Swashbuckler star Errol Flynn knew a thing or two about Hollywood scandals, and back in a day when people really could be scandalized. Flynn’s life could be a movie, actually several movies, and a late chapter is in fact going to be one. Deadline Hollywood reports that Dakota Fanning has been cast as real life starlet Beverly Aadland, who was only a teenager when she began a relationship with Flynn, 33 years her senior, in the upcoming feature “The Last of Robin Hood.”
Kevin Kline, who actually bears a pretty decent resemblance to one of Hollywood’s best-looking leading men, plays Flynn in his declining years, which is Flynn’s case wasn’t that actually that old. Alcoholism and heaving smoking on top of an old case of malaria took their toll, and Flynn was only 50 when he died. He looked far older.
Flynn was under contract to Warner Bros. for much his career, and it was at Warner Bros. that he starred in 1938’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” a big budget Technicolor epic co-starring Olivia de Havilland (“Gone With the Wind”), Basil Rathbone (“The Hound of the Baskervilles,” “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”), Claude Rains (“Casablanca,” “Notorious”) and Alan Hale, who played character roles in numerous Flynn movies. “The Adventures of Robin Hood” was a huge hit, and pretty much cemented Flynn’s on-screen image as a dashing, somewhat roguish hero. That mold was enduring, and its influence was still being felt decades later. Han Solo owes much to Flynn’s characterizations.
The real life Flynn was easily as interesting. He was Australian before it was fashionable, although studio PR biographies claimed he was Irish. He had a lifelong fascination with sailing and the sea, and hinted at being descended from the mutineers of The Bounty (probably not true). He led a life almost out of a Joseph Conrad novel early on, having numerous failed business ventures in the South Seas. He eventually migrated to England, where he tried his hand at acting (oh why not) and was actually seen in an obscure British movie by a Warner Bros. executive who signed him. In Hollywood, Flynn played the murder victim in a Perry Mason movie, “The Case of the Curious Bride,” appearing only in brief flashbacks. Soon after, however, he starred in the classic swashbuckler “Captain Blood,” and became an overnight sensation.
Flynn’s boozing and womanizing often landed him in hot water. Flynn once quipped that “Women won’t let me stay single and I won’t let myself stay married.” He was in fact only married three times, hardly a Hollywood record. In 1942 he was actually prosecuted for statutory rape when it turned out two of his extracurricular conquests were underage, and the District Attorney’s office was mad at Warner Bros., which had backed the wrong horse in the last election. Famed criminal defense attorney Jerry Geisler got him off after a trial that was probably far more entertaining than O.J. Simpson’s. That story would be a movie worth making.
The phrase “In like Flynn” was born around that period. Some of Flynn’s movie titles also received “Saturday Night Live” style treatment. One critic opined that “Gentleman Jim,” a biopic about boxer “Gentleman Jim” Corbett, probably should have been called just “Jim.” And as for the heavily fictionalized General Custer movie, “They Died With Their Boots On”…
By the fifties, Flynn’s career and health were in decline, he had tax problems, but public fascination remained strong. He had dictated large amounts of material that eventually formed the basis of the posthumously published memoir “My Wicked, Wicked Ways,” must reading for true movie geeks.
As for Flynn and Aadland, she was with him when he died, having appeared in his last movie, “Cuban Rebel Girls,” a movie that was every bit as good as it sounds. “The Last of Robin Hood” is expected to begin production in February, 2013. Susan Sarandon is attached as Beverly Aadland’s mother. Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland will co-direct from their own script.