Production Notes: Tristan & Isolde
ABOUT THE STORY
A tale of epic battles, royal intrigue and a timeless, star-crossed passion, TRISTAN & ISOLDE is a long-time dream project of executive producers Tony Scott and Ridley Scott. “You have two people who are on two separate sides where a relationship is impossible, yet they come together,” says Ridley Scott, director/producer of the Academy Award-winning epic “Gladiator” as well as the acclaimed “Kingdom of Heaven.” “It’s a story with epic scope, rooted in common human behavior that is timeless.”
The myth of Tristan & Isolde originated as a Celtic legend from the Dark Ages, an historical period about which little is known, that took place between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. A tragic story about forbidden love between a man and woman, the tale predates the legend of Arthur and Guinevere in Camelot as well as Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet.” “I continue to be drawn by the tragic nature of the love story,” comments Ridley Scott. “It is so powerful dramatically and emotionally that it transcends any setting or time.”
Fascinated by the material, Scott developed it on and off for nearly two decades, originally intending to direct the film himself. Knowing of Scott’s affinity for the myth, screenwriter Dean Georgaris sent his screenplay to Scott Free, the production company headed by Scott and his brother, the director/producer Tony Scott. The company acquired the property, which transposed the setting from a more magical Dark Ages period to one more grounded in what the reality of that era must have been.
Though Ridley Scott remained involved, he sought a director for the project who would pursue his own vision from the rich material. “As a producer on this, the most important thing was choosing the right director and letting him have the freedom and reign to do what he wants, in order to get his vision across,” comments co-producer Anne Lai.
Scott immediately contacted Kevin Reynolds, who brought depth and emotion to such large-scale adventures as “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” “Rapa Nui” and “The Count of Monte Cristo.” “There is something about the story that is so compelling,” Reynolds comments. “It’s intensely romantic and sad, a beautiful tragedy that’s Romeo and Juliet-esque in the way it unfolds.”
The story is set among English tribes struggling for control over their territories following the fall of Rome. With that fall comes an end to roads and general infrastructure and, amid this chaotic climate, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes invade Britain from the east while Irish King Donnchadh’s (David Patrick O’Hara) forces invade Cornwall from the west.
In one of these villages, Tristan (James Franco) is raised by Lord Marke (Rufus Sewell), who lost his hand trying to protect the boy during the Irish raid that killed Tristan’s family. As a young man, the charismatic, headstrong Tristan leads guerrilla attacks on Irish occupying forces, ultimately defeating King Donnchadh’s best warriors. “Tristan is full of rage at the Irish for taking his family,” notes James Franco, who starred in the highly successful “Spider-Man” franchise and won a Golden Globe