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Macdonald begins Ninth Legion film

KevinMacdonald.jpgIt was back in May of 2007 that I wrote about Kevin Macdonald, the director who had made such a great impact with The Last King of Scotland (Filmstalker review), looking to make a film about the Roman Ninth Legion, the most revered Roman Legion who were considered one of the Roman's greatest fighters, who were the last Legion to enter Scotland never to be heard of again.

At that point we had already heard that Neil Marshall was going to make a film about the same subject, a film that he's currently making called Centurion, and the thought of this story, The Eagle of the Ninth, seemed to fall by the wayside.

However it is most definitely back as we hear that Kevin Macdonald, who has just finished the U.S. film version of State of Play, is set to direct The Eagle of the Ninth.

Jamie Bell is already signed up to star with Channing Tatum currently in talks, according to Variety, so the project is most definitely alive and well, unlike the Legion were when they met the Scottish.

The script is written by Jeremy Brock, who also co-wrote Mrs Brown, Charlotte Gray, Driving Lessons and the remake of Brideshead Revisited.

Back in 2007 he told how he had loved the story when he read it as a child and described it as a Scottish western mixed with an epic costume drama and The Searchers. It will remain to see if the manages to get the budget to make that come true, but with the cast that's already being talked about perhaps he could. Here's what else he had to say:

"I am definitely going to return to Scotland to direct a film version of The Eagle Of The Ninth. It is a book that I absolutely loved as a child...We are beginning to think about the cast and the idea is to use American actors for the Romans and to use Scots and other Celts for the Pictish people."

Rosemary Sutcliff wrote The Eagle of the Ninth (Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com) which tells the story of a young Roman officer who tries to discover the truth behind what happened to the famed Ninth Legion, a famed fighting force in the Roman Army who were stationed at the border with Northern Britain and just disappeared, never to be seen again, not a single one.

It's a fascinating story from the small blurb that there is, and with two British directors tackling the subject how could you not be interested? Especially when one is as strong as Macdonald and is from Glasgow - his ancestors may even be responsible for the disappearance of the Legion!

While Neil Marshall's Centurion will be concentrating on their actual disappearance, Macdonald's will be set some fifteen years later and looking back on events, essentially telling the same story however. I wonder if there will end up being strong similarities.

One great thing about the film is that it will shoot all the Scottish scenes in Scotland (and perhaps give me the opportunity for a set visit and help promote Scottish film), however the English scenes look set to be shot in Hungary in the second century, I'm not sure if that's a financing decision or that the scenery genuinely looks older in Hungary than it does in England.



"...who were the last Legion to enter Scotland never to be heard of again."

Why no mention of the fact that this is not historically true? Most historians now dispute this, although a lot of fiction has been written about it.

Christ, let's at least make sure we know the difference between history (what actually happened to the 9th legion) and historical fiction (this movie).

Well a simple click on the book over at Amazon tells you that it's fiction and it's been mentioned in a few of the articles before about the book that it's a kids book.

Nobody really knows what happened to the Ninth Legion and this looks like the closest we're going to hear about it so far.

Tell us some facts then, instead of berating the article for historical fact why don't you tell us about the historical rift, the percentage of historians now believing that this isn't true, and what they actually believe happened.

Its Great that we have another historic film coming to Scotland. Unfortunately, like Braveheart, only selective historic evidence is used. I have Read that Julius Agricola led the 9th legion in Scotland,Through fife around AD89, setting up encampments that were severely mauled by Calgucus - the caledonian tribal reader. Agricola's biographer, tacitus makes it known that the legion was not entirely destoyed. Ironically, he records that its was the Caledonians who were decimated at Mons Grampius.

The battle at Mons Grampius was several decades prior the diappearance of the 9th. According to Roman writers, the Romans won at Mons Grampius but it is evident that they made no ground and had to retreat to the safety of their forts at the English border. Mons Grampius was the first encounter between the Picts and the Romans. It is said that the 9th lies at the bottom of a loch with boulders tied to them but nothing can be proven. We can be sure of one thing, that the Romans tried unsuccessfully for nigh on 400 years to conquer Scotland. Remember, this is a movie. If you want the facts you'll need to search for them yourself.


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