David Bowie's 'Golden Years' dance in A Knight's Tale was suggested by Heath Ledger, director reveals

13 May 2021, 15:11 | Updated: 13 May 2021, 16:00

Heath Ledger was the one to suggest David Bowie's 'Golden Years' in the famous dance scene from the 2001 hit movie 'A Knight's Tale'
Heath Ledger was the one to suggest David Bowie's 'Golden Years' in the famous dance scene from the 2001 hit movie 'A Knight's Tale'. Picture: Getty/Columbia Pictures/Wireimage.com

By Giorgina Hamilton

Heath Ledger was the one to suggest David Bowie's 'Golden Years' in the famous dance scene from the 2001 hit movie 'A Knight's Tale'

David Bowie's 'Golden Years' was used in a dance sequence of A Knight's Tale and it was Heath Ledger himself who sold the idea to director Brian Helgeland.

Speaking to Vulture on Tuesday (May 11) on what was the 20-year anniversary of the film's release, Helgeland said the film's dance scene was set to be to the soundtrack of 1975 song 'Get Down Tonight' by KC and the Sunshine Band, but it was Ledger who persuaded him otherwise.

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Heath Ledger played the role of peasant William Thatcher in the 2001 movie A Knight's Tale, seven years before he died of a drug overdose in 2008, aged just 28.

David Bowie's 'Golden Years' was used in a dance sequence of 'A Knight's Tale' and it was Heath ledger himself who sold the idea to director Brian Helgeland.
David Bowie's 'Golden Years' was used in a dance sequence of 'A Knight's Tale' and it was Heath ledger himself who sold the idea to director Brian Helgeland. Picture: Columbia Pictures
Heath Ledger played the role of peasant William Thatcher in the 2001 movie 'A Knight's Tale' (pictured), seven years before he died of a drug overdose aged just 28, in 2008.
Heath Ledger played the role of peasant William Thatcher in the 2001 movie 'A Knight's Tale' (pictured), seven years before he died of a drug overdose aged just 28, in 2008. Picture: Columbia Pictures

"When Heath wanted to sell you on something, you could tell in a second," director Brian Helgeland said.

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"He would assume this kind of boyishness to him; he’d become nine-years-old, like out of a Dickens story, like the Artful Dodger."

Helgeland recalls Ledger approaching him with a big smile to suggest a change of song.

"Heath got this big grin on his face," Helgeland said. "He goes, 'It’s the same tempo. It’s going to work.'"

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"He said, 'Don’t come to rehearsal today. Let us get it right and then come down. We’ll do both of them and you decide,'" Helgeland said.

'Gold Years' was a hit for David Bowie in 1976. Bowie pictured on stage in Denmark in 2003.
'Gold Years' was a hit for David Bowie in 1976. Bowie pictured on stage in Denmark in 2003. Picture: Getty
Director Brian Helgeland said"[Ledger] would assume this kind of boyishness to him; he’d become nine-years-old, like out of a Dickens story, like the Artful Dodger." Heath Ledger pictured in 2000.
Director Brian Helgeland said"[Ledger] would assume this kind of boyishness to him; he’d become nine-years-old, like out of a Dickens story, like the Artful Dodger." Heath Ledger pictured in 2000. Picture: Getty

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The director said Ledger practically 'laid it out like a legal case' in order to persuade him.

"He was like, 'It’s so inescapable that it should be 'Golden Years' that there’s no way you can disagree with me.'"

A Knight's Tale choreographer Stuart Hopps wrote an email to Vulture and said the change was a good one.

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"At the time, I thought that the Bowie choice was a good one and although the dance patterns remained much the same," Hopps said.

"The choice of music meant I could give the dance routine a more modern feel and get the actors to let go more and swing more."

See the full dance scene to David Bowie's 'Golden Years' below:

Helgeland also reflected on Ledger's charm on set and how well liked he was by cast and crew.

"Everyone just fell in love with him - guys, girls, everybody. Just everyone loved him, and he loved you back."

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A Knight's Tale, which also starred Shanynn Sossamon, Mark Addy, Paul Bettany and Alan Tudyk, took a reported $117 million worldwide, and was one of the most popular films of the early noughties.