• On second thoughts, let’s not go to Camelot: situating the ‘historical Arthur’ through casting in King Arthur and The Last Legion

    Antony Keen (see profile)
    Classsical literature, Criticism, interpretation, etc.
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    Cinema and Antiquity: 2000-2011
    Conf. Org.:
    University of Liverpool
    Conf. Loc.:
    Conf. Date:
    12-14 July 2011
    Reception of Antiquity, King Arthur, Classical reception, Reception of the classical tradition, Cinema
    Permanent URL:
    Hollywood produced two major Arthurian movies in the mid-2000s, King Arthur (Antoine Fuqua, 2004) and The Last Legion (Doug Lefler, 2007), even though the latter only introduces Arthur in the final scene. Both choose to place their narratives within the ‘historical Arthur’ genre, rejecting the quasi-mediaeval setting used by Excalibur (John Boorman, 1981), and later the TV series Merlin (UK, 2008-present), and instead placing the story in the context of the end of Roman Britain and the collapse of Roman rule in the west. They thus come within the interests of this conference. This paper is concerned with the ways in which the two movies characterise post-Roman Britain, and in particular, how they use the casting of their lead actor to underline their respective characterizations. King Arthur presents a soldier’s-eye view of the world, and is largely anti-authority (in the shape of the Pope’s representative Germanus). Arthur is a man whose first loyalty is to his men; to this end, the movie casts Clive Owen, known for working class roles in the TV series Chancer (UK, 1990-1991), Croupier (Mike Hodges, 1998) and Gosford Park (Robert Altman, 2001), as Arthur, though supporting him with more upper class figures such as Ioan Gruffudd and Joel Edgerton as Lancelot and Galahad. The Last Legion’s hero, Aurelius, is, in contrast, a man whose first loyalty is to his emperor. In that role is cast Colin Firth, famous for aristocratic landowners such as Mr Darcy in a television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (UK, 1995) and Lord Wessex in Shakespeare in Love (John Madden, 1998). This paper will further examine the working out of the casting in these films, including the interesting issue of the casting of Ray Stevenson in King Arthur and Kevin McKidd in The Last Legion.
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    4 years ago
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