Cary Elwes was offered the role of Robin Hood and turned it down because he thought the plot was too contrived. He did however portray the character in the Mel Brooks spoof Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993).
Where I come from, we talk to our women. We do not drug them with plants.
(Azeem from Robin Hood)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a 1991 American adventure film directed by Kevin Reynolds. The film was marketed with the tagline "For the good of all men, and the love of one woman, he fought to uphold justice by breaking the law."
Kevin Costner heads the cast list as Robin Hood. The film also stars Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Maid Marian of Dubois, Morgan Freeman as Azeem, Christian Slater as Will Scarlet and Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Robin of Locksley (Kevin Costner), an English nobleman who joined Richard the Lionheart in the Third Crusade, is captured and imprisoned in Jerusalem along with his comrade Peter. Robin engineers an escape, saving the life of a Moor, Azeem (Morgan Freeman) in the process; Peter dies in the attempt and has Robin swear to protect his sister Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Robin returns to England with Azeem, who vows to accompany Robin until the debt of saving his life is repaid.
In England, with King Richard away, the cruel Sheriff of Nottingham (Alan Rickman) rules over the land, aided by his cousin, Guy of Gisbourne (Michael Wincott) along with the witch Mortianna (Geraldine McEwan) and the corrupt Bishop of Hereford (Harold Innocent). At Locksley castle, Robin's father (Brian Blessed) is lured to the gates and killed by the Sheriff's men after refusing to join them.
Robin returns to England to find his father dead, his home in ruins, and the Sheriff and his men oppressing the people. On his flight from the Sheriff's forces, he and Azeem meet with a band of outlaws hiding in the Sherwood Forest, led by Little John (Nick Brimble). Also among them is Will Scarlet (Christian Slater), who is later revealed to be Robin's illegitimate half-brother. Robin eventually assumes command of the band, encourages his men to fight against Nottingham and trains them to defend themselves. They begin to rob English soldiers and convoys that pass through the forest, then distribute the stolen wealth among the poor. One of their early victims is Friar Tuck (Michael McShane), who subsequently also joins the Merry Men. Robin’s successes infuriate the sheriff, who increases the maltreatment of his people, resulting in more support for Robin Hood despite the Sheriff's attempts to defame him and ever-growing rewards on his head.
Hiring Celtic warriors from Scotland to bolster his forces, the sheriff tracks down the outlaws' hideout and initiates a massive attack which destroys the forest refuge. He also restrains and confines Marian when she tries to summon help from France. The sheriff proposes to Maid Marian, saying that, if she accepts, he will spare the lives of the captured woodsmen and their families. Nevertheless, several of the rebel fighters–including Little John's son–are to be executed by hanging.
However, despite information to the contrary, Robin and a handful of his most trusted aides survived the assault. On the day of wedding and scheduled hangings, Robin and his men fight their way into Nottingham castle and free the prisoners. Originally planning to free their friends and retreat, Azeem reveals himself and his willingness to fight the sheriff, turning the peasants to revolt. Robin kills the sheriff, avenging his father. With his guard down, Robin is attacked by Mortianna, who charges with a spear. Azeem throws his sword, slaying Mortianna and fulfilling his vow.
Robin and Marian profess their love for one another and marry in the forest. Their wedding is briefly interrupted by the return of King Richard I (Sean Connery), who blesses the marriage and thanks Robin for his deeds.
In the special edition DVD, it is revealed that the Sheriff of Nottingham is actually the son of Mortianna. She kidnapped and murdered the real child of the Sheriff of Nottingham and substituted her own offspring to put her own seed on the throne of England by marrying him to a royal. This is hinted at in the regular cut of the film, when she speaks of Maid Marian: "She is ripe. She will give us a son." This development was left intact in the novelization.
The original music score was composed, orchestrated and conducted by Michael Kamen. The main title theme was later used as the logo music for this film's co-producing studio, Morgan Creek. The end tag to this theme is currently utilized as the logo music for Walt Disney Studios.
The ending theme, "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" by Bryan Adams, enjoyed tremendous success – staying at the number one position for seven weeks on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and 16 weeks on the UK chart, as well as topping the Eurochart Hot 100 Singles and the music charts of over 16 countries worldwide. The song won the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media in 1992. It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1991.
Roger Ebert praised Morgan Freeman's performance as well as Alan Rickman's, but ultimately decried the film as a whole, giving it two stars and stating "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is a murky, unfocused, violent, and depressing version of the classic story...The most depressing thing about the movie is that children will attend it expecting to have a good time."
On the DVD commentary for ITV's Robin of Sherwood television series that ran from 1983 to 1986, writer and creator Richard Carpenter explains that the stunt co-ordinator, Terry Walch, from the Robin of Sherwood series was hired on to do stunt work for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves film. While on set, Walch noticed that there was a Saracen assassin character named Nasir in the film. The "Nasir" character was a creation of Richard Carpenter and is exclusive to the Robin of Sherwood series. Once the creators of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves realized that there was potential copyright infringement, they changed the character's name from "Nasir" to "Azeem". Carpenter also explains that Costner and the others involved in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves film have admitted to watching the Robin of Sherwood as inspiration for their film.
The New York Times gave the film a less than glowing review. The LA times found the movie unsatisfactory also. Kevin Costner was criticised also for his poor attempt at an English accent.
Media studies professor Jack Shaheen included the film among his "Best" list in his book Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies A People, praising the portrayal of Azeem as a heroic, learned, and noble man.
Rumor has it that Kevin Costner wanted to use an English accent, but director Kevin Reynolds didn't want him to. Supposedly, Costner would affect the accent when he was arguing with Reynolds, but not when they were in agreement. Costner claims that he was initially asked to use an accent, but this was stopped when he did it poorly.
The novelization of this movie gives insight into a couple of (semi-) significant edits. First and foremost, Reynolds was reportedly very upset at the removal of a scene in which the Sheriff learns the witch is his mother! Another scene, in which Robin rubs himself with manure, was moved from early in the film to the end. Knowing that this scene was intended to be shown before Robin enters the church explains Marian's request that he "take a bath."
The role of the Sheriff of Nottingham was originally offered to Richard E. Grant.
The scene where Azeem first shows Robin his telescope is similar to a scene in Dances with Wolves (1990), where Dunbar (Costner) hands a telescope to Kicking Bird.
The shot of Robin shooting the flaming arrow was shot at 300 frames per second (normal speed is 24fps).
Retired former head of the British Board of Film Classification James Ferman said that passing this movie as a PG was his only regret over his time in office.
The film is dedicated to the loving memory of Egil S. Woxholt.
A body double was used for Kevin Costner's nude scene under the waterfall.
The producers, one of them being director Kevin Reynolds' longtime friend, Kevin Costner, took over the editing of the film, going to the extent of physically locking the original editor Peter Boyle out of the editing suite. However they were contractually obliged, under Directors' Guild rules, to show their cut to Reynolds. He was less than impressed with what they'd done to his film.
Pen Densham and John Watson's script was sold for $1.2 million.
Robin Wright was the original choice to play Maid Marian but she had to drop out as she was pregnant with her first child. The part went instead to Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio four days before shooting started. (Wright would land the lead in The Playboys (1992) the following year because the original actress, Annette Bening, had become pregnant too.)
Sean Connery was first offered the cameo of Lord Locksley (Brian Blessed) but passed as he felt he had been playing a lot of fathers in recent years.
The theatrical trailer shows Robin Hood swimming in the lake from a different position than in the actual film.
In the scene where the Celts are attacking Sherwood, nearly every Celt who is hit by an arrow and killed is played by stunt coordinator Nick Gillard who thus dies several times as different characters. If you look carefully you can recognize him.
On Breakfast TV in the UK, Mel Gibson said he was the offered the lead but he had just done a period film (Hamlet (1990/I)) and passed.
"Sadiq", the name that Azeem calls Robin, means "friend" in Arabic
The songs the characters sing or hum within the film are actual Medieval melodies. For example, the song Friar Tuck sings is set to the tune of a song called Bacche Bene Venies, from the 13th century Codex Buranus.
Having watched and been very inspired by the British television series "Robin Hood" (1984), where a Saracen merry man was introduced into the Robin Hood-legend and let loose in Sherwood Forest, the makers of the film originally called Morgan Freeman's character Nasir, thinking that the character played by Mark Ryan in the British TV-series was a traditional one drawn from the old legend. When stuntman Terry Walsh, who had also worked on "Robin of Sherwood" (1984), happened to mention that "Nasir" was not in the original legend, but was completely made-up by the makers of the British television series, the name of Freeman's character was rapidly changed to "Azeem" in order to avoid a possible lawsuit.
Kevin Costner had originally hired a coach to help him learn to speak English with an "English" accent. He had too much trouble learning it though, fired the coach, and decided not to do it.
Alan Rickman turned down the role of the Sheriff twice before he was told he could more or less have carte blanche with his interpretation of the character.
Richard Griffiths passed on the opportunity to play Friar Tuck
The initial trumpet flourish of the title score would later become production company Morgan Creek's theme music.
When Friar Tuck is "helping" the bishop pack his fortune, he mentions 30 pieces of silver. This is the same amount Judas Iscariot received for his betrayal of Christ.