Warner Bros. to Tackle Beowulf

Perhaps looking to cash in on the popularity of the Lord of the Rings flicks, Warner Bros. is reportedly turning to one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary influences. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the studio has greenlit a feature adaptation of the sixth-century Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf.

An attractive property for the CG age, Beowulf casts its title character as the one man who can defeat Grendel, a monster terrorizing a Danish kingdom, and his scaly, cave-dwelling mother. He even goes toe-to-toe with a fire-breathing dragon. Former art dealer Matthew Sand is adapting the classic tale for Ed McDonnell’s Maple Shade Films. Lynn Harris and David Ortiz are overseeing the project for Warner Bros.

Beowulf is widely regarded as the first major horror tale in English literature and Sand tells The Reporter that his interpretation of the story will fully exploit that element.

While Warner Bros.’ take on Beowulf may end up being the most faithful screen adaptation, it’s not the first. In 1999, Christopher Lambert played the title character in Dimension Films’ direct-to-video sci-fi update. In the same year, Buena Vista Pictures released The 13th Warrior, which was based on the Michael Crichton novel Eaters of the Dead but also incorporated many elements of the Beowulf story. Archlight films is in preproduction on yet another version, Beowulf and Grendel, starring Gerard Butler (Timeline, Reign of Fire) as the monster slayer. That film is slated for a 2005 release.

The timeless tale has also been animated for the small screen with HBO’s 1998 TV special Animated Epics: Beowulf, produced by Christmas Films, HBO and Right Angle. The show also aired on BBC and S4C in the U.K.