'Kingdom of Heaven' Hits on Current Political Hot Topics

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," May 5, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: From the director who brought you "Gladiator" (search) and "Black Hawk Down," (search) the epic action film "Kingdom of Heaven" (search) opens Friday and seems to tee up today's hottest political topic: questions of Muslims and Christians and war and peace.

Director Ridley Scott's film makes some of the crusaders out to be bad guys — no doubt some were — and the great Arab leader Saladin, a pure good guy. Well, in fact, he was probably pretty good at slaughtering and summary executions himself. Ultimately, this is a story of a day in 1187 A.D. when Saladin took Jerusalem back from the Crusader Knights. The hero of this movie is a reluctant Christian knight who surrenders Jerusalem to the Arabs in order to save the lives of the Christians in the city. He is such a high-minded hero, his girlfriend is forced to ask him at one point why he won't do a little bad to make something good happen.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: There will be a day when you will wish you had done a little evil to do a greater good.


GIBSON: Sir Ridley Scott, the director of "Kingdom of Heaven," joins us now.

Mr. Scott, welcome.

Was that a question about today's politics in the Middle East, the war in Iraq and all?

RIDLEY SCOTT, DIRECTOR: If you're looking at history and you're looking at today, you can find a point in history which will parallel today, not necessarily designed that way, but I think it falls that way. You can easily present that as a question that relates to now. You might say yes.

GIBSON: You might?

SCOTT: Nothing is black and white. Remember that.


GIBSON: I know. It's a great movie, by the way. It's very exciting. And one of the things I think you made come to life, which I appreciate, because I've tried to read this, is how incredibly brutal warfare was at that time and how much it looks like modern warfare when you start throwing catapult balls of fire around. This looks like the bombing of Baghdad, March 19, 2003, does it not?

What about this business of turning over Jerusalem? You have this character Balian, played by Orlando Bloom (search), surrendering Jerusalem. And Saladin does not slaughter all of the inhabitants, as the Christians slaughtered all the Muslims 100 years earlier when they took Jerusalem. Are you saying that if we would just give up to the Arabs we would have peace?

SCOTT: No. I think the message of the film in one word would be — and you could write a library about the word — would be the word tolerance.

Within tolerance, you have to include a very modern terminology, which would be compromise. Compromise normally would be a dirty word, but it is not. Compromise means that two sides or four sides or three sides or whatever number it is have given up something for the overall good. So, I think the film addresses that.

GIBSON: You play Saladin, the great Arab leader who is revered today by the Arabs throughout the Arab world as essentially a good guy. From your reading of history, is that completely accurate or was that a little poetic license?

SCOTT: No. I think a lot of our license, in fact, comes from eyewitness. So, we're talking about William Monahan actually used a lot of his texts from the original writing of William of Tyre, who was actually a chronicler and a scholar who taught that one of the characters in the movie was the leper king. So, I think the Europeans revered Saladin, respected him, certainly, and as did, of course, his own people. Saladin today is very much alive and almost alongside Muhammad.

GIBSON: Why do you think that a movie about the Crusades is important today? Obviously, you do. You spent a lot of time and effort to do this.

SCOTT: This film goes back to when I was 15 or 16 years old. It's that far into my DNA. The minute Charlton Heston (search) rode out as a dead knight in "El Cid," I was committed to doing a knight movie.


SCOTT: So, it has taken a long time to get here, so I can't relate to the fact of saying, I planned and prepared this film because of what has been happening today.

GIBSON: It has the feel of a very realistic film. It looks like the way the people did live and the way they fought and the way they died. Do you have a sense that is true? Is that the way that it was?

SCOTT: Our research is 100 percent. I mean, I'm good at that. I'm good at creating worlds.

And I think that's what I enjoy doing. But, actually, worlds also like this are created by a very neat, very good team that I have: great production designer, great costume designer, great weaponry person, all these people going into absolute research.

GIBSON: How arduous was that, making this movie out in the desert and trying to recreate essentially a time 1,000 years ago?

SCOTT: It was very hard. But, you know, as Orson Welles (search) said, he said, "Gosh. Filmmaking is the best train set a boy could ever have."


GIBSON: Sir Ridley Scott, the director of "Kingdom of Heaven." It opens Friday. I saw it a day or two ago. Recommend it. It's a great movie.

Thank you very much, Mr. Scott. Appreciate you coming in.


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