It’s Not Exactly Historically Accurate
Sure, some of what unfolds in “Braveheart” is real. William Wallace was a real man but a lot of what he does and how he acts in the film isn’t exactly torn from the pages of history books.
For starters, Wallace was a nobleman and not a peasant, he was much younger than 38-year-old Gibson, the blue body paint (called woad) on Scottish warriors hadn’t been used in Scotland in over 800 years, “Braveheart” was the nickname given to Robert the Bruce -- not William Wallace -- kilts weren’t part of the Scottish wardrobe until centuries later, and the Scots definitely didn’t “moon” the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
Author Randall Wallace (no relation to William) - who write the book the movie is based on - admitted he didn’t do any fact-checking until after he wrote the book the movie is based on.
The Famous Line Was Made Up
The movie’s most famous and parodied line, “They make take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom,” can’t exactly be attributed to William Wallace. It is unknown whether Wallace gave such a rousing speech to troops before battle, but author Randall Wallace’s line was heavily inspired by King Henry’s “St. Crispin’s Day" speech in Shakespeare’s Henry V.
Same goes for "Every man dies; not every man really lives." That, too, isn’t a William Wallace original; it’s from a poem written by American poet William Ross Wallace (who is also not related to the film’s subject).
A Scottish Tale Told In Ireland
Ahhh, the beautiful Scottish countryside. Err, not quite. The majority of “Braveheart” was filmed in Ireland, with the exception of a few scenes of Wallace’s village, which were filmed in Glen Nevis, Scotland. The crew built a parking lot for the production and you can still park in the “Braveheart” Car Park when you visit Glen Nevis.
The Missing Bridge
The historic Battle of Stirling Bridge scene was filmed on Curragh Plain in County Kildare in Ireland, famous for being bridge-free. When reportedly asked why Gibson left out the battle-famous bridge, he allegedly replied, “The bridge got in the way.”
An Accidental Hanging
Gibson accidentally hanged himself while filming Wallace’s death scene and had to be cut down. “I remember waking up with all these people standing over me,” Gibson recalled at the time. The hanged men are all real actors who were suspended by harnesses for filming.
A Horse Is A Horse
Most of the horses in the battle scenes weren’t real. The fake mechanical equines cost $100,000, weighed about 200 pounds each and were propelled by cylinders that enabled them to reach speeds of 30 km/hr. The horses looked so real Gibson was investigated by an animal rights organization, convinced the horses were real.
Gibson did ride a real horse, which would startle every time he yelled one of his lines.
Mel Gibson Was A Prankster
Mel Gibson was a noted “prankster” on set. One of his “pranks” involved flashing his penis as the film’s co-star, including Sophie Marceau who claimed he did it to “lighten the mood.” In the years since, Gibson has apologized for his career-ending behaviour and action towards women, homosexuals, and Jews, and has completed two stints in rehab while taking six years out of the spotlight and 10 years between directing "Apocalypto" and "Hacksaw Ridge".
Gibson Borrowed From Other Directors
The romantic drama “The Man Without A Face” was Gibson’s only directing credit when he stepped behind the camera for “Braveheart”. Having never directed a big-budget historical epic, Gibson borrowed techniques from directors George Miller, who directed him in three “Mad Max” movies, Peter Weir for the action scenes and atmospheric shots, and who directed him in “The Year Of Living Dangerously” and “Gallipoli”.
Violence, Violence, Violence
There is so much violence in the film, “Braveheart” nearly received a dreaded NC-17 rating. Gibson was able to keep the film to an R-rating by cutting out frames of severe violence but having the editors leave all the audio from the scenes in the movie. He also filmed a graphic disembowelment of Wallace that never made the final cut.
Where Are The Bagpipes?
Noticeably missing from the film’s score are Scottish bagpipes. Most of composer James Horner’s score features uilleann pipes, a smaller, Irish version of bagpipes, because Gibson declared that Scottish bagpipes sound like “a scalded cat”. The soundtrack was so popular Horner released a followup album in 1997 – the same year he once again utilized uilleann pipes in his Oscar-winning score for “Titanic”.