Why Mel Gibson’s Braveheart didn’t need to stick to the history – leader comment

A film about William Wallace should be allowed to tell a good story, even if it doesn’t quite fit the ‘facts’. We just need to realise it’s entertainment, not a documentary.

William Wallace, as played by Mel Gibson in the film Braveheart, prepares for battle (Picture: Icon/Ladd Co/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock)

William Wallace was famously tall, while Mel Gibson is not. He may not be as short as he’s reputed to be, but it can be hard to let a fact get in the way of a good story.

In Braveheart, the film makes a joke of the alleged difference in height between Gibson and Wallace when a young soldier protests the man before him cannot be the great Scottish hero, saying the real one is “seven feet tall”.

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Wallace (Gibson) replies: “Yes, I’ve heard. Kills men by the hundreds. And if he were here, he’d consume the English with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his a***.”

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It’s a good rebuttal of the idea that Gibson was too short to play Wallace – he wasn’t really unusually tall, that was just myth-making by the Scots.

And it perhaps also anticipated complaints about historical inaccuracies in the film, such as the lack of a bridge in its depiction of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, the kilts, the face paint and so on.

Sometimes it’s OK for a good ­story to stray from accepted history – even to the point of including lightning bolts that emanate from unusual places.

Just don’t take them too seriously.

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