A Knight's Tale reviews
The New York Times
May 11, 2001, Friday, Late Edition - Final
In Merrie Olde England, Waving His Banner All Over the Place
By ELVIS MITCHELL
If you're part of Gen Y or younger, the concept of using the martial rock 'n' roll of the
1970's for source music in "A Knight's Tale" is a funny idea.
The movie, shamelessly aimed at that generation, is "Flashdance" with lances
instead of Danskins. It is about the opportunity for reinvention that
pop has come to represent and the punk ethos of "seize the day."
Set in England in the 14th century, the film starts with a crowd at a jousting match doing
the Wave as Queen's "We Will Rock You" plays. The
picture itself is good-humored, but bland and predictable. It's a cross between an
All-American vaudevillian version of "Shakespeare in Love" and
Mel Brooks's "Robin Hood: Men in Tights."
The hero of "A Knight's Tale," William (Heath Ledger), is locked into serfdom,
and is determined to change his stars -- the medieval variant of
"Go for it." William wants to be a knight and seizes the opportunity when the
knight he serves dies; William pretends to be nobility and adopts a
ludicrously royal-sounding name, since "only noble knights can compete."
Brian Helgeland, who wrote and directed the film, must have felt the need to make a movie
about a man of principle. Simple human decency was
mostly lacking in the characters in "L.A. Confidential," the adaptation that he
co-wrote of James Ellroy's existential classic, and in his half-strangled
remake of John Boorman's "Point Blank," the 1999 "Payback."
Like the protagonists of "L.A. Confidential" and "Payback," William is
an outlaw, although, unlike the characters in those films, he wants acceptance,
not just respect.
For the new picture's spiritual inspiration, Mr. Helgeland uses the swinging 1960's, when
the British learned that style could rise from what they
perceived to be the gutter. But this groovy notion is where Mr. Helgeland stops thinking.
William and his friends and co-conspirators -- the stout fount of common sense Roland
(Mark Addy) and the quick-to-anger Wat (Alan Tudyk) --
are joined by a compulsive gambler named Geoffrey Chaucer (Paul Bettany). Chaucer becomes
the de facto creator of William's legend.
Mr. Helgeland doesn't exploit Chaucer's presence to score heavy points and slow the
picture down, though "A Knight's Tale" is certainly draggy
enough as it is. Chaucer has the pale, gaunt countenance of the 60's pop star Ginger
Baker, with his strutting sense of entitlement and rollicking
talent for gaining attention. Chaucer is a well-meaning reprobate.
The song choices include "The Boys Are Back in Town," "We Are the
Champions" (of course) and Rare Earth's lugubrious cover of "Get Ready."
The songs could be out of the slacker film "Dazed and Confused," which could be
a subtitle for "A Knight's Tale," given the hits William endures
while jousting. The tournaments are treated like an X-treme sport.
"Most of it is the guts to take a blow," William says, which makes him the Jake
La Motta of the lance. The always witty composer Carter Burwell
lets his score comment on the arena rock bombast; he adds a percussive backbeat to the
lute, flutes and mandolins and tosses in a bit of John
Philip Sousa, too, to augment the saber-rattling.
The costumes have the retro wit of an Arena Pour Homme fashion layout. William sports a
tunic that Roland has whipped up for his "master" out of
cloth from a tent, and his handiwork would make the designer Marc Jacobs chew his lower
lip in envy. These well-groomed androgynes with their neat,
tailored outfits are sleek hipsters.
The draggy follow-your-dream theme is where Mr. Helgeland put his effort, and this limpid
ideal represents the film's heartbeat. Mr. Helgeland accords
the slack sentimentality too much weight. But he has put together an impressive ensemble;
there aren't many movies in which the actors use their
voices so well, making each line reading memorable.
Rufus Sewell steals the picture as
the villainous Count Adhemar, delivering his high, light croak with a mellifluous purr in
of a man convinced of the import of his own words.
William flirts with Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon), who Adhemar thought was meant for
him. This takes place at a dance, where William gavottes with
Jocelyn as David Bowie's "Golden Years" plays and the fey Adhemar swoons. This
could be a crowd dance number out of "Saturday Night Fever" via
Mr. Ledger's William, despite being born a peasant, speaks as if to the manner born,
trilling like landed gentry. With his manners and old man's voice,
William is already the stuff of the House of Lords, so the inevitable wait for him to get
his due feels interminable.
Mr. Ledger has a courtly manner, though, and he's very likable; he pays attention to the
other actors and is bowled over by Ms. Sossamon. Although
he's the star, he cedes scenes well. To further connect with the young audience, William's
dirty blond hair is stylishly tangled in dreadlocks. He's an
antediluvian skate punk.
But "A Knight's Tale" is half anachronistic, in ways that don't make sense. The
way William courts Jocelyn is slightly puzzling. She is just as brash as
William; with her physical confidence, she seems just as capable of jousting as he is. It
seems old-fashioned for her to wait around for him to court her.
This is just a way for the movie to put its audience on the side of the hero and his band,
which includes Kate (Laura Fraser), a grrrl-blacksmith who isn't
taken seriously by the grizzled village smithies. Kate responds by designing form-fitting
lightweight armor for William; in effect, she invents tempered steel,
which she emblazons with her logo, a Nike-like swoosh. Given more time, she might have
developed Kevlar and the Taser gun, but I guess it's best to
save something for the sequel.
"All human activity is within the artist's scope," Chaucer says, though what he
may mean for this movie is just the activity captured in a crossbow's sight.
"A Knight's Tale" has its Gen Y audience in the cross hairs, and it probably
The New York Post - May 11, 2001
A Bright & Sunny Knight - Modern & medieval mesh in jousting 'Tale'
A KNIGHT'S TALE. With Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk, Paul Bettany,
Laura Fraser, Shannyn Sossamon. Directed and
written by Brian Helgeland. Running time: 132 mins. Rated PG-13: Action violence,
jousting, some nudity and brief sex-related dialogue.
The ad campaign is not lying, at least not to girls in search of a poster to kiss or
boys with dreams of glory. Heath Ledger in the charmingly
spirited "A Knight's Tale" will, indeed, rock you if your needs are
simple enough an your idea of an artifact from the days of yore is classic rock.
One generation had its Ivanhoe, tilting and jousting for the love of both Elizabeth Taylor
and Joan Fontaine. This summer we havthe recently minted
teen idol Ledger ("The Patriot") as William, a thatcher's son trying against
accepted wisdom to improve his lot by posing as a knight in battered armor.
William enters jousting tournaments as Sir Ulrich von Lichtenstein of Gelderland and
splits his winnings with faithful squires Roland (Mark Addy)
and the apoplectic Wat (a funny turn by AlanTudyk). Jousting suits him. Two
charging linebackers armed with wooden lances crash
into each other on horseback. Whoever doesn't topple or get too many splinters in the eye
wins. Commoners are barred, but then William is
no common commoner. As a construct of 21st-century writer and director Brian Helgeland (he
wrote the Oscar-winning script for "L.A. Confidential"),
William dares to dream, or to "change his stars," as dad encourages him. There's
one foolproof way to get people to sit still for a history lesson
not that there is anything to learn here other than that armor is heavy and thatchers
didn't have 401(k)s and that is to make history seem relevant to
even indistinguishable from, today. "A Knight's Tale" is set in 14th-century
France, but with its cheerful hailstorm of anachronisms and classic-rock
soundtrack, there's nothing medieval about it. "Gladiator," with its
premonitions of the World Wrestling Federation, is positivelysubtle compared to
"A Knight's Tale," which has peasants singing Queen songs and doing the
Then there's the matter of Geoffrey Chaucer. Although his role in this tale is
tongue-in-cheek, it's a little horrifying to think that this may be someone's only
acquaintance with the enduring writer. "Geoff" Chaucer (Paul Bettany) joins
William's ragtag band, proving his worth by forging the equivalent of a fake ID.
History lesson: Writing skills come in handy after all! Bettany plays several of his
scenes buck naked, ostensibly because a gambling problem has taken
the shirt off his back. It need not have been Chaucer, and it need not have been the 14th
century. "A Knight's Tale" is a routine story of a guy proving his worth
tohimself, the world and the prettiest girl in the bleachers. The historical setting is
simply a device to make it look fresh, and because the movie is so ingratiating,
the high spirits so infectious, it works.
Every knight needs a worthy opponent, and William has one in Count Adhemar. Rufus
Sewell plays him as every inch the bad boy,
which could cause a fresh round of swooning from the maidens in the gallery. Sewell seems
like an adult among a boisterous
crowd of kids on their first movie set.
William also has a fan (and a goal) in the beauteous Jocelyn, but novice actress
Shannyn Sossamon is best when sitting silently in the stands under an
Audrey Hepburn hat. Not all actors can time-travel equally, even in fun. A spinoff
movie could be made about the scrappy blacksmith played by Laura Fraser.
In a rewrite of history, she is not only the sole woman in her profession, she anticipates
the Nike logo by six centuries.
Entertainment News - May 8, 2001
At the Movies: 'A Knight's Tale'
By ANTHONY BREZNICAN, AP Entertainment Writer
You've gotta love a movie set during the Middle Ages that still works in product placement
Sure, "A Knight's Tale" is set in the 14th century, but it takes its
sensibilities from the 1980s, thanks mostly to a soundtrack
filled with arena-rock songs like Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of
Heartthrob actor Heath Ledger plays William, a peasant squire to an aging knight. William
dreams of competing in jousting
tournaments, and when his boss drops dead from one too many lance-blows to the head, the
squire dons the ill-fitting honor
and competes in his place.
The problem is that peasants are forbidden to participate in the competitions, so William
must lie and make up evidence of
aristocratic heritage. Most of the suspense and comedy comes from his desperate efforts to
hide his real identity while his
dimwitted squire friends keep forgetting to treat him like a knight.
The plot recalls another great tradition of the 1980s: the charismatic, scam-orchestrating
youth undone by his own tricks.
Think "Ferris Bueller Goes Medieval."
Whether you enjoy it depends on what you expect. Purists may roll their eyes to the
ceiling minutes into the movie when
tournament spectators begin dancing to Queen's sports anthem "We Will Rock You."
Then there's the scene where a blacksmith (Laura Fraser) inscribes the young knight's new
armor with her professional mark -
which happens to look exactly like a Nike swoosh.
But this is an ideal summer movie: lighthearted, action-packed and full of guilty
The jousting scenes are staged with zeal and, unlike the grim fighting epic
"Gladiator," the performances constantly aim for the
Mark Addy of "The Full Monty" and Alan Tudyk are amiable as Ledger's fellow
squires and confidants, now reduced to slaving for
him. They're all furious bluster and slapstick, a sort of Three Stooges for the Dark Ages.
But it's Paul Bettany who steals the show as an unemployed writer who teams with the
erroneous knight-errant to help perpetuate
the fraud with forged documents and exaggerated tales of heroism. The writer's name?
Geoffrey Chaucer, of course.
Here, the revered author of The Canterbury Tales is a kind of literary version of
wrestling announcer Michael Buffer (known for his
booming "Let's get ready to rumble!"). Introducing his knight to the audience
before jousting matches, he tells bogus stories of William's
battles during the Crusades and identifies him with titles such as "the defender of
The film follows a recipe familiar to almost any Disney cartoon: Take one goodhearted
hero, give him some odd-looking comical sidekicks
and have him face off against a blackhearted villain (Rufus Sewell) for
the love of a fair maiden.
In this case, Shannyn Sossamon is the maiden, a noblewoman who dresses like Jackie-O at a
rave, in sexed-up retro suits, or like one
of the Go-Go's, in ragged punk.
Writer-director-producer Brian Helgeland (an Oscar winner for his "L.A.
Confidential" screenplay) sometimes derails his medieval story
with the "Super Sounds of the '80s," but it's an interesting experiment.
Most of the time, it works - except when the characters sing along.
The Columbia Pictures release is rated PG-13 for bloodless violence and brief nudity.
Running time: 132 minutes.
"A Knight's Tale": Going Out on a Ledger"
By Teddy Durgin
May 7, 2001
There are going to be two kinds of reactions to this film: "That sucked!" or
"That rocked!" Call me a big ol' cheesehead, but I
belong to the latter group. I haven't had this much fun at a movie all year!
The film is a silly, funny, wild, absurdist
fable about knights in shining armor, damsels in distress, and evil villains dressed in
black. It's big. It's clunky. You'll
cringe in spots, cheer in others. There is no reality to it whatsoever. But
it's thrilling, exciting, romantic, and often funny as all Hell.
The movie charts its own course and gives the finger to anyone who doesn't follow
it on its crazy crusade. Its part Renaissance
Festival, part Metallica concert, part Monty Python.
If you need everything to be hyper-realistic, stay at home and rent
"Braveheart." You won't get it. You won't get the use of
Queen's "We Will Rock You" during a 14th century jousting match. You won't get
knights that have Nike logos on their armor.
You won't get Geoffrey Chaucer (played wonderfully by Paul Bettany) stealing the
entire show with his hilarious riffs.
I, for one, do not need hyper-realism every time out. I'm sick of realism.
It's everywhere now. I love nothing more to
surrender myself to a good fantasy. That's why people go to RenFests, don't they?
To walk around in the mud and pretend
they're in Medieval times? I love to go to those things and watch the jousting and
the fake swordplay, the cheesy plumbers
and secretaries and schoolteachers dressed up like warriors and witches. Where else
can you walk around with a giant Turkey
leg or Steak-on-a-Stick, call women "wenches," and not be belted for
doing so? "A Knight's Tale" works splendidly on this level.
For those who can surrender themselves to the fantasy, here is what you'll get.
Heath Ledger and his bedroom eyes making all of
the women in the audience emit sounds that best belong in animal cages. At times, I
didn't know if I was in a movie theater or
the Baltimore Zoo. Calm yourselves, lasses! Ledger plays William Thatcher, a
peasant who rises up to challenge the
dastardly Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell). His lady love is
Jocelyn, a princess who looks more than a little like Angelina
Jolie. She's played by newcomer Shannyn Sossaman, who was reportedly discovered
while DJ-ing a birthday party for Gwyneth
Paltrow, the Hollywood princess who won an Oscar a few years back for "Shakespeare in
Anyone who didn't take seriously fine entertainments like "Shakespeare in Love,"
"The Three Musketeers," and "The Sword and
the Sorceror" will have no problem getting into the spirit of this movie. Hey,
I'll be honest. The thing is far from a masterpiece of tone.
The mixing of styles doesn't quite work in spots. It's "Naked Gun"
silly in one scene and "Rob Roy" serious in the next, and the gear
shifting is a bit awkward. But the overall film is so much good fun that I
was able to forgive it its shortcomings.
Writer-director Brian Helgeland was clearly going for this mix of styles. Would it
have been better if he hadn't thrown arena rock
and other contemporary touches into the big scenes? Possibly, but it wouldn't have
had nearly the same flair. I applaud
Helgeland for trying something different.
And as for Ledger, I'll admit the guy is handsome. With his chiseled face and
unkempt, blond locks, he looks like the
illegitimate child of Mel Gibson and Sammy Hagar. One bizarre moment happened during
my screening Saturday night that I have to
tell you about. During one of the romantic scenes where Thatcher is wooing Jocelyn,
something from the audience hit the screen.
It was immediately followed by giggles from several teenage girls a few rows back.
This happened after about the 500th close-up of
Mr. Ledger's million-dollar face. I turned to my friend and asked, "What the
Hell was that?" Neither one of us knew, but the
distinguished older gentlemen behind us ventured a guess to his wife: "Uh, I'm not
sure, honey, but I think that was a pair of
panties." We didn't stick around afterward to find out. ---
|A Knight's Tale
by Dean Kish
from movielist.com - May 4, 2001
The sounds of the classic Queen song, We Will Rock You thunder as the camera
drifts down onto a medieval stadium. The people jamming the stadium beat their wooden
seats and railings as they chant to the lyrics of the song. From that pure instant you
know very well this isnt going to be your typical medieval story about knights,
honor, fair maidens, and dragons.
A Knights Tale tells the story of William
Thatcher (Heath Ledger), a knights page who dresses as a knight after his liege dies
of old age. He learns that he isnt that bad at jousting and vows to become a knight
even though he is forbidden to do so by law. For it is written, that a man of noble birth
can only become a knight.
With the help of struggling writer Geoff Chaucer (Paul Bettany), William adopts the
identity of Sir Ulrich von Lichenstein and vows to become the best knight in the land.
Standing in Williams way are the fair maiden, Jocelyn (Shannyn Sossamon) and the
evil Count Adhemar (Rufus Sewell).
A Knights Tale is a very original and interesting take on knights in
cinema. Its drive is centered in the charismatic performance of Heath Ledger, who helps
ground the film in some much needed sequences. Ledger definitely shows his leading man
qualities in this project. He will go a long way in Hollywood.
My favorite character in the film was Geoff Chaucer. As literature professionals know,
the real Geoffrey Chaucer was responsible for writing the Canterbury Tales
which did chronicle a lot of people of that day. The films incarnation is a
brilliant humorous representative of that figure. He has such command of the English
language but he is also very human. Paul Bettanys Chaucer is a scene-stealer and I
did really want to see more of his unique humor.
Placing Heath and Bettany aside, the main character of the film has to be the music.
Having people chant lyrics that were created hundreds of years after the events in the
film and then continuing with different songs throughout is very daring. I can see a lot
of historians throwing tomatoes at the screen and writing article upon article screaming
outrage. What these stuffy guys have to realize is that this is entertainment and popular
music does grip the sports world of today. As the film stated, jousting was
the sport of that age and it gripped nations. Every time we hear a face-off or a touchdown
today, there is the thundering of a sports anthem. I am not sure if back in the 14th
Century they had their own sports chants or ballads but I think if they were used here it
may alienate the audience. Therefore I believe the music brings us into Williams
world and allows us to enjoy the challenge of jousting.
Dont get me wrong but the film did have flaws within its originality. I found
that the film was at least 30 minutes to long and a supporting performance that was
The performance was the fair Jocelyn who for me was so clearly miscast. A lot of what
she said made me wonder what William ever saw in her. This performance made me really want
to see a real actress in the role. I mean she needed depth of emotion and inner turmoil to
be shown on the surface of her character to allow her love for William blossom. I also saw
very little chemistry between her and William. That was a real shame. Other problems with
her were her attire and hairstyle. It looked like she was a reject from the 1980s (ie:
spiked Joan Jett hair). The writers and the actress really needed to bring
this character more depth and it never was accomplished.
In the lagging 30 minutes, I really felt sorry for Rufus Sewell, who plays
Williams arch-enemy. The filmmakers used a lot of typical bad-guy stuff on William
and that really pulled away from the originality of the film. Sewell tries a lot to show
the emotions within the Count but he just doesnt come through. Sewell is a good
actor and this two-dimensional role really doesnt help him here.
A Knights Tale is a lot of fun if you dont over analyze it. You will cheer
and feel good coming out. These aspects are all you need to enjoy for a summer movie.
May 1, 2001
HEADLINE: 'A Knight's
Tale' more light-hearted than you'd think
BYLINE: By Matt Mccormick, The Battalion
SOURCE: Texas A&M U.
DATELINE: College Station, Texas
A Knight's Tale is great escapist fun-filled with romance, laughs and action.
Unfortunately, though, the previews make it look like a film heavy on the attitude, rather
than the light-hearted romp that it actually is.
William Thatcher (Ledger) has always dreamed of being a knight, however there is a slight
problem -- Thatcher was born a commoner and only those of noble descent may be knights.
When the knight which he works for dies, Thatcher devises a scheme whereby he may
represent himself as a knight and enter competitions as knight to earn a living. With the
help of a ragtag group of friends including a young and unappreciated Geoffrey Chaucer
(the writer), Thatcher embarks on an adventure which will ultimately lead to the love of a
princess and a battle with an evil knight.
This movie establishes early on that it does take itself seriously and therefore neither
should the audience. When audiences at the knight competition which opens the film begin
chanting Queen's "We Will Rock You," it becomes perfectly clear that historical
accuracy is not a concern here.
This is only the beginning as the rest of the movie is set to semi-contemporary rock songs
including a ballroom waltz to a song by David Bowie. While this strategy works as being
innovative, it also lessens somewhat of the dramatic tension of the story.
Writer/director Brian Helgeland (Payback) had a very clear vision for this film and should
be commended for attempting to try something new and fresh with a period piece. It is just
that sometimes experiments do not work as exactly as planned
and one gets the sense that is what happened here. The characters are painstakingly
detailed, the conflicts clear and engaging, but when the film itself is just having fun,
it becomes hard for audiences to actually care about the characters and conflict. Instead,
they just want more of the fun.
Thankfully, Helgeland recognizes that and paces the movie like a sports film as the group
of heroes travel from city to city participating in competitions. The jousting matches
themselves are the highlights of the film featuring several moments of bone bruising
action. Ledger continues to demonstrate an easy demeanor in front of the camera, and this
film is built solely around his sexiness and charm. He delivers accordingly. Newcomer
Shannyn Sossamon is a worthy beauty to attract his attention. With supporters like Paul
Addy and Rufus Sewell, the cast is nearly complete. However it is Paul
Bethany as the struggling Chaucer who literally steals the show.
This movie is not one of the great dramatic films of the past decade, so if a person goes
into this film expecting to have their emotions roused, they will probably be
disappointed. But if a person goes into this film for the sole purpose of being
entertained, then this movie succeeds marvelously.
from Jo Blo's movie eporium - April 30
A KNIGHT'S TALE
Date: April 30, 2001
Producers: Brian Helgeland,
Todd Black, Tim Van Rellim
Heath Ledger as William Thatcher
Rufus Sewell as Count Adhemar
Shannyn Sossamon as Jocelyn
Year of Release: 2001
The general who became a slave...the slave who became a knight...the knight who defied
an Emperor...oops, wrong movie! Uuuuhhm, here we've got a peasant squire who pretends to
be a knight, wins a few jousting matches and falls for Angelina Jolie...I mean, the noble
A sure-to-be crowd pleaser. This movie's got a little bit of everything. A little bit
of action for the boys, a little bit of romance for the girls and a little bit of humor,
drama and happy-go-luckiness for everyone! Is it a great movie? Certainly not. It doesn't
really bring to light a story that we haven't seen before (Gladiator!), doesn't avoid the
trappings of sappy romantic dialogue from the day ("my love has wings so I must
fly"??) and doesn't mind the occasional reference to a modern symbol that simply
distracts (watch for the Nike wings that get carved into one man's fighting armor...I kid
you not!), but alas, I had a good time. And that's the exact reason why some of these
smaller details didn't bother me as much as they might another. I didn't expect to like
this film, I expected to be bored, I expected lame action sequences, but ultimately, this
film surprised me. It was entertaining, had some very cool jousting scenes and it even had
my movie companion (my sis) close to tears at one point (yeah, yeah, I might've gulped a
little harder than usual, too!). And the whole debate about the use of modern rock music
in a medieval movie?
Well, I was for the music being in the film before I actually saw it, believing that it
would only energize the proceedings. But now that I've seen it, I'm actually half-and-half
on the topic. You see, the modern songs that play in the background during the film,
worked just as I thought they would, spicing up the scenes as only the chorus of
"Taking care of business" could. But where the filmmakers mucked up in my point
of view, is when they actually had the folks in the movie grooving ALONG with some of the
songs (i.e. in other words, they could also hear the songs in question). Now that didn't
work for me! A crowd of medieval folk chanting along with Queen's "We will, we will
rock you!" just felt...well, out of place! Anyway, enough about that. In the end, the
film entertains and I guess that's the main goal of a picture as such. There are ups,
there are downs, there are goofy moments, there are romantic moments and there are moments
of action. The lead male is a babe and all of the central women in the film are also quite
fetching. And Rufus Sewell, well, he's the bad guy again...but a damn good bad guy! Oh
yeah, and lest me not forget to credit the filmmakers another notch for incorporating some
empowered ladies into the mix of the medieval times as well. A welcome addition. So
overall, I don't think that this film will blow anyone away, an effect it certainly did
not have on me, but it looked good, it felt good...so it must've been good, right? Now go
in, relax, have fun...and get medieval on your own ass!! (sorry, I just couldn't resist)
There has been lots of baseball, football
and basketball movies. There have even been hockey, golf and bowling movies.
So it shouldn't be surprising that moviegoers are about to see the first jousting movie.
"It's Gladiator meets Rocky," admits Brian
Helgeland, the writer/director behind A Knight's Tale. The film stars Heath Ledger
as a Middle Ages squire who hops on a horse and grabs a lance after his master meets a
cruel fate at the armor-clad hands of an evil knight (Dark City's Rufus
Sewell). While questing for revenge, Ledgers character becomes jousting's
Of course when it came time to shoot the film's many tournament scenes
on location in the Czech Republic, Helgeland couldn't turn to the National Jousting League
for technical expertise.
"We had all these cars with fake horses that the actors were going
to sit on and the stunt men fall off of, and it all looked terrible. " recalls
Helgeland (who also pilled writing/directing double duty on Payback).
"Finally, the stunt coordinator said, 'Let's just shoot jousting for real.' But
our stuntmen couldn't really joust, and we ended up getting this one guy named Tom DuPont
who choreographs and performs the stunt show at the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas, and he
flew out to Prague along with a French rider who performs in Renaissance fairs in Europe,
and the two of them did just about all of the jousting in the movie - and did it for
As it turns out, DuPont didn't provide the film's only Vegas
connection. Another notable Sin City figure popped up in the film....sort
of. "Jousting is like boxing: the sport itself is real but the
hoopla around it is over the top. There's that boxing announcer who says, 'Let's get
ready to rumble!' It's like that," Helgeland says. "And, in fact,
that character in the movie is Geoffery Chaucer, the poet [of The Canterbury Tales
fame]. He's the guy making speeches to the crowd and getting them whipped up in
support of Heath Ledger. Chaucer is the Don King of the Middle Ages.
A Knight's Tale
Director: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Heath Ledger, Rufus Sewell, Mark Addy, Paul Bettany, Nick Brimble.
Dark Horizon's "A Knight's Tale" site
April 27, 2001
A KNIGHT'S TALE
STARRING Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Rufus Sewell, Shannyn Sossamon WRITTEN
AND DIRECTED BY Brian Helgeland
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? It could make Heath Ledger the biggest Aussie import since Russell
Columbia is counting on this medieval adventure--the story of a charismatic squire (The
Patriot's Ledger) who impersonates a knight and becomes a master jouster--to emerge as a
summer blockbuster. The ingredients are certainly there: a rising young star, a playful
love story, and plenty of action scenes, scored, strangely, to such classic rock songs as
Queen's "We Will Rock You" and Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in
"The idea is that it's running a parallel between sporting life back then and
today," explains Ledger, though the artistic license appears to be polarizing
audiences. "When we tested it," says Helgeland (who cowrote L.A. Confidential),
"most people dug it, but the people that didn't like it really didn't like it."
They should, however, love Ledger. "He's had a lot dumped on him for a guy who just
read the script and thought it'd be a fun movie," says Helgeland. "Cut to a year
later and the fate of the movie is, in some ways, put on his shoulders." (May 11)
USA TODAY 27, 2001, Friday, FINAL EDITION
A Knight's Tale (May 11)
Same old story: Think Braveheart -- without the
social commentary -- for teens. Heath Ledger plays a medieval
peasant who longs to joust in the public arena. His problem: Only
nobility can fight with lances. When his knightly boss suddenly
dies, Ledger's character takes his gear, pretends he's a knight
and begins tilting himself. In traditional big-screen fashion,
he tries to beat the bad guy (Bless the Child's Rufus Sewell)
and win the girl (newcomer Shannyn Sossamon).
Will moviegoers bite? Ledger, who co-starred with Mel Gibson
in The Patriot last summer, has heartthrob potential, but
with the film opening only a week after the heavily hyped The
Mummy Returns, it will have a hard time winning the box office