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.
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.
Group 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.
Director 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.
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!
Gabriel Byrne and Mark Wright