Great Big Sea singer Alan Doyle, left, said he was astounded by the scope of the upcoming film Robin Hood, starring his Oscar-winning friend Russell Crowe. ((Universal Pictures))

His name may be Alan Doyle, but Great Big Sea's lead singer may soon be better known as Allan A'Dayle.

Doyle plays sidekick to Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe, who plays the lead role of Robin Hood in director Ridley Scott's forthcoming epic, which will be released May 14.

'Walking into the Nottingham set that they built was like walking into a time portal.' —Alan Doyle

"It was really easy for a novice actor like myself to live in whatever world they wanted us to be in, and the battle scenes are probably the best example," said Doyle, who praised Scott and the crew for constructing a fully realized version of 12th-century England.

In an interview from Los Angeles, he also said the emotions filmgoers will see on screen were not at all faked.

"After one take, Ridley came out said, 'That was great, man — you looked really scared in that one,'" said Doyle, describing a sequence in which hundreds of horses charged by him, and arrows and spears were in the air.


Alan Doyle plays a character who happens to have a familiar-sounding name: Allan A'Dayle. ((Universal Pictures))

"I'm like, 'Yeah. You try not looking scared."

Doyle has fronted Great Big Sea since it began playing in pubs in downtown St. John's in 1993. He has toured the world with the folk-traditional group, and in the process struck up a friendship with Crowe, who shares a similar musical interest. Apart from playing together through the years, Doyle produced Crowe's 2005 solo album.

Crowe, the New Zealand-born actor who lives in Australia, asked Doyle to audition for the part. When he did, he fudged just how much he knew about key skills, like riding a horse or shooting an arrow.

"I told them I did [but] I had never ridden a horse until I agreed to this movie," said Doyle, adding that the cast gathered for about five weeks of training, including one session at Crowe's farm in Australia.

"We had a little boys' fantasy camp, to be honest — like, 8 a.m. archery, 9 a.m. horse riding, 11 a.m. fight training."

'Living in a moving painting'

Doyle said filmgoers will be impressed by the sumptuous look of the film, which costars Cate Blanchett, William Hurt and Max von Sydow.

"Walking into the Nottingham set that they built was like walking into a time portal," he said. "It was like living in a moving painting. A lot of work was done for us."

He said Scott was keen to restore the Robin Hood story beyond the conventional ways Hollywood has told the story, and show respect for older legends.

"[Earlier films] have ignored the previous 900 years of Robin Hood legend that, oddly enough, perhaps most of us in Newfoundland, in the folk music world, we probably know as much about that legend as the one that lives in most people's minds," he said.

"We're aware of ballads and folk tales, the way that most people probably aren't."