Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

15 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Braveheart

Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

You remember Mel Gibson’s award-winning performance as William Wallace, but these nuggets about the creation of Braveheart may enrich your repeat viewings.

1. Screenwriter Randall Wallace first had the idea on a vacation to Edinburgh.

He saw statues of William Wallace (no relation) and Robert the Bruce adorning Edinburgh Castle and asked a tour guide who they were. The guide proceeded to tell the screenwriter about their story. Wallace was immediately inspired to write a screenplay about the famed warriors.

2. But Wallace didn’t immediately start his research.

Wallace opted to do specific historical research after he completed his screenplay because he wanted to capture the drama of the story first and input historical details later. Wallace brushes off claims of the movie’s historical inaccuracy by saying that the script is only his dramatic interpretation.

3. Mel Gibson didn’t want a title sequence.

The director opted against including a main title sequence because he felt the film should launch right into the story. Nevertheless, famous designer Kyle Cooper created a brief title sequence for the film. Cooper would go on to do the noted title sequences for films like Se7en, Spider-Man, Iron Man , and American Horror Story .

4. There’s a little Spartacus in Gibson’s direction.

Gibson’s main inspirations for Braveheart were sword-and-sandal epics he watched growing up, like El Cid and Spartacus .

5. Gibson worked in order.

The first shot in the movie was the first shot that he filmed.

6. James Robinson, who plays Young William, hadn’t acted in a movie before Braveheart .

At one of the casting calls in Glasgow, Gibson asked another young actor there if he knew anybody who would be good for the movie, and the young actor referred Gibson to Robinson.

7. Mel Gibson’s brother makes an appearance.

The director’s brother, Donal Gibson, plays the leader of one of the clans that joins up with William Wallace at the midpoint of the movie.

8. Mad Max influenced the battle scenes.

Gibson admits that he borrowed the cinematic techniques for most of the violent shots in the movie—like shooting at different speeds or using jump cuts to emphasize the violence—from his Mad Max director George Miller. He also admittedly borrowed ideas and techniques for more atmospheric shots from director Peter Weir (who directed Gibson in Gallipoli and The Year of Living Dangerously ).

9. Gibson had no choice but to star as William Wallace.

Gibson was relatively new to directing and was known more as an actor when he took on Braveheart – at that point his only directing credit was the small drama The Man Without a Face . Because of his onscreen fame, Paramount Pictures would allegedly only agree to let Gibson direct the movie if he starred in it.

10. Gibson didn’t have actors read lines when they auditioned.

Instead, he sat down and talked to each actor over tea.

11. Gibson brought in actual members of the Wallace clan as extras.

They’re standing around Wallace during the opening shots of battles.

12. There’s a subtle Shakespeare reference in the film’s most famous speech.

William Wallace’s famous “Freedom” speech was heavily inspired by King Henry’s “St. Crispin’s Day Speech” from the Shakespeare play Henry V.

13. The distinctive face paint—called “woad”— is actually an anachronism.

It was never worn in battle at the time the movie takes place.

14. Gibson’s woad went through some revisions.

Gibson originally wanted to have St. Andrew’s Cross (a symbol of Scotland that appears on its contemporary flag) as the woad design on his face, but the film’s makeup artist, Lois Burwell, suggested the now iconic half-face-covering design. Good call by Burwell—she won the Oscar for Best Makeup for Braveheart .

15. Some of the warriors were real-life soldiers.

The production used reserve soldiers from the Irish territorial army as extras during the battle scenes. To save money, the same group played both Scottish and English forces and simply changed costumes depending on the angles Gibson wanted to shoot.

5 Film Transitions Worth Knowing

You see them every day, on TV shows, the news, and in movies, but how well do you know the most oft-used film transitions? Here are the big five:


The dissolve is an editing technique where one clip seems to fade—or dissolve—into the next. As the first clip is fading out, getting lighter and lighter, the second clip starts fading in, becoming more and more prominent. The process usually happens so subtly and so quickly, the viewer isn't even aware of the transition. The above video offers a great overview of the cut, with examples.


This transition is the opposite of the dissolve in that it draws attention to itself. The best example of the wipe is what's known as the Iris Wipe, which you usually find in silent films, like Buster Keaton's or the Merrie Melodies cartoons—the circle getting smaller and smaller. Other wipe shapes include stars, diamonds, and the old turning clock.

The Star Wars films are chock-full of attention-grabbing wipes. Here are two good examples from The Empire Strikes Back. The first shows the clock wipe; the second, the diagonal wipe (pay no attention to the broken blocks at the start of the second clip—that's a technical glitch, not part of the film).


As the name implies, in the basic cutaway, the filmmaker is moving from the action to something else, and then coming back to the action. Cutaways are used to edit out boring shots (like people driving to their destination—why not see what the character is seeing or even thinking sometimes?) or add action to a sequence by changing the pace of the footage. My favorite use of the cutaway is in Family Guy, where the technique is used to insert throwaway gags. Here's a great example:


The L Cut, also called a split edit, is a very cool technique whose name dates back to the old analog film days.

The audio track on a strip of celluloid film runs along the side, near the sprocket holes. In the L Cut transition, the editor traditionally cut the picture frames out of the strip, but left the narrow audio track intact, thus creating an L-shape out of the film. A different camera angle, or scene was then spliced into the spot where the old picture was, so the audio from the old footage was now cut over the new footage.

Of course, with digital editing, one doesn't need to physically cut anything anymore, but the transition is still widely used, and the name has remained the same.

Split edits like these are especially effective in portraying conversations. Imagine how a simple conversation between two people might look if all we ever got was a ping-pong edit back and forth between the two people talking. The L cut allows the viewer to read the emotion on the listener's face, as the dialogue continues over, as we see in this clip from Ferris Bueller's Day Off:


The fade in and fade out usually signal the beginning or end of a scene, especially if the filmmaker is fading to/from black. This is the most common, of course, but fading to white has become trendy, too. The opening title sequence from the HBO series Six Feet Under featured many fades to black and a couple brief fades to white. The very last bit in the sequence fades slowly to white, and is my all-time favorite example of the transition:

science fiction
Why So Many Aliens in Pop Culture Look Familiar

Aliens have been depicted countless times in cinema, from Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon (1902) to James Cameron's Avatar (2009). But despite the advancements in special-effects technology over the past century, most aliens we see on screen still share a lot of similarities—mainly, they look, move, and interact with the world like humans do. Vox explains how the classic alien look came to be in their new video below.

When you picture an alien, you may imagine a being with reptilian skin or big, black eyes, but the basic components of a human body—two arms, two legs, and a head with a face—are likely all there. In reality, finding an intelligent creature that evolved all those same features on a planet millions of light-years away would be an extraordinary coincidence. If alien life does exist, it may not look like anything we've ever seen on Earth.

But when it comes to science fiction, accuracy isn't always the goal. Creating an alien character humans can relate to may take priority. Or, the alien's design may need to work as a suit that can be worn by human performers. The result is a version of extraterrestrial life that looks alien— but not too alien—to movie audiences.

So if aliens probably won't have four limbs, two eyes, and a mouth, what would they look like if we ever met them person? These experts have some theories.

[h/t Vox]


More from mental floss studios