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Thursday, March 18,2010

Gibson, DiCaprio are planning a Vikings film

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

LOS ANGELES — Last fall, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mel Gibson shook hands for the first time and then sat down for an intense five-hour meeting to discuss a topic of mutual passion: making an epic Viking film.

No Hollywood project is a slam dunk, especially a high-priced period piece, but if the ramping plan to create a maritime epic does work out, the meeting at the Santa Monica offices of Gibson's company, Icon Productions, will be remembered as the day the Vikings set sail again in cinema.

There were two other men in the room that day, both of them Oscar winners: producer Graham King, who set up the meeting, and screenwriter Bill Monahan, who is now at work on the script for the untitled project that will be directed by Gibson (who won an Academy Award for directing "Braveheart") and star DiCaprio (a three-time nominee).

Gibson, 54, recently reflected on the meeting as a special moment for him — a chance to get under way with a project that started as a daydream during his youth.

"It was the first movie I ever thought about making," Gibson said. "I saw it in my mind back when I was teenager. Seriously, it's the first movie I wanted to make. And I think it will be the last film I direct. It's the thing I have been going toward, in a way, since I was young, and I think when it's done I may be finished."

Work is now under way on the script by Monahan, who penned the screenplays for "The Departed," which starred DiCaprio, and "Edge of Darkness," which starred Gibson, as well the 2005 Ridley Scott film "Kingdom of Heaven," which was a battlefield epic set in the time of the Crusades.

"We're going hammer and tongs on the script right now," Gibson said. "When I was 16, learning about the history of the English language, I became fascinated with Vikings. And I imagined what they would sound like, how would they talk and that's what I will be going for in this film. It's a challenge, though. There's never been a good Viking film, not that I've seen. I think I have found the right way to get into it, though, but I don't want to say too much. The real problem is making those guys sympathetic. They were monsters."

King, the producer of "The Departed," "Edge of Darkness" and the upcoming Johnny Depp-Angelina Jolie film "The Tourist," said it was a casual conversation with Gibson about his childhood interest in the marauding Norsemen of antiquity that led to the meeting last fall.

"Mel and I were talking and he said he had always wanted to make a Viking movie and I knew, too, that Leonardo DiCaprio had a passion to make a Viking movie, I had heard that, so I decided to get all of us together on it," King said. "The interest was in both of them for a long time and I can see why — the Vikings are so mysterious, and for an actor to get his teeth into something like that could really lead to some interesting things. And it's something the audience hasn't seen in a long time."

The most famous film on the seafaring warriors was probably "The Vikings" in 1958 with Kirk Douglas, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh and Ernest Borgnine. The film was jeered by critics.

King, a U.K. native, greeted the film's mention with a smirk. "I just remember all these guys with all their New York accents."

Neither Gibson nor King would discuss the name or back story of the central character.

"We all knew we wanted to do it. It was just a matter of finding what the story would be, who our Viking was," King said. "There's not many sympathetic Vikings out there. And you have to find something of sympathy in one of them or what else is there to show, other than blood and guts and rape and pillaging?"


(c) 2010, Los Angeles Times.

Visit the Los Angeles Times on the Internet at http://www.latimes.com/

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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Definitely looking forward to this one!  Sure to be a visceral tour de force on epic proportions with both Gibson and DiCaprio involved.  ;-)