Tome raider: Angelina Jolie lands star role as Hollywood gets its hands on 'Beowulf'

The signing of the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider actress brings unexpected glamour to a story in which the Scandinavian hero Beowulf fights fierce battles to defeat a man-eating monster called Grendel.

Written some time between the seventh and the 10th centuries AD, the poem is an action-packed adventure which has already been filmed once this year, in Iceland, and in other versions, including one with Christopher Lambert in the title role.

But the star casting by the director Robert Zemeckis, whose previous films include The Polar Express and Cast Away, is set to give Old English poetry a buzz to surpass even the excitement caused by the Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney's translation of the work in 1999.

Jolie, popularly known in gossip magazines as the queen of darkness, is reported to be playing a "queen of darkness who tempts the Viking [Beowulf] during his quest to become king".

It is thought this might be a character called Thryth, a queen who has those who look at her killed, because the description does not match that of the most famous woman in the poem, Grendel's mother.

However, all the actors will appear as animated versions of themselves utilising so-called performance-capture technology as used by Zemeckis in The Polar Express last year. By turning their acted performances into digital renditions, the film-makers can depict the story in ways that would be physically impossible.

Zemeckis said yesterday: "Beowulf is a timeless, epic tale of heroism and triumph. Digital rendering will allow us to depict this incredible story in ways we would never have dared imagine."

The script was originally written by the British sci-fi writer Neil Gaiman seven years ago with Roger Avary, who has previously worked on films including Pulp Fiction and The Rules of Attraction.

Gaiman has described it as "a sort of Dark Ages Trainspotting, filled with mead and blood and madness".

The original planned producers, Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks, did not like it and the project is now going ahead with the backing of Shangri-La, an entertainment company headed by Steve Bing, the millionaire once dated by Elizabeth Hurley.

Dr Paul Cavill, an Anglo-Saxon specialist at Nottingham University, approved of the project. "It sounds great fun. Some scholars are a bit sniffy about Seamus Heaney or about The 13th Warrior [another film inspired by Beowulf], but I think they add enormously to people's enjoyment of Anglo-Saxon literature," he said.

"Anglo-Saxon is, in many ways, inaccessible because you have to get someone's version of it or you learn the language. One is longer than the other. So I always welcome these things. They have to be done very badly not to contribute something to the accessibility of the literature. "

Beowulf, one of the most famous poems in Anglo-Saxon or Old English literature, was written in England, but the events it relates are set in Baltic Europe.

After Beowulf defeats Grendel and his evil mother, he returns home and rules as king for 50 years until a dragon begins to terrorise the countryside. He eventually dies in a dramatic confrontation with the beast.

Lines from an epic

* Extract telling of the revenge of Grendel's mother

Then it became clear, obvious to everyone once the fight was over, that an avenger lurked and was still alive, grimly biding time. Grendel's mother, monstrous hell-bride, brooded on her wrongs. She had been forced into fearful waters ... after Cain had killed his father's son, felled his own brother ...

Branded an outlaw ... he moved into the wilds ... And from Cain there sprang misbegotten spirits, among them Grendel, the banished and accursed, due to come to grips with that watcher in Heorot waiting to do battle.

The monster wrenched and wrestled with him but Beowulf was mindful of his mighty strength ... He overcame the foe ... Broken and bowed ... the enemy of mankind made for his death-den.

But now his mother had sailed forth ... desperate for revenge. She came to Heorot. There, inside the hall Danes lay asleep, earls who would soon endure a great reversal, once Grendel's mother attacked ... Her onslaught was less only by as much as an amazon warrior's strength is less than an armed man's when the hefted sword ... razes the sturdy boar-ridge off a helmet.

From Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney, published by Faber

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week