With films like Gladiator, Blade Runner, and Black Hawk Down, director Ridley Scott has shown his mastery of cinematic storytelling that is epic in dimension but with a deeply personal core. In Kingdom of Heaven, he turns to the Crusades—that world-shaping 200-year collision between Europe and the East—to frame the tale of a young Frenchman who defies all odds to become a knight, then lives out what that glorious title really means. "I'd always wanted to make a movie about knights and medieval times, the Crusades especially," says Scott. "Historically, the knight—like the cowboy or the policeman—has given us great opportunities to tell stories about a hero."
With the cry "God wills it!" Pope Urban II in 1095 urged Christian Europe into a frenzy to reclaim the holy city of Jerusalem, conquered by Muslim armies that swept through the Middle East in the 7th century. Thousands answered the call, from kings to peasants, and in the ensuing waves of war ancient cities fell to bloody sieges, Christian kingdoms were founded in the Holy Land, and unspeakable atrocities were committed on both sides. Between the Second and Third Crusades, however, two visionary leaders—King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem and the Saracen general Saladin—forged a short-lived peace amid the carnage. Drawn into this immense drama is the young blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom). Fleeing his village under a death sentence, and fleeing his own demons as well, Balian joins forces with a great knight, Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson), who swears him to serve King Baldwin and up-hold the truce—that fragile "kingdom of heaven." On reaching the Holy Land, Balian falls under the spell of the king's sister, Sibylla (Eva Green), and becomes embroiled in a struggle for the kingdom's soul, as the dying king is assailed by extremists bent on war. Ultimately, Balian must choose between his love and his sense of knightly honor. And when Jerusalem faces its greatest peril, he must use all his wits and courage to defend it against staggering odds.
Scott and his production team scale new heights in creating worlds on film: building vast sets on locations in Morocco and Spain, peopling them with international stars and thousands of extras, enhancing filmed action with state-of-the-art effects. Scenes of medieval warfare, breathtaking in scale and realism, feature weapons and machines that were carefully researched and built for real. This splendid companion book, illustrated with more than 200 photos, drawings, and Scott's own storyboards, documents this landmark production behind the scenes and before the cameras. But it also delves into the details of storycrafting that give Kingdom of Heaven its solid historical grounding, and includes a lively primer on the Crusades that will expand readers' appreciation of both the film and the history behind it. With more than 200 photographs and illustrations.
About the Author
Ridley Scott is the director of G.I. Jane, White Squall, 1492: Conquest of Paradise, Thelma and Louise, Black Rain, Someone to Watch Over Me, Legend, Blade Runner, Alien, The Duellist, and the forthcoming Hannibal (2000).
David H. Franzoni's previous films include Amistad and Jumpin' Jack Flash.
John Logan was a screenwriter for RKO 281, Any Given Sunday, and Bats.