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KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

From Conception to Production
Ridley Scott had been developing a project called Tripoli with screenwriter William Monahan when they began to discuss making a film about some aspect of the Crusades. "It's a very rich time in history,” says Scott. "If you examine those 200 years historically, you see every possible shade of human behavior. You can go in and almost surgically choose the moment you want to explore.”

The sensitivity and perceptiveness of Monahan's script, in the hands of an admired filmmaker like Ridley Scott, attracted much of the talent that would populate and create the film. "It is an era which has a lot of parallels in today's world: how the Christians deal with the Muslims, how the Muslims deal with the Christians, how they use each other, what their real agendas are,” comments Jeremy Irons. "This story has reverberations for today.”

Scott stresses that he was creating a film story based on history, not a documentary. Kingdom of Heaven uses historical events as a canvas on which to paint a rich human drama.

"We've chosen a point in history in which we see a state of peace, which we don't seem to be able to attain today,” he notes. "That's what's fascinating about it. We try to show both sides in a balanced light. The hero, Balian, is a man concerned most with ‘right action' and what that means. And one of the strongest characters in the film is Saladin, who is played by a Muslim.”

Monahan had long been fascinated by the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, especially the reign of Baldwin IV. "It was a period of equilibrium between the Crusader state and the Muslims,” he notes. "There is a balance of power. It is partly a practical truce, but there is also a kind of fascination between the cultures.” The mutual respect for peace is maintained by King Baldwin IV and Saladin, who are both at odds with extremists in their respective camps.

Monahan worked from primary sources, using firsthand accounts (in translation) by people who were present while history was being made, and avoiding interpretations written over the subsequent centuries. His research revealed that King Baldwin and Saladin did indeed achieve an unprecedented truce between their societies, during which all three of the great monotheistic religions were practiced freely in Jerusalem. "King Baldwin really followed the Muslims' lead, when they had controlled the city, in allowing those of other faiths to practice their religion,” Scott points out. "Anyone could come and go as they pleased, and worship as they pleased.”

At the time the film opens, the truce is working. "Trade is going back and forth,” comments Monahan. "People are coexisting. The Latin Kingdom has stood for almost a hundred years at this point. And it's only a mistake—greed, ambition, fanaticism—that begins to shake it.”

"I got to live every boy's dream,” says Orlando Bloom. "A knight, quite simply, gets the girl, gets to be everything he is meant to be. Balian is a reluctant hero on a quest, which is the best kind of hero, for my money.”

Ridley Scott and Bloom had previously worked together on the director's film Black Hawk Down. 

"Orlando is a very honest, outgoing person,” says Scott. "That's who he is. He's also very good physically in the field. He fell out of a helicopter for me in Black Hawk Down. He can do all the things that I required him to do, but I think his honesty and earnestness give him a distinct level of authenticity in the role of Balian.”

"I felt so privileged to be surrounded by this cast and to work so closely with Ridley,” says Bloom. "To see how he works and create something with him. He has this uncanny ability to take history and merge it with contemporary society's idea of what they want in a movie; he juxtaposes politics with truth, and if you come from truth you really get to the crux of the matter. His films are a feast for the eyes, but they also leave you questioning and wond

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