New Arthurian drama Cursed went to extreme lengths to avoid Monty Python and the Holy Grail comparisons
Of course no-one calls Nimue a “moistened bint” or complains about “farcical aquatic ceremonies," and there are definitely horses – but one key location was also nixed to avoid crossover.
When creating a fresh new take on Arthurian legend, it’s a challenge to make something that stands out from the pack.
Over the years there have been so many TV shows, films, novels and other adaptations of the centuries-old myths (which themselves were changed and adapted during their earliest retellings) that any new version comes with a weight of expectation, and a need for some new x factor to set it apart.
Luckily for new Netflix series Cursed, the central concept – creating a backstory for the legendary Lady of the Lake, as played by Katherine Langford – was pretty original, with Tom Wheeler and Frank Miller adapting their own illustrated novel to tell a different sort of fantasy tale.
But there was still one King Arthur story that loomed large over production. A tale of wooden rabbits, Knights who say "Ni!" and brave, brave Sir Robin…
"We do a lot of talking about Monty Python's Holy Grail, which is an undeniably present part if you're ever going to do anything in the world of King Arthur, that's always there," Wheeler told RadioTimes.com.
"I tried to stay away from watching Monty Python or anything like that. Very different show!" added star Devon Terrell, who plays Arthur.
Yes, the 1975 parody from the Python team – specifically John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, the latter two directing – apparently weighed on the minds of the Cursed team, with the series creators keen that their gritty retelling of Camelot’s origins didn’t unintentionally evoke the sublime silliness of the classic movie.
"That's probably the best researched one of the bunch," Miller said. "We are talking about... what are they, Cambridge or Oxford or whatever?”
"They know their stuff," agreed Wheeler.
"If only someone had told the Python bunch that real knights used horses. Instead of coconuts," added Miller.
And when it came to scouting locations for Cursed, Wheeler and Miller ended up nixing one castle for a simple reason – there was no escaping from the comparisons.
"Frank and I were scouting castles, and we were at a castle that looked really familiar and understood why - it was the castle where Lancelot kills the whole wedding party in Holy Grail," Wheeler laughed, presumably referring to either Doune Castle in Stirling or Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, which played the interior and exteriors of Swamp Castle respectively.
"We had originally been like 'Yeah, this is a great place we could shoot!'" Wheeler said. "And then we were thinking like, maybe it's not the best association to start with..."
Frankly, we’d have to disagree. If nothing else, it would have been the perfect location for a stirring musical number.