Excalibur (1981) Poster



The Charm of Making spoken by Merlin & Morgana is an attempt at Old Irish that translates to: "Serpent's breath, charm of death and life, thy omen of making." The phonetic rendering, as spoken in the movie, is: /ana:l nathrakh, u:rth va:s bethud, dokhje:l djenve:/. In Irish, the phrase is: 'An?il nathrach, ortha bh?is bheatha, do thuar dhéanamh', which is pronounced similarly but not exactly as in the movie.
The Irish extras fighting each other did not want to stop after director John Boorman yelled cut-"to settle old scores," says Boorman.
The initial fight scene in the movie had to be filmed three times. It was filmed at night and the first two times, all the film came out underexposed due to a fault in the exposure meter. The cameraman had a nervous breakdown over the issue and quit.
The names of the 25 knights inscribed on the Winchester Round Table are given as: Galahad, Lancelot du Lac, Gawain, Percivale, Lionell, Bors de Ganis, Kay, Tristram de Lyones, Gareth, Bedivere, Bleoberis, La Cote Male Taile, Lucan, Palomedes, Lamorak, Safer, Pelleas, Hector de Maris, Dagonet, Degore, Brunor le Noir, Le Bel Desconneu, Alymere, and Mordred.
The cameraman waited with a camera running for days for the shot of a crow eating an eye. They had to wait for the crow to really eat the sheep's eye.
Liam Neeson had never ridden a horse prior to working on this film.
Before the final battle, Arthur's knights are camped around a "Stonehenge" like formation on a hill. The rocks were fake and part of the set. According to John Boorman, some American tourists were driving by down below and saw the formation. Thinking they were real, the tourists hiked up the hill, and Boorman had to explain to them that they were not real but part of a movie set.
Helen Mirren and Nicol Williamson were initially reluctant to work with each other, as they had both been in a disastrous production of "Macbeth" and were not on speaking terms.
Max von Sydow was originally cast as Merlin.
Morgana's breastplate is in director John Boorman's home. In his will it will be given to Helen Mirren.
When Morgana gives birth, Helen Mirren's head is up through a hole in the table while a real pregnant woman lies on the table with her head covered.
Igrayne, The Lady of the Lake, and young Mordred were all played by director John Boorman's real-life children: Katrine Boorman, Telsche Boorman and Charley Boorman.
John Boorman was originally aiming at making a movie based on "The Lord of the Rings". However, he did not acquire the rights, and decided to make this movie instead.
According to John Boorman's DVD commentary, the sword prop of Excalibur itself and the Holy Grail props used in the movie are in his home.
The trial by combat set in the woods was originally to be the set for the Rivendel counsel chamber in John Boorman's version of "Lord of the Rings", which failed to get made.
'John Boorman revealed' on the DVD commentary for The Tailor of Panama (2001) that Pierce Brosnan auditioned for a role.
Guenevere's wedding dress was hand made from hundreds of beads. Young brides requested the dress to no avail.
Liam Neeson admitted in 60 Minutes (1968) interview that he fell in love with Helen Mirren during the making of this film.
A pipe was used to create the mist coming out of Morgana's mouth in the scene were Merlin creates a fog.
The black smoke in Arthur's first siege on a castle was created by burning tires. It left black flakes on a nearby town.
It rained every single day of the shoot, causing most of the movie to be shot in dull light. The constant rain also added to the lushness of the foliage.
United Artists told John Boorman that he could cast anyone as Merlin except Nicol Williamson.
Polo ponies were used because they are easier to control than regular horses, and could be ridden with one hand while the other held the various weapons used in the film.
John Boorman wanted the story to be the focus of the movie rather than the actors. Therefore, he cast actors who were relatively unknown at the time to American audiences. Among them were Gabriel Byrne (Uther), Patrick Stewart (Leondegrance), Liam Neeson (Gawain), Helen Mirren (Morgana) and Nicholas Clay (Launcelot). Only Nicol Williamson (Merlin) was relatively familiar to American moviegoers.
All of the armor used in the film was hand made out of aluminum, primarily by British armorer Terry English. English custom-fit the suits of armor for the principal characters, but kept the overall style the same for members of different groups, especially prominent in the nearly "uniform" armor of the Knights of the Round Table. English can be seen in the film during the tourney scenes; he is the blacksmith who looks up at Arthur (Nigel Terry) when the future king is chasing a thief and stops to contemplate filching a sword from the armorers' tent.
All the forests shown in this movie are a mile away from director John Boorman's home in Ireland.
The hand that holds Excalibur belongs to director John Boorman's daughter Telsche Boorman, lying under water.
The love scene between Guinevere and Lancelot was full of mosquitoes, causing even more discomfort.
Camelot shown from afar is a model reflected into camera with a mirror.
The corridors of Camelot were extended by the use of a matte painting.
Most of the forest scenes and Excalibur (the sword) were back lit by green lights, giving it a magical quality.
Some of the crew agreed that Gabriel Byrne's Irish accent made "One night with Igrayne" sound like "One night with your granny".
Baby Arthur grabbing a hold of Igrayne's hair was a coincidence.
The shot with the Grail filling itself was achieved by pumping wine through a tube stuck through the bottom of the cup.
Director John Boorman bought the horse that Percival rides to champion Guinevere.
The Camelot sets were usually bigger than the stage itself. Walls had to be cut out to accommodate it.
The flowers on the forest floor and the apple blossoms on the trees are natural. The forests were blocked off so the vegetation could not be trampled down.
Patrick Stewart (Leondegrance) is only 12 years older than Cherie Lunghi (Guinevere)
The location for the Duke of Cornwall's castle is now a housing estate.
To make it easier to do special effects, the film was shot in 1.85:1.
When Merlin is trying to catch a fish it was trapped underwater by blocking it off with stones.
The sky during the discussion about creating the round table has superimposed stars.
The round table was built in sections.
The fight between Arthur and Lancelot was filmed on the Powerscourt estate. The battle scenes in Laurence Olivier's film version of The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France (1944) were also filmed there due to wartime restrictions in England.
A fake crane shot was done during the discussion about creating the round table. It was achieved by walking back on a raised platform.
Gold light was reflected on to the walls in Camelot.
Director John Boorman didn't like how balance was off on Dolby sound mixes at various test screenings, so he changed the mix to mono.
Reflectors were used to give the armor its glow, and they kept having a problem with camera reflections. Every time it rained the armor had to be rubbed down so it wouldn't leave a residue.
The scene where Uther crosses on the mist used dry ice on a studio set.
The red sun at the end was created with reflective disc with a lamp shining on it through a mirror. It was then superimposed.
The roast rabbit Perceval tempts Lancelot with is real.
The scene in the woods at night where Merlin is with the young Arthur was shot on a set so the animals featured could be controlled.
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Peter Benson had a featured role that was removed in post.
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The original cut of the film was over three hours long. Among the many scenes that were lost - but was briefly glimpsed in the trailer - was a scene where Lancelot rescued Guenevere from a forest bandit.
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