Gibson, DiCaprio are planning a Vikings film

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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?”

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