The medieval classic, A Knight’s Tale, celebrates its 20th anniversary this week. A retrospective marked the occasion in Vulture, with director and writer Brian Helgeland and co-star Shannyn Sossamon. The pair joined the magazine in recounting one of the comedy’s most beloved scenes; the David Bowie dance sequence.
The pair revealed that the scene had initially been written and rehearsed using KC and the Sunshine Ban’s classic ‘Get Down Tonight’. However, the late Heath Ledger preferred Bowie’s ‘Golden Years’.
“When Heath wanted to sell you on something, you could tell in a second,” Helgeland recalled. “He would assume this kind of boyishness to him; he’d become nine years old, like out of a Dickens story, like the Artful Dodger.”
Ultimately, Helgeland found Ledger’s suggestion hard to ignore, and the director remembered: “Heath got this big grin on his face. He goes, ‘It’s the same tempo. It’s going to work.’ He said, ‘Don’t come to rehearsal today. Let us get it right and then come down. We’ll do both of them and you decide.'”
The director added: “He was like, ‘It’s so inescapable that it should be ‘Golden Years’ that there’s no way you can disagree with me.’ He just laid it all out like a legal case.”
Weighing in on the story, A Knight’s Tale‘s choreographer, Stuart Hopps, supported Ledger’s suggestion to change the song. “At the time, I thought that the Bowie choice was a good one,” he wrote via email to Vulture, “And although the dance patterns remained much the same, the choice of music meant I could give the dance routine a more modern feel and get the actors to let go more and swing more.”
This anecdote, revealing Heath Ledger’s passion, is one of many reasons that A Knight’s Tale still resonates with Helgeland even 20 years later. “I never saw someone like that,” the veteran filmmaker said of the late actor. “Everyone just fell in love with him — guys, girls, everybody. Just everyone loved him, and he loved you back.”
Helgeland also revealed that Ledger had a brilliant time on set. He showed how the film’s leading man would tell him that it “felt like a photo album of how much fun he had making it. Every scene, he could remember what funny stuff happened that day and whether we did this scene hung-over.”
View the scene, below.