It has been a long time coming, but finally there is great news for the documentary Behind the Sword in the Stone, the film about the making of John Boorman’s Excalibur!

Mark Wright, the director of the film, reports that PBS is now the official worldwide distributor and will be selling the documentary soon to a network near you.

BTSITS-poster

Mark has been working hard behind the scenes to find distribution for this lovely look at Boorman’s passion project, Excalibur, the film that launched so many screen careers. It is strange to recall that Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson, and Ciaran Hinds were all unknowns when the film began production in 1980. Patrick Stewart had done tons of television, but little big screen work at the time. Helen Mirren was already on her way to stardom, having just completed The Long Good Friday. And the big draw for the film was the always enigmatic Nicol Williamson, the eccentric and mesmerizing Merlin. Nigel Terry, Cheryl Lunghi, and Nicholas Clay played the central leads: Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot.

behind-the-sword-in-the-stone-production-crewGroup photo from the shoot in Cornwall
Mark Wright; the late, great Nigel Terry; Alec Moore (in the back); Terry English, the armorer for Excalibur,
and his partner Julie Carter; and sound tech Nadine Keogh (in the back)

The documentary, produced by Alec Moore and Lawrence Fee, includes interviews with all principals and great behind the scenes looks at filming and production. Ireland was not a location often chosen for films at that time, so shooting around Bray, near Dublin, was a remarkable opportunity to show off Ireland’s natural beauty and to jump-start Irish film production in general.

As an Executive Producer of this film, I attended the premiere in Bray back in December, 2013. I quote myself:

It was wonderful to see the documentary. So many people associated with Excalibur participated in interviews and offered their memories in front of the camera. Liam Neeson, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Patrick Stewart, Gabriel Byrne, Nigel Terry, and others associated with the film recalled their experiences making this film. They shared anecdotes and stories and offered insights into what it was like to be on a movie set for the first time. The documentary really shone when director John Boorman was on screen, both in recent interviews and also on the set during the actual filming in 1980 and 1981. Excalibur was obviously an important event in the director’s life and Alec and Mark were successful in capturing Boorman’s passion and intensity–I thought this was the highlight of the documentary, watching the director then and also now, talking about his experience with a wry smile.

The other highlight of the film was, of course, Gabriel. He spoke with real emotion about his work in Excalibur and his memories were moving and also quite humorous. At the end of the film, he was honest and open about what his experience meant to him. He was very touching and the audience responded to his stories.

john-boorman-philip-reeveDirector John Boorman with my fellow Executive Producer Philip Reeve

Here is the funding video, with Mark and Alec explaining how they developed the documentary and shots of the stars as they were being interviewed.

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Gabriel Byrne with Excalibur
 

Congratulations to Mark Wright for seeing this project through to distribution! This road has been long and sometimes frustrating, but his tenacity and vision have paid off. We will see this wonderful documentary on US television someday soon. Finally and at last!

Stay tuned for more details as PBS Channels are announced!

gb-and-mark-wrightGabriel Byrne and Mark Wright

12 Comments

  1. Congratulations Stella and all those associated with this film. It is so difficult to get distribution for a documentary. Looking forward to seeing this.

  2. I am very glad to hear that the documentary has found a distributor.
    This documentary must be an important documentation of Irish film history.
    It is important that European film industri can be seen and acknowledged.
    Hope this documentary also will be showed in Europe.

    PS I have a photo with Gabriel Byrne and Excalibur with Gabriels autograph on.
    I bought it to support the documentary but it is also a great treasure to have!
    (Lucky me!)

    Nora from Norway

  3. the film appeared this month in the documentary movies on Air Canada for viewing on their flights with video screens. Thank you for all your efforts as I never even knew it was in the works. I will be looking for it in distribution or on Amazon or E-bay when they do get it out there from PBS.

    • Thanks for this great news, Ed! I am glad you had the chance to see it. As soon as it appears on the listings for PBS, I will let everyone know. And yes: someday it will come to Amazon or Netflix or somewhere we can all see it! Finally! <3

  4. Are you kidding me? I have been looking for this all over the place, can someone confirm if its still being played in that air canada company? I would catch a flight to canada just to watch it. Just wish i could buy it somehow.

    • Carlos, the film should be airing on PBS stations during 2017. Stay tuned here for more details as they become available. At some point, purchase may be possible. We will wait and see!

  5. I’d love to get a copy of this as “Excalibur” is my favourite film. I plan to visit Cahir Castle this year. When will I be able to buy “Behind the Sword in the Stone” in the UK?

    • Hi, Rob. The documentary has sold to PBS International. Now we wait to see which PBS outlets will make it available. I realize this is frustrating, but it was great that PBS bought it…

      My wish, as one of the Executive Producers of the film, is that it will be available on DVD someday. So let’s hope for that.

      Stay tuned for more information as it happens. Have fun on your trip to Cahir Castle! And thanks for visiting Byrneholics!

      • Thanks Stella, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for it. And I’ll be whispering the Charm of Making! Incidentally many years ago I wrote to Nicky Clay, asking how on earth they did that sword-through-the-hip scene. He sent me a lovely handwritten reply, explaining everything … and nothing! I was none the wiser, but it was kind of him to respond.

        • Wow, he wrote you back!? That is so cool. What a lovely actor he was. Sigh.

          I hope to have good news for you at some point in the near future. In the meantime, keep whispering that Charm. Every little bit helps! ;-)

  6. Hi,
    Just to let you know that we also wait for this documentary here in France (you are right, a DVD would be the greatest option). I hope that you will have some good news for us during the year.
    Thanks!

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