While at Sundance last Friday for the premiere of MirrorMask, Neil Gaiman clarified the cloudy buzz surrounding the new Beowulf projet:
In 1998 Roger Avary asked me to cowrite a script for Beowulf for him to direct. We went off to Mexico together and wrote it as a sort of Dark Ages Trainspotting, filled with mead and blood and madness, and we went all the way from the beginning of the poem, with Beowulf as a hero battling Grendel, to the end, with Beowulf as an old man fighting a dragon. Robert Zemeckis really liked the script, and his production company, Imagemovers, bought it, for Roger to direct. (Imagemovers had a deal with Dreamworks at the time.)
Dreamworks, for whatever reasons, didn't want to make it, and -- eventually -- the rights to the script reverted back to me and Roger.
Roger went off and made Rules of Attraction. Last year he decided he wanted to make Beowulf as his next film. He started putting it together...
Meanwhile Bob Zemeckis couldn't get our Beowulf movie out of his head. After the motion capture experience of Polar Express, he wanted to take the techniques on a bit, and make a film intended for adults with them. He and Steve Bing approached us about the script....
And, after a certain amount of to-ing and fro-ing over the last month, Bob Zemeckis will be making a film of Beowulf, from our script. Roger and I are signed on to do any rewrites necessary (I suspect that some things that were easy to write for live action would be impossible or extremely costly to do as motion capture. But then, things that would have been impossible to do as live action may be easy as motion capture, so overall it should work out.)
(No, it won't look or feel anything like Polar Express. When Bob Zemeckis told us the art style he had in mind our reaction was "Well, of course.")
Roger and I are also executive producers on the film, and from what I've heard so far we're expected to work, it's not just a courtesy title.
Wow--"mead and blood and madness"--sounds fantastic to me!
As a random aside, it just occurred to me that the above lyric from "Horses" could have a dual meaning: "But will you find me if Neil makes me a tree?" could mean that she could climb up and away in it, disappearing into the branches. Or (which just struck me as being the true interpretation), it could be an allusion to the myth of Daphne and Apollo: he was struck by cupid's arrow, fell in love with her, and she ran like hell. When he was about to catch her, she begged her father (the river god, Peneus) to save her, and he did--transforming her into a tree:
"Scarcely had she spoken, when a stiffness seized all her limbs; her bosom began to be enclosed in a tender bark; her hair became leaves; her arms became branches; her feet stuck fast in the ground, as roots; her face became a tree-top, retaining nothing of its former self but its beauty."