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The Green Knight: 12 Behind-The-Scenes Facts From David Lowery’s Arthurian Fantasy Film

(Image credit: A24)

In the summer of 2021, David Lowery took audiences into the wild, fantastical, and downright weird world of The Green Knight, the director’s unique spin on the Arthurian legend, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and what an experience it was. 

The movie, which stars Dev Patel as the young and unproven Gawain, who becomes trapped in a deadly game with the mysterious knight, is one of the most fascinating releases of the year, and stories behind the making of the transfixing A24 cinematic spectacle are just as, if not more, interesting. Below, we will break down some of the more impressive behind the scenes facts about The Green Knight and how its biggest moments came to be.

(Image credit: A24)

David Lowery Decided To Adapt The Green Knight, Wrote The Script, And Started Shooting All Within A Span Of 11 Months

With the scope of the story and level of detail seen throughout The Green Knight, you would assume that it was a project long in the works, and one that went through an extensive pre-production period, but that couldn’t be any farther from the truth. 

In a July 2021 interview with IndieWire, director David Lowery revealed that while he had read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight earlier in life, he didn’t become obsessed with the idea of making an adaptation of his own until 11 months before cameras started rolling. At one point in this process, Lowery considered shooting in Texas instead of across the pond, but as he re-read the poem once more, he knew he had to get as close to original location as possible.

(Image credit: A24)

When Planning Out The Green Knight Character, David Lowery Wanted Him To Sound Like A Weed Being Uprooted With Each Movement

One thing David Lowery knew he and his crew had to get right with The Green Knight was the sound design of the titular knight, especially since the character is supposed to be of the earth and not mankind. When sitting down with CinemaBlend’s ReelBlend podcast, Lowery explained that he wanted Ralph Ineson’s character to sound like he was uprooting himself from the ground with each step, and so he went to sound designer Johnny Marshall and asked him to make the Green Knight sound like roots being pulled from the ground.

(Image credit: A24)

When he was first planning out The Green Knight, David Lowery considered using puppets or CGI to bring the mysterious knight to life, but eventually decided to cast Ralph Ineson to take on the role. 

In the Boldest of Blood and Wildest of Heart: Making of The Green Knight featurette that accompanied the movie’s home release, it was revealed that Ineson would undergo hours of makeup and prosthetic applications each day during shooting, but that’s not even the craziest part. To make the character look as if he was made from the Earth, Ineson wore wooden contact lenses. And, somehow, Ineson was able to have a spark in his eye when he toys with Gawain during their second and final confrontation.

(Image credit: A24)

David Lowery Changed A Core Character From The Original Poem So He Could Contribute To The Talking Fox Lexicon

Even though The Green Knight is a fairly faithful adaptation of the source material, there were several changes made to the story during the planning process. One of those is the inclusion of the talking fox that accompanies Gawain on his journey to the Green Chapel. 

In the Boldest of Blood and Wildest of Heart: Making of The Green Knight featurette, David Lowery revealed that the fox was partially added in as a replacement for the servant character that accompanied the hero in the final leg of his quest, because he thought Gawain should complete the journey alone. Another reason was the fact that Lowery wanted to contribute to the talking fox lexicon, taking inspiration from Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist.

(Image credit: A24)

Dev Patel Convinced David Lowery To Have Gawain Behead The Green Knight With King Arthur’s Excalibur

In the original story, Sir Gawain decapitates the Green Knight with the knight’s own axe, but David Lowery changed it in the script so that the hero would use King Arthur’s legendary sword Excalibur to do the deed. During a conversation with Variety, Lowery admitted that he went back and forth with the decision, and at one point was close to going back to using the axe. However, Dev Patel stepped in:

And he told me that so much of everything we had shot had been predicated on his own sense of what it must be like to wield Excalibur for the first time. To be Arthur’s nephew and to be given that sword and to hold it in his hand. And he didn’t know if this performance would make sense if he didn’t have the opportunity to wield that sword.

David Lowery went on to say he was instantly sold and made note of Dev Patel’s investment and conviction in the role.

(Image credit: A24)

David Lowery And His Production Team Used Matte Paintings To Fill In Certain Shots

Not only was David Lowery inspired by the original text when working on The Green Knight, he also drew inspiration from classic movie making techniques, specifically matte painting. In a Vanity Fair scene breakdown, Lowery revealed that during the Green Knight’s arrival at the Christmas feast, he and his production team used matte paintings to extend the shot beyond what they are able to construct on set. This also included painting in extras, as they didn’t have a lot of actors on set at any given time, and this technique allowed the team to stretch them out.

(Image credit: A24)

The Camera Obscura Scene With Gawain Was Pulled Off By Projecting An Image Of Dev Patel Onto A Wall

One of the more fascinating scenes in The Green Knight is the one where the Lady (Alicia Vikander) uses a camera obscura to make a ghostly portrait of Gawain. This scene is even more remarkable when you learn that the production team didn’t use CGI to make the upside down image of Dev Patel’s character appear on the screen, but instead a rather practical technique. 

In the Boldest of Blood and Wildest of Heart: Making of The Green Knight featurette, it is revealed that someone took a portrait of Patel and then projected the image through a hole in the door so that it would shine on the wall and produce the desired effect.

(Image credit: A24)

The Christmas Feast Scene Was Filmed Last Because It Took The Entirety Of The Production To Construct The Set

The scenes in King Arthur’s grand hall in the beginning of The Green Knight were actually the last to be filmed, as it took nearly the entire length of production for the set to be built. In the making of featurette, David Lowery and set designer Jade Healy revealed that the full set, which featured the Round Table, high ceilings, stone floors, and faux stone walls, wasn’t actually completed until the day they began shooting the Christmas feast.

(Image credit: A24)

Joel Edgerton Watched Clips Of Famous British Actors Drunk On Talk Shows To Prepare For His Role In The Green Knight

Joel Edgerton’s mysterious and strangely affectionate The Lord is one of the most peculiar characters in all of The Green Knight, and the actor’s inspiration for his portrayal makes his performance all the more captivating. When speaking with CinemaBlend ahead of the film’s release, Edgerton admitted he had quite a way of coming up with his preparations:

David [Lowery] would send me clips of old British actors. And I found myself going down a YouTube wormhole of watching old, well-known British actors being drunk on talk shows. And I was like, ‘All right, this is where my source material is coming from. I’m going to be that guy that’s going like, five sheets to the wind into an old school talk show.’

So, maybe that explains The Lord and why you can never really tell where he stands on things through his brief time in The Green Knight.

(Image credit: A24)

The Green Knight Was A Vegan Production And Included Leather Made From Fungus And Tree Bark

There are some impressive costumes featured throughout The Green Knight from the titular knight himself to Gawain’s various robes. These become even more impressive when you learn that every article of clothing seen in the movie was vegan. In the featurette, it is revealed that not only was faux leather used throughout the production, but the costume designers also used leathers made from fungus, and barkcloth, which, as the name suggests, is made from tree bark. 

(Image credit: A24)

The Green Chapel At The End Of The Green Knight Was Shot As-Is And Didn’t Need To Be Dressed Up For Shooting

The final confrontation between Gawain and the Green Knight at the end of the movie takes place in the Green Chapel, a building that is slowly being destroyed and consumed by the natural world around it. In the Practitioners of Magic: Visual Effects featurette accompanying the home release of The Green Knight, it is revealed that the scene was filmed in an old church on the side of the road in rural Ireland and that the production team didn’t have to have to make any changes before shooting it as-is. It is also revealed that the location scout initially didn’t want to film the scene there.

(Image credit: A24)

David Lowery Made The Green Knight Slower And ‘Weirder’ During The Year-Long COVID-19 Delay

Before the COVID-19 pandemic came and changed practically everything about the world, David Lowery was preparing to release The Green Knight at SXSW in Austin, Texas, in March 2020. When the festival (and countless others like it) was cancelled, so was the premiere, and Lowery was left with more than a year to tinker with what was at one time a finished product. 

When sitting down with CinemaBlend’s ReelBlend podcast, Lowery admitted that the one-year delay actually helped make the movie better, as it gave him an opportunity to make a slower and weirder cut. And, while he admitted that the movie was never going to be a fast-paced action adventure, Lowery was able to extend shots and allow the movie to breathe more.

Well, hopefully this all makes you want to go back and watch The Green Knight for the second, third, or even tenth time. But, before you do that, check out what’s left of CinemaBlend’s schedule of the 2021 new movie releases.

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he’s not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.

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