Will heavy metal Henry oust the Outlaw King?

Fans of blockbuster movie Outlaw King may be sad to learn that the next riproaring medieval epic from Netflix will be about, not Bannockburn ... but Agincourt.

A scene from the first day of filming Outlaw King, on an estate outside Linlithgow.
A scene from the first day of filming Outlaw King, on an estate outside Linlithgow.

Called “The King” the new movie is not, however, an Elvis biopic.

It centres on the great battle won by an army under England’s Henry V, a Plantagenet monarch very different from the divisive and hapless Edward II.

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The central character in this venture is mean, moody, utterly determined – a man with nerves of steel who will stop at nothing to bring France back into his regal fold.

Movies shot in Scotland are a tonic for tourism - Outlander author Diana Gabaldon received a special award from VisitScotland for the number of people her Outlander fantasy-history series has brought to Scotland.

He’s a super-patriot too, in full colour Shakespearian mode.

The real Henry’s great victory at the 1415 Battle of Agincourt (where a small and exhausted English army implausibly smashed an enormous but largely uncontrolled French army, killing many of the aristocracy) is one of the great David v Goliath stories of history.

While Outlaw King may not have set quite enough heather on fire for Netflix it clearly has core elements the movie moghul wants to build upon – as shown in the brief but dark and powerful official trailer for The King now posted on Youtube.

It has the mud, blood and desperate fighting of Outlaw King and the candlelit scheming of feudal warlords as in Game of Thrones.

The movie’s star is Timothée Hal Chalamet (TV series Homeland, Christopher Nolan’s movie interstellar, etc), for whom this tastefully classic Shakespearean gorefest is a big catch.

He is following in some distinguished footsteps, because two previous film versions of Henry V were smash hits – the wartime movie (but filmed in colour) starring Laurence Olivier as a heroic Plantagenet poster boy, and the far more recent and more hard-edged version starring Kenneth Branagh as a man ruthless, inspirational and lethal.

What they all have in common, apart from a criminally brutal haircut, is that they are all acting Shakespeare, whose work is a universally-accepted hallmark of class.

It is a theatrical brand which demands levels of artistic aspiration you would not expect to find in Game of Thrones or, say, Vikings.

If The King strikes gold, with big ratings and top awards, it may persuade Netflix to produce a string of Shakespeare/Game of Thrones-style movies – the most obvious option being Richard III (also portrayed in a vintage movie by Laurence Olivier).

Meanwhile if the abrupt change of focus signals that Netflix won’t be coming back to Scotland for some time it shouldn’t be taken as a serious setback, because the dividends from Outlaw King will keep coming.

Scotland’s reputation as a film base is on the cusp of exciting breakthrough, following high profile successes including Outlander, Outlaw King and Mary Queen of Scots, which have all been forged on a solid base of local talent – a skills pool able to meet a variety of challenges.

These movies have also acted as “VisitScotland ads” by beaming stunning landscape shots and historic castles to admiring audiences all over the world.

Sites like multiple-times movie set Blackness Castle are now hot properties on the tourism circuit.

The fact that Outlander author Diana Gabaldon received a special award from VisitScotland for promoting tourism to Scotland tells its own pragmatic story.

Meanwhile enthusiasm for Scottish history and culture – and movie themes – is unabated across both the Channel and the Pond.

More home-based movie action, not necessarily always with large-canvas historical themes, is surely on the cards.