How Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves earned Kevin Costner two special prizes

Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves
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On the back of Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves’ success, special prizes were created to commemorate Kevin Costner’s impact on the Nottinghamshire tourism industry – in spite of him never having been there.

Say what you like about Kevin Costner’s ‘English’ accent in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, but he and it sure did pull in the punters. Costner at that stage was one of the two biggest movie stars in the world – Arnold Schwarzenegger being the other – and Robin Hood in 1991 and The Bodyguard in 1992 were him at the height of his star powers.

It’s notably that subsequent attempts to bring Robin Hood to the big screen have taken a more serious approach than Prince Of Thieves, and have suffered as a consequence. That’s appreciating that the denouement of Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves is quite troubling the more you think about it.

Russell Crowe headlined Ridley Scott’s take on the legend back at the start of the decade, with an origin story that took its time to get through, well, the origins. The plan was for sequels, but the audience just wasn’t there for it. Nor was it there for Taron Egerton’s take on the character in last year’s cunningly-titled Robin Hood. It wont be long until another take on the character follows of course, given that a) Robin Hood is well known and b) copyright free.

Of those three films, not a frame of any of them was actually shot in Sherwood Forest in the Nottingham area (the 2018 take on the legend primarily shot in Croatia and Hungary). But such was the uptake of tourism following the Costner-headlined film that special awards were hastily created to commemorate the fact.

Both Nottinghamshire City Council and Nottingham County Council were keen, back in the early 90s, to take advantage of the limelight. The Tales Of Robin Hood visitor’s centre, after all, had seen a 23% uptake following the 1991 film’s release, and the Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre saw a 47% surge in attendees. Souvenir sales were up by a cool 45% too.

Seeing the advantage in maintaining Kevin Costner’s links with the area and the Robin Hood legend – in spite of his film not even entering the East Midlands at any point – two new awards were created to try and lure him back.

There had been discussions about awarding Costner the freedom of the city first and foremost. The mild technicality there was not only had the recipient had to have actually visited the place, but they had to come from there too. Instead, it was decided to give him The Freedom Of Nottingham Castle and The Freedom Of Sherwood Forest. Both of which were apparently created for the occasion.

Empire, back in its August 1992 issue, noted that the Nottingham Castle honour gave the bearer the right to release prisoners held in its gaol. The small problem there being that said gaol hadn’t been used for 70 years at that point. Separately, the Sherwood Forest freedom honour was an arrow.

The Times reported that all of this was a wheeze by Nottingham’s tourism committee, although what threw a spanner in the works was getting Costner to come and pick said honours up. Ultimately, it seemed he couldn’t fit in a trip to Nottingham, and instead – I’m not making this up – the real Sheriff of Nottingham apparently went to Los Angeles to present Costner with the honours, in a private ceremony.

Both the late, great Alan Rickman and Bryan Adams – key ingredients in the film’s success, of course – received letters of appreciation rather than outright gongage. Although Rickman did receive a BAFTA for his performance at the (pretend) Sheriff of Nottingham. The opening line of his acceptance speech is an all-timer…

It’s unclear if Costner ever definitely received his awards. And if he did, the key question: are they stored next to his Oscars?

Find our podcast on Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves right here.

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