca relationship more complicated and fractious; who is the master and who is in control at any one point in the story changes all the time."

After working on the screenplay development and seeing the finished cut of The Last King of Scotland, Duncan Kenworthy realised that he had entrusted The Eagle to "one of the most visceral movie directors working today."

Worlds Known and Unknown
Once the script was ready, Duncan Kenworthy worked to line up financing for the movie. Kevin Macdonald meanwhile went into production on State of Play, with the promise that he would direct The Eagle next if Duncan Kenworthy would wait for him. Although State Of Play was eventually to take Kevin Macdonald away for over two years, Duncan Kenworthy had already decided that he "didn't want to make it with anyone else, because by then Kevin Macdonald had become so much a part of a project that all three of us cared passionately about."

By May 2008, Focus Features and the U.K.'s Film4 - which had worked with Kevin Macdonald on The Last King of Scotland - pacted with Duncan Kenworthy's Toledo Productions to co-finance the new movie, with funding also being invested via tax credits in the two countries in which production took place.

Given the scope of the project, pre-production planning got underway while Kevin Macdonald was still in post-production on State of Play. The filmmakers, joined at this point by Caroline Hewitt as co-producer, had to decide where and how they could re-create the Scotland of 140 AD. Kevin Macdonald's conviction was that "you cannot double Scotland - this was the starting point of all our discussions about where we were going to film. At least 50% of the movie is set in the highlands, so we were always going to shoot those parts of the story in Scotland. The question was, could we film the British parts of the film in England?

"When we started to look into that, we realised that if we wanted to make the film to fit our budget, we would need to be based in London. But within a 50-mile radius of London you cannot find the unspoilt nature, the forests, and the rivers that we needed. We sent a scout to Romania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Serbia, and Montenegro. In the end we decided that the best combination of infrastructure, talent, and topography was in Hungary."

Kevin Macdonald had already been to the country to film a documentary about his grandfather, the legendary filmmaker Emeric Pressburger, who was born in Hungary over a century ago. Other factors in Hungary's favor were a wealth of fighting-fit extras - since there were to be real, and not computer-generated, masses on-screen - and an existing production infrastructure.

So it was that production offices were opened in Budapest and Glasgow, with filming to be done entirely on location - the "English scenes" south of Hadrian's Wall would be filmed in the countryside surrounding Budapest, and everything north of Hadrian's Wall was to be filmed in the rugged Scottish highlands. What interiors there were in the film - inside the fort and at Uncle Aquila's villa - would be built and filmed on location.

The Eagle boasts a truly international crew, as the Scottish director and English producer hired - among others - an Australian production designer, a South African focus puller, a Hungarian stunt coordinator, a Scottish hair and make-up designer, a Danish gaffer, a Mexican second unit director, a Japanese second unit director of photography, and a German costume assistant.

Kevin Macdonald brought aboard a number of previous collaborators. He states, "On this movie, I wanted to work with key members from The Last King of Scotland production. For one, the individuality of Anthony Dod Mantle's cinematography and his huge energy have made him world-renowned - and an Oscar winner [for Slumdog Millionaire]."

The reunited director and cinematographer mapped out a shooting style that would have key sequences filmed by two or three cameras at once, and that would emphasise handheld efforts over Steadicam work. During the combat sequences, for example, "the audience will feel that they're right there in the thick of it," says Duncan Kenworthy.

Dod Mantle comments, "The second thing that will attract me to do a movie like this or Slumdog is if it calls for a highly visual approach. But the first thing I look for is always a story that touches me. The Eagle is character-driven, about men seeing their worlds and the world as a whole.

"We all decided early on that we couldn't have carefully composed set-ups with the multiple cameras, given the unpredictable weather we'd be facing on location. I also shot against the light, muting it in-camera."

Kevin Macdonald and Dod Mantle also were keen to shoot the Scottish scenes in the fall. Macdonald explains, "Scotland is actually more impressive in the fall than in the summer, when the landscape is overly lush and green. With the leaves coming off the trees and everything going brown, we'd be able to capture the texture of the moss and the stones."

Kevin Macdonald was also reteamed with another Oscar winner, costume designer Michael O'Connor. For The Eagle, the director's mandate to the costume department was to "reinvent Roman uniforms; Michael O'Connor and his team managed to bring both authenticity and an individual flair specific to our story."

Another mandate from the director was "that our sets feel real, and unlike the cliché of what Rome 'should' be on film. To that end, [production designer] Michael Carlin and his unit did incredible work."

Kevin Kenworthy concurs, and notes that "when you're dramatising the past, there's always a temptation to improve on it. But Michael O'Connor's costumes and Michael Carlin's sets were perfectly judged: impressive, even beautiful - yet gritty, real, and uninflated. Not that we held anything back budget-wise; production and costume design were to be key to the authenticity of the audience's experience."

Michael Carlin committed to the movie not only to reteam with the director but also "because I loved the book when I was a kid, and it was an opportunity to do a big movie that would be accessible but with interesting visuals."

The production designer and his team approached the assignment in a manner not unlike one of the story's military campaigns. On location in Hungary, the countryside surrounding the historic city of Budapest doubled for the unspoiled lands of 2nd-Century Roman Britain. Wherever the unit went, the era had to be recreated in an immersive way for both actors and audience, allowing the drama and the action to play out with realism as their touchstone.

Kevin Macdonald remarks, "Coming from a documentary background, I know that what's real is usually more complex than people expect. Using something realistic as a foundation, I can then expand on it for dramatic purposes."

Michael Carlin says that the film's "first part, in Roman Britain, is where most of the effort in terms of construction was. We had to recreate a world from nothing - every building you see in the movie, and most of the props and set dressing, we've made from scratch.

"We did have books and artifacts to refer to; there's a lot of information on what the more substantial Roman buildings looked like. But the buildings in this movie needed to be very provincial, so we had to imagine their appearance from the foundations up. We remained as far as we could within historical accuracy, but at the same time pushed it all a bit more 'downmarket' in order to tell the story. The fort in particular is very 'edge of Empire.'"

Farmhouse Julia, in Adyligent, was the location chosen for the fort at Isca Dumnoniorum - now modern-day Exeter in the southwest corner of Britain - where Marcus arrives to take command of his first legion. The imposing structure was built and decorated with meticulous accuracy in just seven weeks. Michael Carlin reveals, "The main challenge with the fort was finding somewhere to build it; we wanted it surrounded by woods, with enough room to build the British village in front. We built three sides of the fort's parapet as the Romans would have done, using rammed earth and timber. About a third of the inside was built; some of it was just façade, but all the main interiors were practical.

"Across the Empire, Roman forts were always built to a preordained plan: four gates, a road going in each way, and a fairly specific arrangement of how the different buildings were laid out. We changed it a bit to make it more utilitarian for us; our fort is a bit less cluttered, the parade ground would normally be outside the fort, and we closed off the road that would normally run straight through it to give us a 360-degree playing field for Anthony's cameras."

The first battle sequence of the film, when British warriors attack the fort, benefitted from the 360-degree field of vision afforded by so many of the Hungarian locations. The sequence took three nights and five days to film, with 300 extras, 50 stunt men, and 12 chariots. Six "hero" horses for the film were brought from England by The Devil's Horsemen, the company that trained the actors to ride horses and chariots while also serving as horsemasters throughout the filming. The remaining horses, along with expert riders, came from Hungary and Spain.

Surrounded by beds of wild reeds, Lake Valencei, a nature reserve with 28 bird species nesting regularly and thousands of winged "transit passengers" taking rest during migration, proved the perfect setting to build the tranquil Calleva - modern-day Silchester - villa of Marcus' Uncle Aquila.

Michael Carlin muses, "By Rome's standards, Aquila's villa is modest, but it's still a large house constructed around a formal garden - all of which we built - leading down to a jetty on the edge of a lake. As you look out over the lake, we layered in forced perspective cut-outs - of two-dimensional boats, façades of villas, and various Roman structures on the other side of the water - to give you the idea that you are in a country that has been civilised by Rome."

A short walk away from the built villa and the natural lake, Calleva's provincial Coliseum was built. The wooden structure had to accommodate over 200 extras as spectators for the sequence in which a gladiatorial fight to the death results in Esca's life being saved by Marcus.

"The Coliseum was quite a big set," states Michael Carlin. "But ours was still a smaller-scale 'regional' Coliseum, a 360-degree free-standing structure with a little street leading up to it for a bit of a metropolitan feel. The Coliseum was built of solid wood, using probably the same techniques employed by Roman carpenters, and a lot of people could safely walk up the stairs at the same time."

The only non-British setting of the nine different Hungary locations was a Tuscan villa, re-created in Leanyfalu, in Pest. There, the unit filmed flashbacks of centurion Flavius Aquila as he says goodbye to his young son Marcus.

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who is based in California and worked with Kevin Macdonald on State of Play, signed on as the movie's second unit director in Hungary. On location, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon found himself addressing numerous extras "in English, and then it would have to be repeated in Hungarian. But the stunt men are well-versed in taking direction."

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon had also worked with Kevin Macdonald's longtime film editor Justine Wright on State of Play. With Justine Wright back in the fold on The Eagle, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon knew that he would "try to get footage that will give Kevin Macdonald and Justine Wright options since they work so closely together. What's great about shooting for Kevin Macdonald is that there's a lot of trust; I speak with him about what he wants to establish, and then he gives me more and more freedom."

At every turn through Hungary, Kevin Macdonald was impressed. He enthuses, "I would say to anyone wanting to make a film, 'Go to Hungary.' You only have to look at any one of our sets or costumes to see the craftsmanship, whether it's the leather armor or the hinges on the doors. We wanted to make Roman Britain feel gritty but real, and the Hungarian craftsmen found ways of enabling us to do just that."

After six weeks of filming in Hungary, the crew flew direct from Budapest to Glasgow and then drove five hours north to the tiny village of Achiltibuie in the far northwest of Scotland. The unit's decamping from one part of the world to another mirrored the characters' physical journey.

Michael Carlin explains, "Once Marcus and Esca cross Hadrian's Wall, things are much more expansive and wild. We've made the north even more primitive that it would have been. What few structures exist are haphazardly put together."

The large village belonging to the Seal People, the fictional west coast tribe from both Rosemary Sutcliff's novel and Jeremy Brock's screenplay, "was our unit's biggest feat of imagination," comments Michael Carlin.

He notes, "For the village, we found a spot in northwest Scotland; you can't see any buildings, and it overlooks the Summer Isles - it really does seem like the edge of the world, with a scattering of islands going off into infinity. It's a highly exposed locale, so if the sun comes out it is quite beautiful, and if the wind kicks up it is truly harsh."

The set for the Seal People's village - pre-fabricated in Budapest - was built half a mile up a hill on the Coigach Peninsula. Carlin, art director Neal Callow, and their joint Hungarian and Scottish team battled the wind and other elements at Fox Point over the course of four weeks to erect a mass of primitive huts and fish-drying racks. Callow reports, "The props department put up those racks everywhere, and we had the pleasant job of stringing up the smoked fish. We couldn't get the smell out of our clothes afterwards."

The Seal Village scenes stayed on schedule during filming, despite some occasionally foul weather. "One morning in October, it was forecast to snow - but we were lucky enough to have torrential rain instead," smiles Duncan Kenworthy.

"We wanted moody weather for the Scottish scenes, to provide a contrast with the early scenes south of Hadrian's Wall, and to make Scotland look as magnificent as possible. We certainly got what we wanted - it rained every day for the six weeks of filming. Not all day every day, but definitely part of every day for six weeks."

This had always figured significantly in the production's logistics. Duncan Kenworthy explains, "Kevin MacDonalds and Anthony wanted that autumnal look for the Scottish scenes, which was why we filmed in Hungary first and moved to Scotland at the beginning of October. There were two production drawbacks: the poor weather that we wanted for the look of the film took a heavy toll on the cast, crew, and locations department; and the hours of daylight got significantly shorter as we moved into November.

"I have to say that the cast, crew, and extras were troupers. There was no road to the Seal Village on Fox Point, so the crew would climb up and down the headland for 20 minutes, at the start and end of each shooting day - through peat bogs, in the dark - carrying their equipment. The cast and extras were transported in Haglunds, which are large caterpillar-tracked vehicles. But when they got to the top, they were in flimsy tunics whereas the crew were in wet weather gear."

Tommy Gormley, Scottish first assistant director on The Eagle, "is one of the world's top first ADs - and he was crucial to the logistics of the entire production," praises Duncan Kenworthy. "So when he advised that we had to have shelter for the extras in the event the weather turned seriously foul, we built a special holding hut in the lea of the hill where they could go to get warm. Hypothermia was obviously a concern, though we managed to escape the Seal Village, thankfully, without even a turned ankle."

The biggest risk came the night before they left Achiltibuie, when the villagers put on a ceilidh in the village hall, and all the shaved-headed Seal warriors - locals as well as bussed-in Glaswegians - drank the local brew and the crew and actors tried their hand at highland dancing. Duncan Kenworthy marvels, "We were made to feel so welcome that we didn't want to leave, and a number of the crew have been back to the area since the film finished shooting."

The production design team's work extended well beyond what would be on-screen. Michael Carlin offers, "We took an ethnographic approach to work out what the Seal People looked like, a logic for how they lived, what they lived on, and what they would have been able to make with the materials available. The idea was, they have no agriculture; they just hunt, and everything is largely from what they catch in the nearby sea. We built a series of huts dug into this headland, designed as a cross between Celtic stone houses and Inuit tents, made of [prosthetic] seal skins and dry stone. We also assembled a mass of [fake animal] bones embedded within the hut structures. The village is meant to be a savage Shangri-La - idyllic but cruel."

According to Macdonald, the Seal People are a "totally detached, uncivilised, remote tribe living in Scotland 2000 years ago. So everyone had to be inventive when it came to anything to do with the tribe, from actors to costumers."

The latter department put in months of work readying the Seal People's costumes, taking to heart the idea that, as O'Connor puts it, "Marcus and Esca go into an unknown world, just as the first explorers of America did. It was a new world, and they were crossing borders. I thought about where the Romans had already been; since they had conquered the East and Africa, 'tribal' looks would not have been so strange to them. So we needed something quite unusual!"

Make-up and hair designer Graham Johnston was up to the challenge. He notes, "They're the Seal People, so they behave like seals and wear the skins of seals. When Marcus first sees them, he has to be shocked by their appearance - and so does the audience. Kevin Macdonald wanted something savage and ancient about them, so I decided that they shave their heads with just a small piece of hair left and they decorate themselves in a strange way.

"Romans' descriptions of northern Britons who painted their bodies had been recorded, so Michael O'Connor and I agreed that we would cover the Seal People's bodies with green mud and ash from the fire. This is a tribe far removed from any group's influence - so they're more feral, more primitive. It was exciting to see this Village come alive with the personalities that came about through the look."

With further research, more guidelines were put into place. Michael O'Connor reports, "Research was done on far-out cultures from cold climates, because any tribe living in the far north of Britain would have had to adapt their clothing as such, at least a little bit. Duncan Kenworthly reminded us that we'd be filming with actors in a cold climate, so we had to make the garments with sleeves at a certain length and boots at a certain height. This way, we could add extra layers under the actors' costumes even as they appeared to be nearly naked. Such tribes did tend to express the nature of their flesh."

As costume designer, Michael O'Connor must coordinate efforts closely with every department. On The Eagle, cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle made a specific request. Michael O'Connor reveals, "What Anthony Dod Mantle likes to do is have everything quite muted and then hone in on things that will reflect the light. With the Seal People, he asked to have a mirror or something comparable within the costumes. Our solution was to lacquer and polish shells that were placed in the Seal warriors' necklaces and headdresses. These then reflected back the light and gave off a glint. Things like that add to the movement that Anthony Dod Mantle imparts into scenes that Kevin works on again and again until he gets what he wants out of them.

"What Anthony and I remembered from The Last King of Scotland was that the main thing on a Kevin Macdonald movie is to never be dull with your options. Kevin Macdonald likes the excitement and creativity of choosing; the more ideas you have for him to select from, the better. He likes the small details; he will identify what a certain mask means, what it suggests, and how it enhances the nature or the background of the scene. He understands the effort that goes into costuming, even when the overall impression is quite subtle."

Accordingly, Marcus and Esca's costumes were designed to reflect their journey throughout the film. Michael O'Connor remarks, "With Marcus, you have to believe that he is a committed soldier and an idealist when we meet him in the fort; he looks clean and official in his Roman leather uniform, but not too pristine or ornate. The battle sequence finds him donning his centurion's helmet and a magnificent brass breastplate; he becomes more and more heroic. But after his injuries, he's far more of a civilian. Then, on the road with Esca, he's obliged to wear British clothing; long-sleeved tunics, cloaks and brooches - things he never would have worn or been associated with otherwise, but his and Esca's cultures are meeting by necessity and the two men are coming to an understanding.

"Esca is enslaved, but he's also the son of the slain chief of the Brigantes - so when we meet him at the Coliseum, he's wearing leather britches with leather embroidery. That keeps something royal about him; this was not from research, but from our wanting to convey that there is and will be importance to this character. At the villa, his clothes become plain, simple and understated. Then, when he and Marcus cross the Wall, Esca tastes freedom and his clothes reflect that, with embroidered cloaks."

Having completed the Seal Village shoot in mid-October, the base moved to Glasgow, from where the crew drove each day to different locations around the Loch Lomond area. The woodland, mountains, and/or lochs of Strachur, Glen Finlas, Glen Luss, Applecross, Kilpatrick Hills, and Touch provided diverse and dramatic wilderness backdrops to Marcus and Esca's journeys, and their encounter with Guern.

To film so many different and difficult locations over six weeks, the crew needed stamina and enthusiasm. At the Devil's Pulpit - located just 20 minutes from Glasgow, outside the village of Drymen - camera, lighting, and sound equipment had to be winched down to the base of the 80-foot gorge. The crew themselves carefully descended vertical steps that had been carved into the rock wall many years before. Kevin Macdonald knew those steps well, having gone to primary school nearby as a child.

Throughout the Scotland leg of the shoot, medics were kept at the ready, frequently checking on actors and extras immediately after the close of a take. Additionally, hot soup was prepared daily, even on mountain tops; it was perhaps most needed in Invergulas, cited by The Daily Telegraph as the fifth-wettest place in Britain.

"It seems that water is a key theme with Kevin Macdonald," Duncan Kenworthy notes dryly. "When it was not coming down on everybody's heads, it was under foot. Staging the final battle with everyone knee-deep in a river was a wonderful directorial coup. Logistically insane, certainly, but creatively brilliant!"


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