Newsbites: The historical epics edition!

Let’s tackle these in historical-chronological order!

1. The Associated Press says some of the late Charlton Heston‘s movie memorabilia will be auctioned off this summer, including a titular set of “faux granite tablets” from The Ten Commandments (1956).

2. Variety reports that Danish director Asger Leth has signed on to direct Olympia, a love story “set against the backdrop of the ancient Olympic Games in Greece as war waged between Athens and Sparta.” The script has gone through drafts by Robert Rodat (1998′s Saving Private Ryan) and Gavin Hood (2005′s Tsotsi).

3. Variety reports that Kevin MacDonald, director of The Last King of Scotland (2006), is attached to direct The Eagle of the Ninth, an “epic Roman adventure” based on “Rosemary Sutcliffe’s novel about a young Roman centurion who travels to Blighty in 135 A.D. to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Rome’s Ninth Legion in Scotland 15 years earlier.”

4. Variety reports that Focus Features has picked up international rights — which covers all territories except for North America and Spain — to Alejandro Amenabar’s Agora, which takes place in 4th-century Alexandria. The premise of the film is summed up here as: “Trapped in the Library of Alexandria as religious riots flare on the city’s streets, [the astrologer-philosopher] Hypatia battles to save the collected wisdom of the ancient world.”

5. Variety reports that Gale Ann Hurd will produce and Mikael Salomon will direct Mortal Armour: The Legend of Galahad, a “period romance” about “young Galahad’s quest for the Holy Grail.” Salomon is a Danish cinematographer who was Oscar-nominated for his work on The Abyss (1989) and Backdraft (1991) and then became a director, working mostly in TV; his only theatrical films to date are A Far Off Place (1993) and Hard Rain (1998).

6. Variety and the Hollywood Reporter report that Johanna Wokalek has replaced Franka Potente as the title character in Pope Joan, “which recounts the ninth-century legend of a woman who disguises herself as a man in order to educate herself and ultimately ascends the papal throne”.

7. Variety reports that Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo and producer Bela Tarr are developing “a film about the 15th century sodomy trial of Italian genius Leonardo Da Vinci.” Naturally, we all wonder what sort of double-bill it will make with Wilde (1997).

8. Variety reports that Percy Adlon, the German director perhaps best known for Out of Rosenheim AKA Bagdad Cafe (1987), is developing Mahler auf der Couch, “a psychological drama about the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler’s life” that will deal with “the composer’s tumultuous marital life with Alma and his ambivalent relationship with Sigmund Freud.”

The Variety article mentions that this story has been told at least once before, in Ken Russell’s Mahler (1974) — where the composer was played by Robert Powell, three years before he starred in Jesus of Nazareth (1977), and Alma was played by Georgina Hale. It was also covered a few years ago in Bruce Beresford’s Bride of the Wind (2001), which was mainly about Alma and her lovers; Alma was played by Sarah Wynter, and Gustav, who dies fairly early in the film, was played by Jonathan Pryce.

My sister is a huge, huge fan of Gustav Mahler, so I have to keep tabs on this sort of thing.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).


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