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Copyright 2004

[ July 19th 2004 ]

Hollywood's never-ending quest for epic material has taken it back to "the first horror story" - Beowulf, the Old English poem of monster versus man. Two film versions of the eighth-century Saxon work are under way as studios rush to capitalise on the fascination with myth and legend exposed by the success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. J R R Tolkein, who wrote the Middle Earth series, cited Beowulf as one of his key influences.

Warner Bros is behind the movie Beowulf, which will be written by Matthew Sand, an art historian and former New York art dealer. Meanwhile, a rival project, Beowulf and Grendel, from a Canadian/British/Icelandic team, begins filming next month and stars the Scottish actor Gerard Butler. The bloody poem charts the story of the ancient warrior Beowulf of the Greats, who is called to slay Grendel, a monster attacking a Danish kingdom. After defeating the creature, Beowulf kills Grendel's mother before battling with a fire-breathing dragon. "My take is that this is the first horror story," Mr Sand told the Hollywood Reporter. "The first action stories included The Iliad and Gilgamesh, but this is the first time you had a creature coming out of the darkness and breaking into your home at night. It's the genesis of so many of the horror archetypes we see today."

Sturla Gunnarsson will direct Butler, who has appeared in films such as Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life and Timeline. A 10-week shoot begins in Iceland next month and the production is to be released next year. Previous attempts to dramatise the ancient narrative, thought to have been written by a Northumbrian poet, include a 30-minute animated version released in 1998 and Disney's 1999 film 13th Warrior, based on the novelist Michael Crichton's reworking of the tale.

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