Mel Gibson admits that Braveheart was bogus

Oct 27, 2009
David Cairns

William Wallace was a 'berserker' monster, says the controversial actor and director

Fifteen years after he painted his face blue-and-white and wore a kilt for Braveheart, Mel Gibson has admitted his movie depicted a highly romanticised version of William Wallace. Gibson, who directed and starred in the historical romp, told reporters in Edinburgh that the Scottish folk hero was really a "monster" and a "berserker".

The stirring film seems to have been loathed and adored by Scots in equal measure since it was released in 1995. Its rabble-rousing sentiment and jingoistic portrayal of the English as cowardly and effeminate quickly made it a focus for nationalist sentiment, while its historical inaccuracies and simplistic morality led many to dismiss it as Hollywood schmaltz.

Braveheart doesn't mention that Wallace was a member of the ruling elite, a privileged landowner. It creates a love affair between Gibson's hero and Queen Isabella, who was in fact two at the time. It has been accused of racism and homophobia by some critics, and even the kilts the characters wear were invented 300 years after Wallace’s death.

Promoting a Blu-Ray release of Braveheart in Edinburgh, Gibson said: "Wallace wasn't as nice as the character we saw up there, we romanticised him a bit. Actually he was a monster.

"He always smelled of smoke, he was always burning people's villages down. He was like what the Vikings called a 'berseker'."

But the 53-year-old Australian, whose own public image was tarnished when he delivered an anti-semitic rant on being arrested for drunk-driving in 2006, made no apologies for playing fast and loose with history.

He said such romanticising was "the language of film", adding: "We kind of shifted the balance a bit because someone has got to be the good guy against the bad guy; that's the way that stories are told."

Gibson’s remarks provoked debate in Scotland, with some academics and experts quick to accuse him of shifting his position on Wallace too far in the other direction. Fiona Watson, author of a biography of Wallace, said: "After 15 years, he's giving us the other version of the myth, the knuckles dragging across the floor one, which is equally untrue. The real man surely lies in between."

Writer and musician Pat Kane said it was "no surprise that European and American neo-Nazis take [the film] as an inspiration," and added: "Every time the SNP [Scottish National Party] does one of its dumb appropriations of Mel Gibson's neo-fascist tartan epic, even an independence supporter like me sinks lower in his chair."

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