1995’s epic fictionalized historical drama Braveheart, starring Mel Gibson, who also directed and produced the movie, was inspired by Blind Harry’s 15th-century epic poem The Wallace by Henry the Minstrel. The movie received positive reviews from the audience and the critics upon its release, with special mention for the action sequences and soundtrack.

Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson in Braveheart | Paramount Pictures

Despite receiving a great response at the box office, Braveheart was highly criticized for being inaccurate in terms of storytelling. Braveheart went onto win Best Picture at the 68th Academy Awards along with Gibson winning Best Director. Before Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox agreed to finance the movie, Warner Bros. was willing to finance it, but on one condition.

Warner Bros. offered to finance Mel Gibson’s Braveheart on one condition

Producer Alan Ladd Jr. at MGM-Pathé Communications was initially producing the fictionalized historical drama movie after Randall Wallance penned down the screenplay. But when MGM went through a shuffle in management in 1993, the producer decided to leave the studio and take the movie along with him.

Mel Gibson had considered Terry Gilliam, with whom he was working on the adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities, to direct the movie, but he declined. Taking over the director’s duties himself, he offered the lead role to Brad Pitt, Jason Patric, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Liam Neeson. but ended up playing it himself. The actor-director who produced the movie under his production company, Icon Productions, faced some challenges while raising funds for the historical drama.

Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson went onto star in Lethal Weapon 4 in 1998 | Warner Bros.

It was reported that Warner Bros. was interested in financing the project but had one condition: Gibson had to sign for another Lethal Weapon sequel. The actor declined the offer and moved on to get financing for the movie from Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox, along with The Ladd Co.

According to All The Right Movies’ X account, the actor had decided to play the character of William Wallace only to convince Paramount Pictures to finance the movie. However, he thought that he was not right to play a 20-something on-screen, but he agreed.

Surprisingly, Mel Gibson went on to make the fourth buddy-cop action movie, Lethal Weapon, in 1998, after refusing earlier. It was the last movie in the Lethal Weapon film series and ended up receiving a mixed response from critics.

Mel Gibson credits Kevin Costner for taking on the directing duties of Braveheart

During an interview with USA Today in 2020, the actor revealed that it was Kevin Costner who planted the big idea of directing the movie when he helmed his 1990’s Dances With Wolves. Gibson said,

I spoke to him, and I was like, ‘That was amazing. I’m so smacked that you did that with your first film’. And he said, ‘There’s only one to go, man. Big’. And I said, ‘Ok, I’m going big’.

Gibson had previously directed The Man Without a Face in 1993, but Braveheart was in a different league. He shared with the publication that there were about 3500 people on set with nine cameras and him on a four-wheel motorcycle with makeup on his face, adding that he was going back and forth between checking the camera position because he had only two monitors.

Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson agreed to play the lead role to convince Paramount Pictures for financing the movie | Paramount Pictures

The actor-director added that it was fun making the movie and revealed that he used the extras for both Scottish rebels and the English army in that era. He shared,

They were playing both sides. One day they’d be dirty and filthy with bad wigs and kilts, and the next day they’d get all tooled up with the armor and stuff. Then we’d split them in half. It was crazy.

Gibson also addressed the criticism the movie received almost twenty-five years ago for being inaccurate in terms of history, and said that he may have distorted the story a little bit. But he quickly added that it’s okay as he is in the business of cinema and he is not an experienced historian.

Braveheart is available on AMC+, Paramount+, and Prime Video.

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