While the Minnesota Vikings are getting ready to begin the NFL preseason, Hollywood is gearing up to bring the Norse explorers back to cinemas in a big way, as Deadline reports Warner Bros. has preemptively bought King Harald, a pitch from screenwriter Mark L. Smith about the 11th century ruler. While that’s already interesting news, it’s being written as a potential starring project for Leonardo DiCaprio.
Regardless of whether or not he will appear in front of the camera, DiCaprio will be producing King Harald through his Appian Way imprint with partner Jennifer Davisson Killoran. This isn’t the first time the Great Gatsby star has been attached to a viking film, as he was previously signed on to the as-yet-unproduced Freedom Within the Heart back in 2007, as well as an untitled viking-themed drama to be directed and language-adjusted by Mel Gibson. I dig DiCaprio in most of the films he stars in, and the subject matter here is indeed rich enough to provide the actor with quite a challenge - assuming the screenplay doesn’t just whitewash everything.
Harald Sigurdsson (1015-1066) was called Hardrada (meaning “hard ruler”), and served as the hardcore King of Norway for twenty years, from 1046 until his eventual death by arrow-to-the-throat in the Battle of Stamford Bridge. A warrior from his teenage years onward, Harald kicked ass in Russia, Kiev, Byzantium and more. He is widely known as the last of the viking kings, and possibly the last of the vikings. There’s no denying this guy deserves his own movie, if not his own trilogy.
The only real description the King Harald film gets is that it’s envisioned as a Braveheart-style story, which is a pretty lofty goal. If anything, it has to be more plot-filled than Nicolas Winding Refn’s dialogue-light mood piece Valhalla Rising, which traded history for personal reflection.
The real headscratcher here is screenwriter Mark L. Smith, best known for having written the low-budget thriller Vacancy and Joe Dante’s The Hole, as well as directing the 2006 horror Séance. He has a few scripts currently in pre-production phases, including the Polar expedition drama Endurance for Appian, as well as an untitled Warner Bros. project which Tom Hardy, who proposed the idea for a film about a Vietnam vet who gets mixed up with a San Francisco biker gang. He’s clearly not only a horror guy, but it remains to be seen just how wide-ranging his writing talents are. That said, I’m betting King Harald is bloodier than all of his previous films combined.
Want to learn a little bit more about Harald? Check out the below episode of the BBC documentary series Blood of the Vikings.