How awesome is Mel Gibson at making movies? He made a three hour epic film set in the 13th century about a little known Scottish hero that won Academy Awards and still makes you stop and watch it 20 years later on cable. Braveheart is a guy film with fighting, father-son issues, fighting, brotherhood, fighting, betrayal, fighting, and revenge. It has historical inaccuracies, but it has a great story. Wallace doesn't even win freedom for his people, but Robert the Bruce does. Looking at Robert the Bruce's biography, he has a more interesting life. He is the one who becomes king. Why did Gibson make a movie about William Wallace and not Robert the Bruce? Mel Gibson is a great filmmaker but a masochist. Portraying Wallace, Gibson could fulfill his heroic and masochistic tendencies.
Robert the Bruce was one of the three big leaders for Scottish independence. Robert was a noble with claims to the throne, while Wallace was a commoner. Wallace won a battle, was Guardian of Scotland, and then lost a battle and stopped being Guardian. While Wallace was in foreign countries, supposedly pleading Scotland's case for support, the Bruce was fighting, wheeling and dealing with the English king after him. Wallace ended up dead after being captured, drawn and quartered. Robert the Bruce turns on his remaining ally and only threat to the throne, killing him in a church. He escapes an assassination attempt and rallies his men. The Bruce ends up leading Scotland to victory through martial prowess and some diplomacy. He reigns as king for decades, and dies on the throne. His heart was encased in a separate coffin and carried into battle. All the while, he is known as 'the Bruce'. That is a pretty intriguing story arc. Looking at the history, I'd say it is a cooler story than a romantic lesser figure of the same cause who ends up drawn and quartered by the king of England.
Mel Gibson was drawn to both characters, as Wallace and Robert the Bruce's relationship is a fantastic one to watch onscreen. It's not a bromance; they respect the qualities of on another, which are entirely different. Being a narcissistic Hollywood actor, he wanted to be the star of the vehicle despite being a foot shorter than Wallace and not a redhead. Why not be the murky, flawed fighting lord who becomes a leader and king of an independent nation (the Bruce)? How many Hollywood movies end where the hero dies? Cool Hand Luke, Gladiator, Braveheart and..... so this goes against the Hollywood grain. It is also not Gibson's style. He is a masochist. He loves playing people who get fucked up. It might be that audiences see a hero beaten down, so they bond to him, hoping he will return and wreck things up. That is a story telling approach, but it just might be that Gibson is a masochist.
Here's Gibson movies where Gibson plays a character who gets messed up, tortured or nearly beaten to death: Mad Max, Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome, Lethal Weapon, Lethal Weapon 2, Hamlet, Forever Young, The Man Without a Face, Payback, Braveheart, and let me add as a director, because he said he wanted to but was too old to play the lead, Passion of the Christ. William Wallace gave Gibson the perfect way to end his tragic hero story arc with some onscreen masochism, being drawn and quartered. It is Gibson's MO, and rather disturbing when listed. He loves playing the hero, but he loves being beaten. Every Mad Max film has to have him near death with the Grim Reaper just offscreen, only to see him rebound and win a half triumph. The sad Braveheart ending is anti-Hollywood, but it is uber-Gibson. I'll tip my hat to Gibson for bucking schmaltzy Hollywood stories and producing well made and different films. As a lover of history and well produced cinema, I would love to see an HBO miniseries on Robert the Bruce or a high production quality film about his rise to power. It will not happen, and I'll always consider Braveheart as a fantastic film. I love watching it, but with a small feeling that Gibson shouldn't have been such a masochistic sicko and focused it and starred as the Bruce instead of Wallace.