|The Eagle of the Ninth|
|Directed by||Kevin Macdonald|
|Produced by||Duncan Kenworthy|
|Written by||Jeremy Brock (adaptation)
Rosemary Sutcliff (novel)
|Cinematography||Anthony Dod Mantle|
|Editing by||Justine Wright|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
The Eagle of the Ninth is a forthcoming film adaptation of the 1954 historical adventure novel of the same name by Rosemary Sutcliff. Directed by Kevin Macdonald from a script by Jeremy Brock, the film is set in the second century AD and tells of a young Roman officer's search to discover the truth about the disappearance of his father's legion in the north of Britain. The story is based on the legend of the Ninth Legion.
The film stars Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland and Mark Strong. Filming began on August 24, 2009 and will take place in Hungary and Scotland. The film is a United States – United Kingdom co-production and is intended for release in 2010, through Focus Features.
In 140 AD, a young Roman centurion attempts to uncover the truth about the disappearance of his father's legion—the Ninth—in the north of Britain twenty years previously. The centurion, Marcus Aquila (Tatum), travels with a British slave, Esca (Bell), beyond Hadrian's Wall into Caledonia, where he must confront the tribes to recover the legion's eagle standard and restore his father's reputation.
As of August 2009, the cast includes:
Principal photography began on August 24, 2009 in Hungary, which will double for England. In October, production will move to Scotland, where filming will take place in Wester Ross and at Loch Lomond, among other locations. The film is being made for £15 million by producer Duncan Kenworthy's Toledo Productions for co-financiers Focus Features and Film4. Kevin Macdonald is directing from a script by Jeremy Brock, who adapted the 1954 historical adventure novel of the same name by Rosemary Sutcliffe. The director of photography is Anthony Dod Mantle, production design is by Michael Carlin, the costume design is by Michael O'Connor and Justine Wright will edit the film—her fifth for Macdonald. At the 62nd Cannes Film Festival in May 2009, The Eagle of the Ninth secured distribution deals "for every global market".
Macdonald intends the film to be historically authentic, but as little is certain about the tribes that the Romans encountered—they were probably Celts, but some may have been Picts—he has made concessions. For example, the tribespeople will speak Gaelic, even though the language probably did not enter widespread use in the region until the fifth century AD; Pictish is the more likely language to have been spoken at the time. "It's the best we can do," Macdonald said, "All you can do is build on a few clues and trust your own instincts. That way, no one can tell you you were wrong." Only 1% of Scots speak Gaelic, limiting the talent pool to just 60,000 people; by August 2009, several Gaelic-speaking boys had been auditioned without success for the role of "the young tribal hero of the movie", so Macdonald held open auditions in Glasgow for the role. The character is between nine and twelve years old and known as "seal boy",. The role of Seal Boy was eventually won by a boy from Belfast who had been educated in Irish Gaelic, not unlike Scottish Gaelic. The boy from Newbarnsley, Belfast is Thomas Henry in his first film role, aged 9, and he plays a member of a tribe that the novel calls the "seal people"; Macdonald "has his own [interpretation]" of the tribe:
They were a more indigenous folk than the Celts, who were from further south ... They were probably small and dark, like the Inouit [sic], living off seals and dressed in sealskins. We are going to create a culture about which no one knows much, but which we will make as convincing as possible. We are basing it on clues gained from places like Skara Brae and the Tomb of the Eagles in Orkney, so that we will have them worshipping pagan symbols, like the seal and the eagle.
The reason they have seized the emblem of the Roman eagle from the legion is because to them it as [sic] a sacred symbol.
Achiltibuie, a village in north west Scotland, was used as a filming location for the "seal people". Filming started in Achiltibuie on Wednesday the 7th of October and finished on Thursday the 15th of October. The main location was Fox Point, Old Dornie. The Pictish village which was constructed at Fox Point was used on most days of the filming. Other sites included Achnahaird beach where a horse chase was filmed and Loch Lurgainn. Macdonald intended to use locals as extras. This was a success with many locals appearing as extras after going to castings in nearby Ullapool. Their roles included "Seal Warriors" , "Seal Princesses" and "Elders".
The "clash of cultures" between the Romans and the tribes is the main theme of the film, as Marcus Aquila "comes to realise that his imperial view of the world has to be reconciled with the beliefs and traditions of other people". The Romans will be played by Americans "to achieve a little contemporary symbolism".