A Knight's Taleis a 2001 American action-adventure film directed, produced, and written by Brian Helgeland . The film stars Heath Ledger , Shannyn Sossamon , Mark Addy , Alan Tudyk , Rufus Sewell , Paul Bettany as Geoffrey Chaucer , and James Purefoy as Sir Thomas Colville/ Edward, the Black Prince .
The film follows the story of William Thatcher, a peasant masquerading as a knight, along with his companions in the world of medieval jousting . William poses as a knight and competes in tournaments, winning accolades and acquiring friendships with such historical figures as Edward, the Black Prince of Wales and Geoffrey Chaucer .
The film takes its title from Chaucer's " The Knight's Tale " in his Canterbury Tales , though the plot of the movie bears more resemblance to George R. R. Martin 's novella The Hedge Knight . The film was a box office success, garnering $117,487,473 with a budget of just over $41 million.
Set in late Medieval Europe in the late 1350s, the story begins with the protagonists and squires, William ( Heath Ledger ), Roland ( Mark Addy ) and Wat ( Alan Tudyk ), discovering their master, Sir Ector ( Nick Brimble ), dead of bowel problems in the middle of a jousting tournament. He was ahead "three lances to none" and merely had to finish the final round to win the tournament and be awarded the money that was to buy food for them all. While Wat and Roland resign themselves to destitution now that they no longer have Sir Ector's employment and protection, William Thatcher takes the armour, and more importantly the helmet, from Sir Ector's body and poses as the noble to finish the match. William's inexperience is evident, as he receives a lance blow to the face mask, but regardless wins the tournament (and the money) due to Ector's previous lead. This gives William the idea that, with proper training, he and his companions could make a living in jousting. For a month, William trains with the help of Roland and Wat to improve his balance and aim. After many tries Will is able to joust properly and is therefore ready to compete.
Along the way to his first tournament in Rouen , William and his friends come upon Geoffrey Chaucer ( Paul Bettany ), "trudging" down a road with no clothes or money. William persuades the writer to fake his patents of nobility , as it is illegal for peasants to joust, and joins the jousting circuit under the assumed name of "Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein " from Gelderland . Chaucer is then discovered to have a gambling problem, which William saves him from by paying his debts with his tournament winnings, and therefore gains Geoffrey's true loyalty (and services as a herald at the tournaments). Helped by Chaucer, Wat and Roland, he begins to win match after match. When his armour—still the same suit taken from Sir Ector—becomes loose and damaged, he gains an addition to his fellowship, Kate the blacksmith ( Laura Fraser ), who makes him revolutionary new armour and decides to travel with them. He faces a Sir Thomas Colville ( James Purefoy ) in one of his matches and deals him a crippling blow, but rather than finish him off William instead agrees to a draw in order to preserve Colville's honor. William meets and falls in love with a noble lady, Jocelyn ( Shannyn Sossamon ), who has already been noticed by the powerful Count Adhemar ( Rufus Sewell ), the film's antagonist. A rivalry begins between the two of them for the affection of Jocelyn and the accolades of the tournaments, and Adhemar defeats William in his first tournament.
In the following tournament, they are both assigned to tilt against Sir Thomas Collville but Adhemar withdraws at the last minute after learning his true identity is that of Edward, the Black Prince (who assumed another identity hoping he will get a rare chance to compete if his opponents do not know his identity as the Prince of Wales), not willing to take the risk of harming English royalty. When William's turn comes, however, his competitiveness overcomes the pressure to withdraw, and he jousts with Edward (to Edward's surprise and pleasure) and wins the tournament, along with Edward's respect (because of the respect William has show him in turn on two separate occasions, which the Prince considers an honorable and knightly quality). Following this, Will's companions, Wat, Roland, Kate and Geoff, gamble all of their share of the money that William will win the French tournament in Paris. Simultaneously, Jocelyn tells William that he must lose the tournament to prove his love to her. After he openly accepts defeat after defeat, she changes her mind; he must now win to prove his love. He does win the tournament. After this, Jocelyn joins him in bed.
The group travels to London for the World Championship, and an important flashback to William's childhood is shown. His father, wanting the best for his son, reluctantly gave him over for squire services to Sir Ector, so that someday, he could realize his dream of becoming a knight and "change his stars" to live a better life than his father. Returning to the present, and to London for the first time since childhood, William, assuming that his father has long since died, visits his old neighborhood. He talks to a young local girl, ( Alice Connor ), who informs him that his father is still alive and well, albeit blind. William visits his father, initially presenting himself as Ulrich; and tells him that he has a message from William: that he has changed his stars after all. His father, overcome with joyous emotion, realizes it is actually his son, and they embrace and spend hours together.
Although everything appears well, Adhemar has returned from fighting in the Battle of Poitiers and discovers William's humble origins. He alerts the authorities. William's friends, including Jocelyn beg him to flee. Jocelyn promises to give up her privileged life and run away with him, but he refuses to run; and is arrested. Adhemar visits him in prison and gloats that he will marry Jocelyn, while beating the defenseless William. When William is moved to the stocks, his companions all stand with him to defend him from the crowd, which grows increasingly hostile until Prince Edward emerges from the mob. Silencing the crowd, and privately noting that William's friends' willingness to stand by him reflects the honour that he has earned, Edward orders William to be released, declaring that his historians have discovered that William is descended from an "ancient royal line" and that he is entitled to a knighthood after all; repaying William for the respect William had previously shown him (as it is the Prince's verdict, none are allowed to argue). He knights William. The newly dubbed "Sir William" goes on to resume his place in the tournament and compete against Adhemar.
With Jocelyn and William's father in attendance, Adhemar cheats with an illegal lance with a sharp point on the tip, which stabs into William's shoulder during the first round. William, unable to grip his lance or breathe properly due to his injury, has his armour removed and his lance strapped to his arm while Chaucer buys time by providing the introduction he 'forgot' earlier, and competes in the final round wearing only ordinary clothing. The two adversaries charge for the final bout, with William's life in the balance. He shouts his finally accepted true name, "WILLIAM," and knocks Adhemar from his horse, winning the tournament. Chaucer remarks that he should write this whole story down, a reference to "The Knight's Tale" of theCanterbury Tales. Jocelyn runs out ecstatically to meet William and they embrace in a long kiss.