The Making of Macbeth, the Movie, Starring Jason Connery

Steve Newman Writer
6 min readJun 10, 2018

In the summer of 1996 I managed to get a job as an extra in the Cromwell Productions film of Macbeth, starring Jason Connery, Helen Blaxendale, and Hildegard Neil, with my old friend the late John Corvin, cast as King Duncan. It was, for me, a valuable lesson in the art of making a little go a long way, and a realisation that a couple of fields in Warwickshire, shot in a particular way, can be made to look like, well, anywhere.

A large charming Scotsman by the name of Bob Carruthers started the film company in a small suite of offices in Cook’s Alley, in Stratford, which is just around the corner from Shakespeare’s Birthplace, and a million miles away from Hollywood. Over the years Bob has created a body of work that has stood the test of time in terms of integrity, scope, and sheer professionalism. Most of his films are documentaries dealing with historical subjects (including a lot of military history), many of which can still regularly be seen on the Discovery and History channels with virtually his whole output now available on DVD.

Macbeth was to be Bob’s first move into feature films, and an experience that must have aged him considerably, weakened his bank balance, and probably, in the early hours, made him ask the question: Why?

Anyway, the few days I spent on the set dressed as a Scottish soldier (in very itchy sack-cloth and wobbly helmet) were an eye-opener to the intricacies of film making, what seemed to be the despair of a young film director who looked as he might have chewed off more than he could swallow, and the ability of the film’s producer and writer (Bob) to step in at a particularly crucial moment and get the film back on track with the help of chocolate and a very loud voice.

Many of Cromwell Productions films were made on a farm close to the village of Bearley, just a couple of miles north of Stratford. The farm is about a mile up a rough drive and nestles on the top of slight rise that isn’t quite a hill, and is surrounded by a good selection of other natural undulations, plus a couple of woods, a stream, and several ancient farm buildings that were then near to collapse. But it didn’t look anything like Scotland.

The main farmhouse is a beautiful 18th century red brick building, with several…