Did you like Channing Tatum when he was all covered up in that rocket suit in G.I. Joe? Then Focus Features promises you will love him as a Roman soldier in The Eagle of the Ninth. In a press release they announced that filming has begun on the Roman epic, which stars Tatum as a Roman soldier searching for a lost legion of soldiers in the wilderness of Scotland, and Jamie Bell as his British slave. Donald Sutherland and Mark Strong, who will go villainous in Sherlock Holmes, round out the cast.
Last King of Scotland and State of Play director Kevin MacDonald is helming this one as well, which suggests the movie might not be as pulpy and silly as it seems from the plot description. Really, it might be fun for him to cut loose a bit on something as big and action-packed as Eagle, which could benefit from State of Play's clever dialogue but improve on that movie's endless interior shots. Plus: Channing Tatum in Roman soldier armor. You know you're already sold.
A snippet of the Focus Features press release is included below for all the details on the below-the-line talent.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LONDON, August 24, 2009 – Filming begins today on the Roman epic adventure The Eagle of the Ninth, directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald and produced by Duncan Kenworthy. Shooting entirely on location in Hungary and Scotland, the film is co-financed by Film4 with Focus Features, which holds worldwide rights excluding U.K. free-TV.
The cast is headed by Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the upcoming Dear John), Jamie Bell (Defiance, Jumper), two-time Golden Globe Award winner Donald Sutherland, and Mark Strong (the upcoming Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood). Mr. Macdonald is reunited on the new film with Jeremy Brock, BAFTA Award-winning screenwriter of his 2006 film The Last King of Scotland, who has adapted the screenplay of The Eagle of the Ninth from Rosemary Sutcliff’s classic novel of the same name.
Duncan Kenworthy, an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominee for Four Weddings and a Funeral, developed and is producing The Eagle of the Ninth through his Toledo Productions. Caroline Hewitt is co-producer. Focus senior vice president, European production Teresa Moneo – who with Focus Features International president of sales and distribution Alison Thompson brought the project into the company – is supervising the film’s production with Film4 head Tessa Ross.
The Eagle of the Ninth is set in the dangerous world of second-century Britain. In 140 AD, twenty years after the unexplained disappearance of the entire Ninth Legion in the mountains of Scotland, young centurion Marcus Aquila (played by Mr. Tatum) arrives from Rome to solve the mystery and restore the reputation of his father, the commander of the Ninth. Accompanied only by his British slave Esca (Mr. Bell), Marcus sets out across Hadrian’s Wall into the uncharted highlands of Caledonia – to confront its savage tribes, make peace with his father’s memory, and retrieve the lost legion’s golden emblem, the Eagle of the Ninth. Mr. Sutherland portrays Marcus’ uncle Aquila, who has retired in Britain; Mr. Strong is cast as Guern, an ex-soldier who holds crucial information about the Ninth.
Anthony Dod Mantle, who won the Academy Award earlier this year for his cinematography of Slumdog Millionaire, is director of photography on The Eagle of the Ninth. 2009 Academy Award winner Michael O’Connor and Academy Award nominee Michael Carlin (both of The Duchess) are the film’s costume and production designers, respectively. Justine Wright will edit The Eagle of the Ninth, marking her fifth consecutive feature collaboration with Mr. Macdonald.
“All of us at Focus are thrilled to be once again collaborating with our colleagues at Film4 – their support for the most exciting voices in British filmmaking is unparalleled,” said Focus CEO James Schamus.
Film4 head Tessa Ross added, “We’re incredibly excited to be working again with the wonderful Kevin Macdonald and his brilliant collaborators on this great project – Duncan, Jeremy, and our colleagues at Focus.”
In addition to The Last King of Scotland, for which Forest Whitaker won the Best Actor Academy Award, Mr. Macdonald’s films as director include One Day in September, which won him the Best Documentary Feature Oscar; the mountain-climbing thriller Touching the Void; and, most recently, State of Play, starring Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck.