CANNES, France – Some really merry men have Russell Crowe’s back in “Robin Hood.”

The movie from director Ridley Scott casts Russell Crowe’s longtime pals Kevin Durand as Little John, Scott Grimes as Will Scarlet and musician Alan Doyle as Allan A’Dayle, who fight, sing, drink and carouse as the backbone of the English outlaw’s inner circle.

Crowe, who stars as Robin Hood, was instrumental in signing up Canadians Doyle and Durand and American Grimes — rather than native Brits — to play Robin’s Merry Men.

“Russ just had this kind of idea that it was more important to see on the screen the friendship that was already there,” said Grimes, best known for TV roles on “ER” and “Party of Five” and the miniseries “Band of Brothers.”

Grimes and Durand appeared in Crowe’s hockey romp “Mystery, Alaska,” while Durand also had a role in Crowe’s Western “3:10 to Yuma.” Doyle, lead singer for the folk-rock band Great Big Sea, met Crowe while the actor was filming “Cinderella Man” in Toronto and went on to produce Crowe’s album “My Hand My Heart.”

The camaraderie among Crowe and his three sidekicks jumps off the screen as they fight side by side under the banner of King Richard the Lionheart and belt out songs together in their boozy off hours. Will, Allan and Little John share a drunken night with villagers of Nottingham in a bawdy segment that director Scott referred to as creating the world’s first pub.

“Many of the things in the film are all about trying to place the characters in some piece of real history. Sort of create a plausible explanation why Robin Hood became Robin Hood and why the Merry Men became the Merry Men. Perhaps why they’re placed in British lore as significantly as they are,” Doyle said in an interview alongside Grimes and Durand. “Creating the first pub in Britain. You’d be remembered for that, wouldn’t you? … Music, mead and oily wenches. What else do you want?”

While Durand, Grimes and Doyle already had the fraternal bonds to play Robin’s lieutenants, they went through medieval boot camp to master the fighting skills required.

“The three of us got on a plane and went to Australia and trained our butts off,” said Durand, whose credits include a recurring role on “Lost.” “We had like the Robin Hood fantasy camp. It was like we were little boys living out our fantasy. Wake up in the morning, 8 a.m., archery, 9 a.m., sword-fighting.”

“Do you know there’s a 6 o’clock in the morning?” Doyle said. “I’m serious.”

Grimes and Doyle became sharpshooters with a bow and arrow, Durand said, while he tended to miss more targets.

“I tried. I have one eye that’s a lot weaker than the other. I almost took out several people,” said Durand, whose Little John was a brawler, not an archer, so his poor bow skills were not a handicap. “My draw, they gave me some pretty powerful arrows, so they were going hard and fast and wild in any direction. So they gave me a staff.”

If “Robin Hood” turns into a hit, Crowe and Scott hope to return with some sequels, and the Merry Men are just as anxious to get back to Sherwood Forest.

“When I saw the last scene in this movie, I got so excited, because for the first time, I went, ‘I’m involved in something that could go on,”‘ Grimes said.


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