Interviews in Sherwood

Alan Doyle

Interview conducted and transcribed
by Allen W. Wright


Born and raised in the small fishing village of Petty Harbour in Newfoundland, Canada, Alan Doyle is one of the lead singers of the popular Canadian folk music band Great Big Sea. He has also contributed music to Canadian movies, television series and video games. Alan Doyle has also produced albums, written songs for and played with Russell Crowe's bands. This lead to him taking the role of Allan A'Dayle, the latest spin on Alan-a-Dale, in the 2010 Robin Hood film starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley Scott.

This interview was conducted by phone on April 27, 2010.

Robin Hood in Canada

AWW:    I was happy to hear a fellow Canadian was cast in the movie.

AD:      A couple of us.

AWW:    Kevin Durand's Canadian too, isn't he?

AD:      Kev's from T-Bay, man. Thunder Bay.

AWW:    So, growing up Canadian, how did you first encounter the Robin Hood legend?

AD:      You know, I've been saying this to a bunch of fellas down here all week and they just don't recognize it, but maybe you do. Do you remember this television show -- a cartoon that was on when we were a kid -- called Rocket Robin Hood?

AWW:    It was my first exposure to the legend too.

AD:      Yeah, I swear to God that's what I remember the most. You know, the Robin Hood dudes in space. [Laughs.] Yeah, I think that's my first memory of it.

AWW:    That's true of pretty much any Canadian of our generation.

AD:      Where was that cartoon made?

AWW:    It was done in Toronto. Voiced in Toronto, and partly animated here. Some of the later animation was later done in New York.

AD:      That was my first one, and I'm grateful to learn where it's from. So it is Canadian?

Robin Hood and Music

AWW:    That's why it was rerun five million times here. So, did you experience Robin Hood when you were studying music?

AD:      Yeah, coming from a folk music background. But that was in my adult life since I've been in Great Big Sea and stuff. Because we always do our research about the Child Ballads and kind of stuff. I happen to be, perhaps, more aware than most people about the history of Robin Hood in song. As you know, a lot of it only exists in ballads and songs and that kind of stuff.

AWW:    I think three or four ballads survived in the East Coast of Canada just through the oral tradition.

AD:      I actually remember hearing somewhere in my past, I couldn't tell you when, someone singing that one about the ballad of Robin and Marian or was it... the one about the wedding. I remember at some song circle at some song festival at some time in my life.

AWW:    You got involved in the film because you had worked with Russell Crowe musically.

AD:      That's how I knew Russell. And when they were going through the cast of characters they needed for this film, there was one there for a musician - and ideally some guy who could play both lute and Celtic instruments and do a capella songs and stuff. And his name was Allan A'Dayle. So, I guess it's not that much of stretch for Russell to go "Hey, I know a guy who could do this." So, he called me up and asked me to come do a read for it. And off we went.

A minstrel and a warrior

AWW:    Did you play the lute much in the movie?

AD:      Yes, I do. I don't want to give it away for people who haven't seen it or anything. But yeah, I play the lute live in the movie a few times. I think they wanted part of it to be as real as possible. They wanted to create, really for the first time, one or two plausible explanations for the origins of these characters. Why out of ten thousand soldiers in King Richard's army would four of them be remembered? What brought them together? Why these four? One of the things we try to establish in this picture is that they got together because they like to sing. Allan A'Dayle, you know, he's the magnet for it all late at night, because he's got the lute, man.

AWW:    So he's partly responsible for the Robin Hood legend?

AD:      Yeah, well who knows. I mean as you know, the legend of it is murky at best. And there are times when Alan a Dale and Will Scarlet are the same dude. It is supposition without question. But this movie really tries to create a plausible explanation for where all these guys came from.

AWW:    Allan's not just a minstrel in the movie. You're also a warrior too?

AD:      We all are. As our picture opens, Robin and the Merry Men and so many other people have been away at war with King Richard for a decade or more. So all the guys are archers or soldiers or engineers or some part of a medieval army. So there was a dual role for everybody.

AWW:    And you had to do some training for that beforehand.

AD:      We did a Merry Man boot camp in Australia and another one in England. It ended up being five or six weeks of horse training, archery, swords, weapons, fight training, exercise. The whole kit and kaboodle, man.

AWW:    So, it was a bonding experience with the Merry Men?

AD:      Yeah, it was a real fun time. It was great. I mean, it was hard. There were long days. To come from a folk music background, you don't really know much about getting up at 6 AM, you know. But you do what you got to do.

AWW:    So, what can you say about Allan A'Dayle's character in this film?

AD:      Well, I think he's the best character in the movie. Allan A'Dayle, like I said, is one of the many, many soldiers left fighting under the leadership of King Richard and like many dudes he's been away from home for a long time and he's dying to get home. Once the swords are down and the archery is laid aside, he loves to have a drink and sing a few songs and get a bunch of people around him to celebrate the fact that they're still alive. That's Allan A'Dayle in a nutshell.

On filming

AWW:    What were the most memorable moments for you from the filming?

AD:      Oh, there were seven every day, man. Day one, I won't forget that much. I literally flew from a gig with Great Big Sea, overnighted and got to England, got off the plane, got in a car, drove to the set, put on my costume, walked down and they said "Action!" It was literally that fast, you know. And that first take was a very simple scene, we just had to walk uphill, go behind a tree and actually had to lean up and say a line. I know that line is not in the film, thank God. Because that little part of the scene, my voice must have sounded like that dude from the Simpsons. [squeaky, high pitched voice] "Would you like fries with that, sir?"

AWW:    Did you work with a dialect coach to establish...

AD:      Oh God, yeah! Andrew Jack was the dialect coach on this film. The same guy who did Lord of the Rings, Sherlock Holmes. And Allan A'Dayle's an Irishman, so it's not that big of a stretch for a fellow like me to do a Dublin-kind of accent. But it's a little tricky, depending on what the lyrics were in the song. It was that kind of the thing. And Kevin [Durand aka Little John] plays a Scotsman. Will Scarlet is a Welshman. And Robin is from ... Nottingham, of course ... from Yorkshire. It was a real accent orgy over there.

AWW:    Did you have any problems on the set during the fighting?

AD:      Miraculously, I was never injured. Lots of people were injured, doing the different stuff we had to do. But I somehow was spared. Mostly because of the training. We learned to do it well and safely. I mean, the hard part of doing those fight scenes and stuff is not necessarily so much about ... I mean, there's a skill you need to do it. But you need the endurance and the focus to do it over and over again, exactly the same way. That's the trick, to have that kind of focus. That's how you eventually end up doing it convincingly and safely. You don't throw a left hook at the stunt guy when you're supposed to throw a right hook and take him in the chin.

AWW:    What was the most challenging thing on the film for you?

AD:      The most challenging thing was when I had to do scenes where all the skills were combined. You know, ride on a horse, shoot an arrow, speak in accent that isn't my own and sing songs on the lute. Any sort of single thing, I found I could get my head around. But when it was all combined, that's when it became more challenging.

Further thoughts on the legend, movies and music

AWW:    So, what do you think the appeal of the Robin Hood legend is after this long?

AD:      Well, I think it's the classic tale of good over evil. It's the classic tale of the pursuit of justice. People like to believe that a simple man can make a big difference. I think that's what Robin Hood has always been for people -- somebody who keeps authority in check. I mean, everybody wants that to happen, no matter what time in history you were born.

AWW:    Would you do a sequel?

AD:      Let's do it! Yeah, I'd love to do it again. It was great fun. It was a great group of fellas.

AWW:    In some of the publicity photos, it seems like Allan's got a staff in the film. Is that right?

AD:      No, Allan's an archer. You've probably seen a bow that's not strung up, depending on what picture you're looking at. Allan's an archer, as is Robin, as is Will Scarlet. Little John is an engineer, who would build stuff for the war. To be respectful of the history, the crew reproduced different parts of the medieval army. As you know, there weren't just archers. There were cavalry, archers and sword guys

AWW:    Did you want to continue acting?

AD:      I really enjoyed it, you know. I thought, quite frankly, having seen it, I brought a little bit too it. I have a lot to learn to do as many variety of things as the boys. You know what Scott and Kev and Russell are capable of. I would love to do it again, for sure. I mean, if I had to choose between singing songs for a living or doing movies, I think my choice would be easy to make pretty quick. My whole apprenticeship and my whole life has been singing songs. I'd love to be able to do both. But if I had to choose, I think I would be a musician.

AWW:    Are you on the soundtrack for the movie?

AD:      That's a good question. I have some music in the movie. I'm not sure what they're doing about an official soundtrack release yet. Marc Streitenfeld is the film composer, and his score is amazing. It depends on what kind of release they want to do. Sometimes pictures only want to do the score. I don't know. There may be a version that only has his score.

AWW:    Will you be doing any of the songs in concert with Great Big Sea?

AD:      That would be fun, wouldn't it?

AWW:    Is there anything else you'd like to add about your experience on the film?

AD:      I just enjoyed it, you know. For a guy who's been singing songs his whole life, what a treat to play the most famous balladeer of all time. I'm grateful for it all.

Visit Alan Doyle's official website.

Order the movies and music of Alan Doyle on Amazon

Buy Robin Hood [Blu-ray] on
, includes both the theatrical version of the film and an extended director's cut along with several special features.
Buy Robin Hood, the novelization of the film, adapted by David B. Coe on

Buy the self-titled first album of Alan Doyle's Celtic music band Great Big Sea
Buy Up, Great Big Sea's second album
Buy Fortune's Favour, the 2008 album by Great Big Sea
Buy Boy On Bridge, Alan Doyle's 2012 solo album
Buy Robin Hood - Extended Director's Cut on , also includes the theatrical version.
Buy Robin Hood, the novelization of the film, adapted by David B. Coe Buy Robin Hood, the novelization of the film, adapted by David B. Coe on
Buy the self-titled first album of Alan Doyle's Celtic music band Great Big Sea
Buy Boy On Bridge, Alan Doyle's 2012 solo album
Buy Robin Hood [Blu-ray] (Bilingual) on , includes both the director's cut and the theatrical cut along with many special features.
Buy Robin Hood, the novelization of the film, adapted by David B. Coe on
Buy the self-titled first album of Alan Doyle's Celtic music band Great Big Sea
Buy Up, Great Big Sea's second album
Buy Fortune's Favour, the 2008 album by Great Big Sea
Buy Boy On Bridge, Alan Doyle's 2012 solo album

And if you're interested in that weird Robin Hood in outer space cartoon that Alan Doyle grew up with...

Buy Rocket Robin Hood on DVD

Animated in Canada, this 1960s cartoon was Alan Doyle's first exposure to the Robin Hood legend. In the US and UK, the cartoon quickly vanished after its initial run only to resurface as the winner of various "Worst Cartoon Ever" panels. But in Canada, regulations requiring broadcasters to show a certain percentage of Canadian programming kept this cartoon on the air for decades.
Buy Rocket Robin Hood Vol. 1 on
Buy Rocket Robin Hood V2 (English version) on

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