Movie Gossip

There was quite a bit of movie gossip this past week … First, from the Hollywood Reporter (and other sources) we hear of a movie-to-be called Odysseus … inter alia:

Warners is going back to ancient Greece, winning a major spec script bidding war to pick up “Odysseus,” written by Ann Peacock, with Jonathan Liebesman attached to direct. Gianni Nunnari is producing via his Hollywood Gang Prods.

The story centers on the legendary hero Odysseus, famed king of Ithaca, who returns to his island after 20 years of fighting the Trojan Wars, only to find his kingdom under the brutal occupation of an invading force. Odysseus single-handedly defeats every last man and takes back his wife, his son and his kingdom.

Centurion (based on Eagle of the Ninth) is being touted as a sort of allegory … The incipit of a brief item in the Telegraph:

Both are intended as allegories of recent American experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kevin Macdonald, the director of The Last King of Scotland and State of Play, is directing the adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s 1954 novel The Eagle of the Ninth.

It tells of a disillusioned young Roman soldier who travels to Scotland to find out what happened to his father who fought there.

The Romans will be made to resemble American GIs in the film in a clear attempt to draw parallels between past and present, said Macdonald.

“In a way it is an Iraq or Afghanistan war film taking place in the second century,” he told The Times.

The second film to explore the same theme is Centurion, directed by Neil Marshall, who helped make the horror movie Dog Soldiers. It will look at the Roman army’s apparent defeat directly, rather than through the lens of the next generation.

… and last, but not least, Clash of the Titans has begun filming:

300 Se/Pre/Interquel Gossip

Excerpt from a piece at MTV’s Splashpage:

About a year ago, news broke that Frank Miller was developing a “300” quasi-sequel. Snyder, who was in Las Vegas this week to pick up a Director of the Year award at ShoWest, revealed that he has indeed heard Miller’s idea for a graphic novel about the events that followed the key battle of “300” — and he likes it.

“There’s something that happens in history between Leonidas dying at the Hot Gates and Platea,” Snyder said. “That’s a year that’s left out of the [original] movie. A lot happened.”

Although it was dramatized terrifically, Snyder’s “300” told the story of the Battle of Thermopylae, which occurred in 480 BC. The film’s final moments mention that one year later, at Platea, 10,000 Spartan warriors helped defeat a huge Persian force; in a historical context, an equally important event occurred when the Athenian navy crushed the Persians in the battle of Salamis. According to Snyder, “300 Part II” will focus on the intense 12 months when these battles were taking place.

“Frank is definitely working on an idea,” Snyder explained. “If Frank comes up with a great idea and draws something cool, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t make another movie.”

There’s a video interview on site (which I can’t access for some reason) …

From the Horatii to Cleopatra

Here’s an interesting bit of synchronicity … my spiders picked up a piece in the Independent which is about Giotto’s Lamentation of Christ … the incipit, however, is rather more in the purview of this blog:

There is also anachronism in viewing. We can’t help looking at pictures through our own later eyes. We see them in ways their first spectators could never have. They suggest to us things that didn’t exist then. This needn’t be a distraction. If the likeness is precise, it may help us focus the picture more clearly.

Take Jacques-Louis David’s painting, The Oath of the Horatii. It’s a frieze-like, neo-classical composition. It shows an ancient Roman legend. Three brother-heroes, their right arms extended straight out, are swearing self-sacrificial loyalty to their father, who holds up their swords.

But the contemporary US painter Alex Katz saw it this way. The gestures, he said, “are very, very clear, they’re very decisive – clear in what they are supposed to be as gestures… When I saw the David with the three swords I thought of three guys with cigarette lighters and a woman with a cigarette. That’s what it looked like to me.”

We’ve leapt from ancient Rome (where the scene is set) or the late 18th century (when it was painted) to a Hollywood scene in the mid 20th century – three young blades, shooting out their arms to offer some broad a light. This is far from the subject of the picture. But the precision of the visual likeness brings the modern viewer very close to the shape and speed of its three simultaneous lunges.

… which reminded me of this on-set photo from the Claudette Colbert version of Cleopatra (directed by Cecil B. DeMille):

from the John Springer Collection

from the John Springer Collection

… which coincidentally, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this week, coverage of which was also flooding my email box … here’s a representative bit from the Baltimore Sun:

Claudette Colbert is the sauciest Cleopatra since the 1st century B.C. in Cecil B. DeMille’s 1934 production of Cleopatra, a classic from those frisky days before Hollywood got itself all moral and safe.

DeMille, the master of the early-Hollywood epic, spent his career giving the people what they wanted, and what that meant was movies featuring as much titillation as contemporary standards would allow, usually in stories based on history or the Bible. Colbert had scorched the screen twice already in DeMille productions – 1932’s The Sign of the Cross, in which she famously took a nude bath in asses’ milk, and 1934’s Four Frightened People – but neither of those is as much fun as Cleopatra, in which she seduces two continents, gets delivered to Caesar (Warren William) wrapped in a rug and distracts poor Marc Anthony (Henry Wilcoxon) so that he doesn’t know which way is up, much less which way is Rome.

Of course, it’s all delightfully anachronistic; Colbert’s about as Egyptian as George Washington, and the 1930s vernacular doesn’t exactly match the time period. But who cares? Colbert is riveting (in costumes that weighed as much as 60 pounds), DeMille’s mastery of the deliciously overblown is unmatched, and the film’s huge art-deco sets belong in a design museum.

For my part, I’ve always hoped someone would find a copy of the Theda Bara version … photos like this from a 1917 flick definitely spark curiosity (although we admit there seems to be obvious anachronism here as well; whether it’s delightful or not is probably a matter of personal taste):

Wikimedia Commons Photo

Wikimedia Commons Photo

More Clash of the Titans

Last week the details began to leak out … this week, we get some more. The incipit of a brief item from Reuters:

Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes will play warring gods in “Clash of the Titans,” an Olympian epic that starts shooting later this month

Neeson is playing Zeus, the wise yet sometimes ill-tempered king of the gods and father of Perseus (Sam Worthington).

Fiennes (“The Reader”) will play Hades, ruler of the underworld who aims to dethrone Zeus and rule over all.

Wow …  sounds like a total rewrite (Schindler’s List on Olympus?) … I can see Neeson as Zeus; not sure about Fiennes as Hades …

Centurion Update

An excerpt from Jessica Barnes’ piece at Cinematical:

Centurion centers on the famed 9th Legion fighting for their lives behind enemy lines after a devastating guerrilla attack, and joining Kurylenko for the hacking and slashing are Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds), who plays the title character, Dominic West, and Noel Clarke. Marshall spoke with Empire during a set-visit and he described Kurylenko’s character Etain thusly: “Her family were butchered by the Romans, she had her tongue cut out by the Romans, she’s had a hell of a time and she’s out for Roman blood.” In reality, the 9th Legion were Cesar’s most faithful soldiers who were believed to be lost during their stay in Britain while fighting the Scots — a theory that while the inspiration for plenty of historical novels, has since been debunked. But, true or not, I won’t hold it against Marshall, because it probably made for a much more interesting story than the truth.


Hannibal Flick Update

Vin Diesel’s Fast and the Furious is getting a pile of reviews right now … at the end of the one in the LA Times (and probably elsewhere) we read:

And for the last six years, Diesel has remained relentlessly dedicated to bringing a biopic about the Carthaginian military commander Hannibal to the screen. Over that time, producers have balked at its initial price tag of $230 million as well as Diesel’s insistence on directing. Still, the ambiguously ethnic actor has gone as far as hiring a screenwriter to translate the script he and other writers have been working on into Punic — an ancient language that has been extinct for more than 2,000 years.

Diesel said he identified with Hannibal on several levels.

“It’s about overcoming insurmountable odds. But nothing speaks more to me than the fact that this was the first champion of multiculturalism,” he said. “Rome’s empire flourished because they were able to adopt the idea that many nationalities could coexist together. They learned that from Hannibal.”

He weighed the consequences of pursuing his dream project.

“It takes someone with enough of an ego to believe they can tell this story better than anybody else. That’s where I’m at,” Diesel said, breaking into a wide grin. “They can’t stop me. They can stomp me. Kick me when I’m down. But they won’t stop me. Cross your fingers for me, brother!”

Perhaps further evidence that the project is still going on  is word that Diesel is also developing an online video game which is clearly connected. Neoseeker reports (inter alia):

This new game — that has been in development for 2 or 3 years already, apparently — is going to be a MMO with RPG qualities, set around 200 B.C, in the Punic Wars. (Shotgun blast history lesson: the Punic Wars were a series a battles in the Mediterranean against the dominating empire of day, the Carthaginian State, against the upstart Roman Republic. Hannibal Barca was a fearsome, legendary talented Carthaginian general, raised from birth to kill Romans.)

“The reason why it’s my dream game is because it is an MMO …  where you create an avatar that lives in the reality of Hannibal Barca, the Punic Wars and life 200 B.C,” Vin Diesel said to Destructoid. “You would have avatars that you would invest [in] — it would be an RPG game — and creating that ancient world as your backdrop. Creating an ancient world that is your ‘Azeroth.’ That is probably my dream scenario,” Diesel went on to say.

From the interview, it seems that Diesel has a sincere interest and affinity for the world of the ancient West. In that period before the Roman Empire began, when the whole ‘civilization’ ball really started to roll, warfare was entering a new conceptual stage of tactics, and massive, well-equipped armies where deciding the entire course of history in the West.

It appears that Barca B.C has at least a few years of development before it will see the light of day. But it is a project the Diesel is personally motivated to see through to the end: “We all know those games take a lot of work to create, a lot of funds. We are just in the first two or three years of putting it together. It could probably take another four years before we see that game…When we talk about dream case scenarios, man, I would love to play as a Carthaginian soldier 200 years before Christ. Sailing around the Mediterranean, that’d be pretty damn cool. If you could add some historical elements to it, the better.”

So I guess all these Fast-and-Furious-type flicks are subsidizing the Hannibal one …

Lucy Lawless in Spartacus Flick?

Variety reports (inter alia):

Lucy Lawless is returning to her action-hour roots, signing on to star in the new fantasy-and-fighting series from “Xena: Warrior Princess” masterminds Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi. The previously announced project from Starz Media, “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” will feature the New Zealand-bred thesp, who starred in “Xena” from 1995-2001, as the proprietor of a camp for gladiators.

A female lanista?

Hypatia Flick

Not sure if we’ve mentioned this Hypatia flick yet, mention of which I had misfiled quite a while ago. Agora appears to be a movie about Hypatia, set in the late 4th century A.D. and possibly portraying a Christian-inspired burning of the Library of Alexandria. There’s an official website, but all it seems to have at this point is the following trailer (albeit better quality):

Clash of the Titans Update

A few details are starting to leak out … the incipit of a piece from Reuters:

Mads Mikkelsen, Gemma Arterton and Alexa Davalos are joining the cast of “Clash of the Titans,” the Greek-god epic being directed by Louis Leterrier.

Sam Worthington stars as Perseus, who embarks on a quest to save a princess and defeat Hades, the god of hell. Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay wrote the script.

Mikkelsen is playing Draco, a skilled fighter and leader of the Praetorian Guard that accompanies Perseus.

Screenrant adds:

Arterton’s character will be “lo” a demi-goddess who Perseus falls for (although I’m guessing the romance doesn’t work out). The character is a new addition to the story and did not appear in the original film – which is a good sign (IMHO) that the filmmakers are really trying to re-imagine the entire concept of Clash of The Titans, rather than trying to re-hash the original. We’ll see how it turns out.

Personally, I think they should get rid of the Kraken … there are enough monsters in Greek mythology they could use …

Uma Medusa?

Tip o’ the pileus to Dorothy King for directing my caerulean brow towards this … there’s an interesting fantasy type movie in the works called Percy Jackson, with a definite Classical twist … here’s the brief coverage from the Telegraph:

As a teenager, Uma Thurman was cast as Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, in the film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and now, 20 years on, she has won the role of another figure from ancient mythology. It is, alas, Medusa.

The 38-year-old will play the snake-haired deity who turns mortals into stone alongside Pierce Brosnan and Sean Bean, who take on the parts of Chiron, a centaur, and Zeus, the king of the gods, in a fantasy film called Percy Jackson which will be directed by Chris Columbus.

In a departure from any recognisable Greek myth, the plot sees Poseidon’s 12-year-old half-human son Lerman embark on a quest across modern-day America to save his mother, return Zeus’s stolen lightning bolt and prevent a deadly war between the gods. So long as Mr Brosnan doesn’t start singing again, it’s okay by me.

Personally, I always envisioned Thurman as Artemisish, but that’s beside the point … check out the Entertainment Weekly coverage (mentioned below) … could be a good thing for Classics in general.