During the making of the 1991 block buster Prince of thieves staring Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman. We jumped at the chance to get involved with the carts and wagons. The tax collectors wagon was fully operational and included a steerable chassis and discreet handbrake. The fully enclosed replica of a fortified medieval battle wagon included numerous archer positions set around the structure. The wagon would be drawn by two shire horses. Two identical wagons were constructed, one featured widely in the film and a second stood by as a spare, a third was a half wagon designed to be seen on it’s side in a lake as if turned over by the outlaws, this particular scene was cut from the film along with an hour of other footage. The two principle wagons cost £15,000 each to build.
Wagons of War
Three ballistas were built for the movie. All were used in the burning village scene. The smaller two certainly looked the part. Built of softwood, sandblasted to open the grain and give an old appearance. Coated with a thin brown paint by the art department. The ratchet assemblies were cast in styrofoam and painted black with timber chassis supported four solid roman style wheels. Rope work and iron bracing completed the appearance. One of these could later be seen in the castle scene during the heroic rescue of a handful of captured outlaws facing execution. The larger ballista was a full-size working version powered by a large compression and two huge air rams. As the working ballista had to launch two medium built stunt doubles for Costner and Freeman 40 feet in the air, it had to be substantially constructed with an iron frame and cladded in timber for a medieval look. This could also be seen in the burning village scene launching fireballs. After the film was completed and ready for release, we loaned the working ballista to the showcase cinema in Nottingham for the premiere (18th July 1991) where it was exhibited at the entrance.