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Excalibur (1981) Poster

(1981)

Trivia

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Dame Helen Mirren and Nicol Williamson were initially reluctant to work with each other. They'd been in a disastrous production of "Macbeth", and were not on speaking terms. Writer, producer, and director John Boorman cast them because their natural animosity would be perfect. According to Mirren, she and Williamson "wound up becoming very good friends" during filming.
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The initial fight scene had to be filmed three times. It was filmed at night, and all of the film came out underexposed the first two times, due to a fault in the exposure meter. The cameraman had a nervous breakdown over the issue and quit.
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When Uryens (Keith Buckley) knights Arthur (Nigel Terry) with Excalibur, he's visibly trembling. Terry was actually shivering from the cold, as they were filming in a castle moat.
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Theatrical movie debuts for Gabriel Byrne (Uther Pendragon), Liam Neeson (Gawain), Ciarán Hinds (Lot), and Cherie Lunghi (Guenevere).
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The names of the twenty-five knights inscribed on the Winchester Round Table are: 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.
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Before the final battle, Arthur's knights are camped around a "Stonehenge"-like formation on a hill. According to writer, producer, and director John Boorman, some American tourists drove by, saw the formation, and hiked up the hill. Boorman had to explain to them that they were part of a movie set.
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According to Gabriel Byrne, his sex scene with Katrine Boorman was filmed with the two separated. He performed his close-ups in the scene with a pin cushion.
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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.
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Morgana's breastplate is in writer, producer, and director John Boorman's house. His will states it will be given to Dame Helen Mirren.
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When Morgana gives birth, Dame 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.
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The original cut of this movie was over three hours long. Amongst the many scenes that were lost, but briefly glimpsed in the trailer, was a scene where Sir Lancelot (Nicholas Clay) rescued Guenevere (Cherie Lunghi) from a forest bandit.
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The Irish extras fighting each other did not want to stop after John Boorman yelled cut, "to settle old scores", says Boorman.
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The love scene between Guenevere and Sir Lancelot was plagued by mosquitoes, causing even more discomfort.
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It rained every 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.
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Writer, producer, and director John Boorman wanted the movie to focus on the story, not the actors and actresses, so he cast relative unknowns. At the time, only Nicol Williamson was relatively familiar to American moviegoers.
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John Boorman directed Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) to help fund this. When that turned out to be one of the biggest bombs ever made, this became his comeback.
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Liam Neeson and Dame Helen Mirren met on the set of this movie and lived together for the next four years.
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Igrayne, The Lady of the Lake, and young Mordred were played by writer, producer, and director John Boorman's real-life children: Katrine Boorman, Telsche Boorman, and Charley Boorman.
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All of the armor used in the movie was hand made out of aluminium, 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 movie during the tournament 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.
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According to writer, producer, and director John Boorman's DVD commentary, the sword prop of Excalibur and the Holy Grail props used in this movie are in his house.
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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.
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Liam Neeson had never ridden a horse prior to working on this movie.
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The black smoke in Arthur's first siege on a castle was created by burning tires. It left black flakes on a nearby town.
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The hand that holds Excalibur belongs to John Boorman's daughter Telsche, lying under water.
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Most of the forest scenes and Excalibur (the sword) were backlit by green lights, giving it a magical quality.
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John Boorman didn't like how the audio balance was off on Dolby sound mixes at various test screenings, so he changed the mix to mono.
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Dame Helen Mirren's breakout movie role. She was already a renowned Shakespearean stage actress.
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Thirty-five-year-old Nigel Terry played Arthur from a teenager to a young adult King to an old man. Twenty-nine-year old Cherie Lunghi played Guenevere from a teenager to an adult Queen to an old woman living out the rest her life in quiet misery as a nun.
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Max von Sydow was originally cast as Merlin.
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United Artists told John Boorman that he could cast anyone as Merlin except Nicol Williamson.
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The fight between King Arthur and Sir Lancelot was filmed on the Powerscourt estate. The battle scenes in Sir Laurence Olivier's Henry V (1944) were also filmed there due to wartime restrictions in England.
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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.
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During the making of The Tailor of Panama (2001), Pierce Brosnan told John Boorman that his audition for this movie had been a disaster. After it ended, he couldn't get his battered old car to start, so he had to walk home on a dismally wet day. When he got back to his small bedsit (studio) flat, he considered quitting acting altogether.
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The Charm of Making spoken by Merlin and Morgana is an attempt at Old Irish that translates as "Serpent's breath, charm of death and life, thy omen of making."
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John Boorman had planned a movie adaptation of the Merlin legend as early as 1969. United Artists rejected his concept, offering him The Lord of the Rings instead. When that fell through, he went back to this movie.
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Guenevere's wedding dress was hand made from hundreds of beads. Young brides requested the dress to no avail.
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Polo ponies were used because they are easier to control than regular horses, and could be ridden with one hand while the other held a weapon.
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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.
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This movie was shot so close to John Boorman's house that it was the only time he was able to sleep in his own bed throughout an entire movie shoot.
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Some of the crew agreed that Gabriel Byrne's Irish accent made "One night with Igrayne" sound like "One night with your granny".
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Future director Neil Jordan spent a considerable time on set filming a "making of" documentary.
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The Camelot sets were usually bigger than the stage. Walls had to be cut out to accommodate it.
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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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All the forests shown in this movie are a mile away from John Boorman's house in Ireland.
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The corridors of Camelot were extended by the use of a matte painting.
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Camelot shown from afar was a model reflected into the camera with a mirror.
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John Boorman had wanted to call this "Merlin", but CBS had a show called Mr. Merlin (1981), so they had exclusive usage of the "Merlin" name. It began shooting as "Knights", but Ridley Scott had registered "Knight" for a medieval epic, he was planning with Walter Hill, as his follow-up to Alien (1979). They were already shooting before they decided on "Excalibur".
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Katrine Boorman and Cherie Lunghi did their own nude scenes, without the use of body doubles.
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According to Dame Helen Mirren, writer, producer, and director John Boorman sacked dogs from this movie for not acting to his satisfaction. While they looked threatening, they didn't act as such.
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When Merlin is trying to catch a fish, it was trapped underwater by blocking it off with stones.
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Sir Sean Connery was briefly attached to play King Arthur in the early stages of the project. He played Arthur in First Knight (1995).
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The red sun at the end was created with reflective disc with a lamp shining on it through a mirror. It was then superimposed.
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John Boorman used many of the same locations that he had used for Zardoz (1974). In fact, most of these are quite close to his house in Annamoe, County Wicklow, Ireland.
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Many actors had been mentioned for the part of Merlin, including Max von Sydow, Sir Sean Connery and oddest of all, Lee Marvin. The actor who John Boorman wanted most was Donald Sutherland, but he was scheduled to do Ordinary People (1980).
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The roast rabbit with which Perceval (Paul Geoffrey) tempts Sir Lancelot (Nicholas Clay) was real.
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Baby Arthur grabbing a hold of Igrayne's hair was a coincidence.
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To make it easier to do visual effects, this movie was shot in 1.85:1.
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This is the same director, and much of the same creative team, that put together Deliverance (1972).
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For the scene where Merlin tricks Morgana into creating a fog, a pipe was used to create the mist coming out of Morgana's mouth.
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A remake, directed by Bryan Singer, spent years in development hell, until it was cancelled.
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A fake crane shot was done during the discussion about creating the round table. It was achieved by walking backwards on a raised platform.
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Zack Snyder named this movie as a big influence on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), to the point of making it the movie Bruce Wayne saw with his parents on the night of their deaths. He cast Ciarán Hinds as the main villain Steppenwolf in Justice League (2017).
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In the final battle scene before King Arthur (Nigel Terry) is saved by Sir Lancelot (Nicholas Clay), one of the other knights rears back to strike a foe and hits King Arthur on the back of the head with his sword. You can see it caused pain to Terry, who grabs the back of his head, but continued fighting.
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The location for the Duke of Cornwall's castle is now a housing estate.
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This movie was referred to as "The Boorman Family Project".
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According to writer, producer, and director John Boorman, the love scene between Sir Lancelot and Guenevere in the forest was filmed on a very cold night, but Nicholas Clay and Cherie Lunghi performed the scene nude anyway.
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Sir Patrick Stewart (Leondegrance) is only twelve years older than his on-screen daughter Cherie Lunghi (Guenevere).
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John Boorman revealed on the DVD commentary for The Tailor of Panama (2001) that Pierce Brosnan auditioned the role of King Lot.
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For the scene where Uther crosses in the mist, they used dry ice on a studio set.
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John Boorman bought the horse that Perceval (Paul Geoffrey) rode to champion Guenevere (Cherie Lunghi).
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Corin Redgrave (Cornwall) was the uncle of Natasha Richardson, who became Liam Neeson's wife.
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Nicholas Clay, Nicol Williamson, Corin Redgrave, Robert Addie, and Niall O'Brien all died from cancer. Charley Boorman was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2010, and survived.
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Nicholas Clay also appeared, albeit in a very small role, in Merlin (1998).
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The score with its dramatic Gregorian chant background was undeniably influenced by The Omen (1976). It used Carl Orff's "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana.
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The shot with the Grail filling itself was achieved by pumping wine through a tube stuck through the bottom of the cup.
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Zack Snyder said that this is his favorite movie.
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Like the Arthurian legends themselves, the film makes intentional use of anachronisms. It is supposedly set in the "Dark Ages" (another term for the Early Middle Ages, (c. 5th-10th century), but its knights wear full plate armor, a technology of the 15th century. The knights also make reference to the code of chivalry, an informal code of conduct developed between 1170 and 1220.
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During the discussion about creating the round table, the stars in the sky are superimposed.
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This is the only version of Arthurian Legends where Mordred is the son of Morganna; and where Mordred kills Morgan, (called Morganna in this version).
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In the film, both Lancelot and Guenevere seek refuge in monastic life. In versions of the Arthurian legend, Guenevere dies in old age as a monastery's abbess and Lancelot as a monk. In at least one version, Lancelot is the monk who performs Guenevere's funeral. He then wastes away in sorrow, and dies six weeks after the death of the queen.
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Percival's name is variously rendered "Peredur", "Perceval", "Parzival", and "Parsifal" in medieval Arthurian tales. He was the protagonist of the romance tale "Perceval, the Story of the Grail" (late 12th century) by Chrétien de Troyes, and several derivative works.
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In the film, Merlin is trapped forever, but is not really dead. In versions of Merlin's legend, he has been cursed to sleep forever in his grave, without ever actually dying.
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Director of photography Alex Thomson was a last-minute addition. The original director of photography left the project at an early stage.
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In the film, Arthur is born in an unnamed castle in Cornwall. In tradition, his birthplace is Tintagel Castle in northern Cornwall. The ruins of the medieval castle rest above the remains of a Romano-British settlement.
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The sword placed between the sleeping lovers' bodies originates from the romance tales of Tristan and Iseult.
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The film offers no origin for Merlin and his powers. In legend, Merlin was a "cambion", a half-human and half-demon hybrid. His mother was a mortal woman, and his father was an incubus demon.
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The Powerscourt Estate location was also used for King Arthur (2004).
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The incantation that Merlin (Nicol Williamson) speaks to give King Uther (Gabriel Bryne) his wish of being with Igrayne (Katrine Boorman) is the same incantation used to activate and deactivate the Orb of Osuvox in Ready Player One (2018).
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"I've always said that once you've been raped by Gabriel Byrne and Corin Redgrave in armor, watched by your father, you'll never look back." - Katrine Boorman said in The Independent.
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"A lot of people ask me, well, 'How did you feel about directing your daughter being raped?' Well, she wasn't being raped of course. It was just a scene. She didn't mind, and nor did I." - John Boorman said on Excalibur's director's commentary
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Gold light was reflected on to the walls in Camelot.
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This is the movie Bruce Wayne and his parents go to see at the theater in the opening credits sequence of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). (That almost works time wise. Ben Affleck who played Batman would have been 9 when Excalibur came out. Although if Batman's supposed to be 32 eternally that doesn't quite work, but never mind....)
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The screenwriters of the film (John Boorman and Rospo Pallenberg) intentionally reworked the Arthurian legends into "an allegory of the cycle of birth, life, decay, and restoration". They stripped away material that did not fit with the motive.
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There are several versions of the Arthurian legends, and they are often contradictory to each other. The screenwriters of the film mostly adapted tales from "Le Morte d'Arthur" ("The Death of Arthur", 1485), the posthumously published work of Thomas Malory (c. 1415-1471). He was a prisoner-of-war during the Wars of the Roses, and might have written the work while imprisoned.
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According to director John Boorman, Merlin in this film represented the old, pre-Christian religions, and "the forces of superstition and magic".
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In the Doctor Who (1963) serial "Battlefield", The Doctor, and his companion Ace, encountered Morgana and Mordred from another dimension, where The Doctor is mistaken for Merlin. Nigel Terry appeared in Doctor Who (2005), and Cherie Lunghi appeared opposite Billie Piper in Secret Diary of a Call Girl (2007).
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Peter Benson had a featured role that was removed in post-production.
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Michael Beck auditioned for the role of Sir Lancelot.
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Zack Snyder, who is a fan of this movie, referenced this movie in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), which, in the opening credits sequence, this movie is on the marquee at the theater which young Bruce Wayne saw his parents murdered by a mugger.
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The round table was built in sections.
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Katrine Boorman was widely felt to be miscast as Igrayne.
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The king whose land becomes a wasteland as he loses his own health in the Arthurian narratives is the so-called "Wounded King" , or the more famous "Fisher King". The screenwriters chose to identify them both with Arthur himself.
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The film does not explain Lancelot's origin. In the Vulgate Circle (13th century), Lancelot is identified as a son of the Gallo-Roman King Ban of Benwick and his wife Queen Elaine. Following his father's death, Elaine became a nun. The orphan Lancelot was raised by the enchantress Lady of the Lake, and adopted the surname du Lac ("of the Lake") in honor of his foster mother.
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In the film, Lancelot suffers from intense guilt, and eventually denies his identity as a knight for many years. In the Vulgate Cycle (13th century), Lancelot suffers from recurring madness and has suicidal tendencies.
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Arthur's foster brother Kay is depicted as a loyal companion in the film, but is given no other characterization. In legend, Kay was typically depicted as extremely loyal, but he was also famous "for his acid tongue and bullying, boorish behavior". The only work in which he actually betrays Arthur is the romance "Perlesvaus" (13th century), which unusually depicts Kay as a villain rather than a flawed hero.
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Eighteen years after this movie's release, Liam Neeson starred as Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999). George Lucas, the writer, director, and creator of the Star Wars film franchise, had cited the legend of King Arthur as one of his influences behind Star Wars.
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The armors of the movie were reused for Adam and the Ants: Ant Rap (1981).
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The scene where armoured knights clamber off a siege ladder on to battlements, and two appear to be smoking cigarettes, is in fact the knights adjusting the view through their helmet visor slits, by moving the projecting prongs which are part of the helmet's frontal armour.
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Nicol Williamson played an almost similar role in Spawn (1997), in which he played Cogliostro, mentor of Al Simmons/Spawn (Michael Jai White).
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Liam Neeson's mother-in-law Vanessa Redgrave played Guenevere in Camelot (1967).
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Due to her name, Morgana has been theorized to be a representation of the goddess Morrígan ("Great Queen"). Morrigan was a shape-shifting goddess of strife in Irish mythology, and possibly had equivalents in other Celtic-derived mythologies.
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Liam Neeson, Dame Helen Mirren, and Ciarán Hinds appeared in adaptations of DC Comics properties: Liam Neeson in Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Dame Helen Mirren in RED (2010) and RED 2 (2013), and Ciarán Hinds in Justice League (2017). Sir Patrick Stewart played Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men film franchise, based on the Marvel Comics.
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In the film, Lancelot remains loyal to Guinevere until his death in old age. In some versions of the Arthurian legend, Lancelot is eventually seduced by Elaine of Corbenic, and has the illegitimate son Galahad with her. Guinevere is enraged with Lancelot's unfaithfulness and has him exiled.
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The film introduces some material not found in the Arthurian tales: Uther wielding Excalibur before Arthur, Merlin's "Charm of Making" (written in Old Irish), and the concept of the world as "the dragon" .
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In most Arthurian tales, Mordred's mother is not Morgana (Morgan Le Fay). , but her sister Morgause. The film seems to merge Morgana and Morgause into a single character.
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In this film, Percerval is the knight who returns Excalibur to the water. In the original Arthurian tales, the knight who does this is Bedivere.
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In this film, Morgana remains single until her death. In legends, Morgana had an unhappy marriage to Urien, King of Rheged. Her husband is considered a historical figure, while Morgana is legendary. Morgana and Urien reportedly had a son called Ywain, another knight of the Round Table. He is probably based on the historical king Owain mab Urien, son and successor to Urien.
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In ""Vita Merlini" ("The Life of Merlin", c. 1150), Morgana appears as as the chief of the nine magical queen sisters who dwell in Avalon. The location name appears as "Ynys Afallach" in Welsh versions of the work, and as "Insula Pomorum" in Latin versions. Both names mean "Isle of Apple Trees" in English.
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A theory on the origins of Morgana (Morgan le Fay) connects her to Modron ("mother") , a supernatural mother figure in Welsh mythology. Modron herself is thought to be based on the goddess Dea Matrona ("divine mother goddess"), a Gaulish mother goddess mentioned by Roman writers.
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In the film Morgana (Morgan le Fay) dies before Arthur. In the Arthurian legend as recorded by the historian Gerald of Wales (c. 1146-1223), Morgana was the one who transported Arthur's corpse to Avalon for burial.
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Modern scholars have theorized that Lancelot's name derives from either of two characters in Welsh mythology, Llenlleog (Llenlleawg) the Irishman and Llwch Llawwynnauc. Both characters' names are though to derive from the god Lugh, a warrior god in Irish mythology. Lugh is thought to be a version of the god Lugus, who appears in Gallo-Roman inscriptions.
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Lancelot du Lac (Lancelot of the Lake), is a relatively late addition to the Arthurian legends, and derives from French versions of the Arthurian legend. His first appearance as a main character was the poem "Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart" (French:" Lancelot, le Chevalier de la Charrette", 12th century). This poem was also the first to feature the love affair between Lancelot and Guinevere.
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In the film, Lancelot and Gawain fight each other in a duel, and never interact again. In legend, Lancelot kills Gawain's brothers Agravain, Gaheris and Gareth. A vengeful Gawain then wages war against Lancelot.
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In the film, Guinevere remains childless to her old age. Most versions of the Arthurian tales depict her as a childless queen. But in "Perlesvaus" and "Parzival" (both from the 13th century), Guinevere gives birth to Arthur's son Loholt (also called Ilinot). In the "Alliterative Morte Arthure" (dating to the early 15th century), Guinevere willingly marries Mordred as her second husband, and the couple have two sons.
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In the film, Guinevere is the daughter of Leodegrance, the King of Cameliard (played by Patrick Stewart) Her native Cameliard has been identified with locations in both Cornwall and the region of Cornouaille in Brittany. Leondegrance appears as Guinevere's father in the chivalric romance tales from the High and Late Middle Ages. In Welsh legends, her father is variously identified as Cywryd of Gwent, Gwythyr ap Greidawl, and Gogfran Gawr ("the Giant"). Of them, Gwythyr is depicted as one of Arthur's warriors, and the personal enemy of Gwyn ap Nudd.
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In the film, Percival is the last survivor of Arthur's last battle, and his fate is left unclear in the end. In legend, Percival became King of Carbonek (also called Corbenic), the edifice housing the Holy Grail. Lohengrin, the Knight of the Swan, is identified as Percival's son in the romance "Parzival" (13th century) by Wolfram von Eschenbach (c. 1160-1220).
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This movie has a Star Wars connection: Creator George Lucas had cited the legend of King Arthur as one of his inspirations behind Star Wars. Charley Boorman's best friend Ewan McGregor played young Obi-wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), and Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). Liam Neeson played Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), and Keira Knightley, who played Sabe in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), played Guenevere in King Arthur (2004).
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Liam Neeson and Ciarán Hinds played villains in movies featuring Bruce Wayne (Batman): Liam Neeson played Ra's Al Ghul in Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and Ciarán Hinds played Steppenwolf in Justice League (2017).
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The casting of Katrine Boorman as Igrayne was widely criticized. It was considered unlikely that King Uther would have broken the peace treaty for the sake of the director's average-looking daughter.
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Knightriders (1981), a movie that mixes motorbikes with medieval customs, was released in the same year as this movie. However, that movie has vanished into obscurity and Excalibur has become a cult classic.
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In the film, Perceval is the only knight who is worthy of the Holy Grail. This follows the version of the Arthurian tales told by Chrétien de Troyes (12th century). In later versions of the Arthurian tales, the Grail-worthy knight was Galahad, an illegitimate son of Lancelot.
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In the film, Morgana's father is only mentioned as the "Duke of Cornwall". In the Arthurian tales, his name was Gorlois.
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For much of the film, Lancelot is depicted as knight-errant (wandering knight). In the Vulgate, Lancelot earns a castle of his own, called Joyous Gard, located somewhere in northern England. Some versions of the tale identify this castle with Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland. In the 6th century, in this castle's place stood the Brittonic fort "Din Guarie", capital of the kingdom of Bernicia.
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In several versions of the Arthurian legend, Morgana has unrequited feelings for Lancelot and seeks to force him into the role of her lover. In the film, they barely know each other.
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In French versions of his legend, Percival is either identified as a son of Alain le Gros or as a son of Pellinore, King of the Isles (a legendary monarch connected to Anglesey). Pellinor is depicted as the father of several other knights of the Round Table, such as Aglovale, Dornar, Lamorak, and Tor. Pellinore is known as the rival and killer of Lot, King of Orkney. Lot's death caused a blood feud between the sons of Lot and the sons of Pellinore.
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Theories suggest that Percival derives from a historical chieftain, Peredur, son of Eliffer. Peredur is recorded as one of the combatants in the Battle of Arfderydd (573). In legend, Percival is typically identified as a son of the similarly-named "Efrawg".
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In the film, Merlin's body is trapped in stasis, while his spirit communicates with others through dreams. In legend, Merlin is said to be buried in the enchanted forest of Brocéliande. The forest is typically identified with Paimpont forest, a temperate forest in Brittany. In the 21st century, the forest covers an area of 9,000 hectares.
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In legend, the city of of "Caerfyrddin" ("Merlin's fort") was named after Myrddin/Merlin. The city still exists under the name Carmarthen. It had a population of 14,185 people in the 2011 census.
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Merlin's name appears as "Myrddin" in Welsh tradition. He is partly based on a historical figure, the bard Myrddin Wyllt (Myrddin the Wild), who is also called Myrddin Emrys (Myrddin Ambrosius), Merlinus Caledonensis (Merlin of Caledonia), and Merlin Sylvestris ("of the woods"). The historical Myrrdin was one of the survivors of the defeated side in the Battle of Arfderydd (573) but reportedly went insane following the battle. He supposedly fled into the forest, lived with the animals, and received the gift of prophecy.
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In legend, Merlin is often identified with Lailoken, a semi-legendary madman and prophet who lived in the Caledonian Forest in the late 6th century.
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In the film, Merlin has suspicions about Morgana's motivations, but fails to act against her until it is too late for him. In legends, Merlin had prophetic abilities. He was aware that his female student and lover would betray him, but lacked either the ability or the will to escape his fate.
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In the film, Morgana serves as Merlin's apprentice and love interest, until she betrays him and traps him in stasis. This derives from the Arthurian legends where Morgana was his lover. In legends, Merlin had a weakness for young beautiful women, which eventually doomed him. He was eventually betrayed and sentenced to eternal imprisonment by one of his female students. Her name is variously given as "Viviane", "Nimue", and "Niniane".
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Gawain's origin is never given in the film. In legend, he is a son of Lot, King of Orkney and his wife Morgause. Through his mother, he is a nephew to Arthur and Morgana, and is one of the closest companions of his uncle Arthur. Gawain was also a brother or half-brother to fellow knights Agravain, Gaheris, Gareth, and Mordred.
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Ector has a supporting role in the film as Kay's father and Arthur's foster father. This is according to English versions of the Arthurian legend. In Welsh tradition, Kay's father is called Cynyr.
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In the film, Mordred dies young and with no obvious heirs. In legend, Mordred had two sons, one called Melehan (also called Melou), and one not named in any surviving sources. The two sons were claimants to Arthur's throne, but were eventually killed by rival claimant Constantine. This Constantine is identified with the historical monarch Constantine of Dumnonia (died c. 523), who was depicted as Arthur's successor in legend.
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Uther Pendragon's origin is never given in the film. In legend, he was a younger brother and successor to the monarch Aurelius Ambrosius, and brother to the murdered monarch Constans II. Their father was the legendary monarch Constantine. His father is a fictionalized version of the Roman usurper emperor Constantine III (reigned 407-411), who reigned only over the provinces of Britannia and Gaul.
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Although they are main cast members, Helen Mirren (Morgana) and Paul Geoffrey (Perceval) do not appear until over 1 hour into the film.
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Morgana (Morgan le Fay) was a popular addition to medieval versions of the Arthurian legends. Her role as a witch is thought to partly derive from the depiction of the powerful witches Circe and Medea in Greek mythology.
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In Welsh legends, Guinevere has a sister called Gwenhwyfach. The two sisters were depicted as lifelong enemies, whose rivalry led to the Battle of Camlann and the death of Arthur.
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Nigel Terry and Clive Swift appeared opposite David Tennant in the revived series of Doctor Who (2005). In the final season of the classic series of Doctor Who (1963), The Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) and his companion Ace (Sophie Aldred) encountered Morgaine and Mordred who come from another dimension and have come to their dimension to seek possession of King Arthur's sword Excalibur, which they mistake The Doctor for Merlin and The Doctor and Ace discover King Arthur's body and Excalibur in a submerged spacecraft at the bottom of a lake.
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Morgan Le Fay as played by Helen Mirren is one of the scariest villainesses in film history.
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Morgana's name derives from the Old Welsh or Old Breton term "Morgen", which means ""Sea-born". Modern scholars have theorized that she was based in the Morgens, a group of water spirits depicted on Welsh and Breton folklore.
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The final battle of Arthur remains unnamed in the film. In the legends, his final battle was the Battle of Camlann, a semi-legendary battle of the 6th century.
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Morgana (Morgan le Fay) is a relatively late addition to the Arthurian legends. She made her first appearance in the poem "Vita Merlini" ("The Life of Merlin", c. 1150) by the cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth (c. 1095-1155). She does not appear at all in Geoffrey's earlier work "Historia Regum Britanniae" ("The History of the Kings of Britain", 1136).
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Guinevere's name derives from the Welsh descriptive name "Gwenhwyfar", which means "the White Enchantress" or "the White Fay/Ghost". In medieval Arthurian tales, her name appears variously as "Ganhumara", "Guennuuar", "Wenneuereia", and "Gwynnever". In the 15th century, Thomas Malory called her both "Gwenever" and "Guenever", and most modern versions of the legend derive her name from his version.
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Myrddin/Merlin is often given the name "Emrys" in legend, the Welsh derivative of the Roman name "Ambrosius". Elements of his legend are thought to have been adapted from the historical Ambrosius Aurelianus, a Romano-British war leader of the 5th century. Ambrosius was the Roman version of the Greek term "ambrosios" (translated to "divine, immortal" in English). The name is also connected to the feminine term "ambrosia" (immortality), the substance which granted the Greek gods their immortality.
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Spoilers 

The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The cameraman waited with a camera running for several days for the shot of a crow eating a dead knight's eye. They had to wait for the crow to really eat the sheep's eye.
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In the legend, when King Arthur dies in his final battle, his body is taken to his final resting place in the Isle of Avalon, where he is buried.
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The graphic scene in which Arthur is impaled with Mordred's spear, and then pulls himself towards Mordred, was mirrored in Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), when Shinzon, who is impaled with a pole, pulls himself toward Captain Picard. Sir Patrick Stewart played Leondegrance in this film and Star Trek's Picard.
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There's a theory about Kay's sword being stolen. It's likely since he is a sorcerer, Merlin may had used his magic and transformed himself into the sword thief and may had stole Kay's sword in order to lure Arthur to Excalibur so Arthur could draw Excalibur from the stone. Merlin appears a moment after Arthur draws Excalibur and Sir Ector reveals to Arthur that he is not his father.
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Arthur grows as a character. He starts off as a idiotic squire but changes and becomes a great and wise king.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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