Mel Gibson to Direct a Viking Movie

VikingsLast Monday Variety reported that Mel Gibson is going to direct a Viking movie with Leonardo DiCaprio set to star. The screenplay is by William Monahan. The project will be financed by Mel Gibson and Graham King.
The Viking film is expected to begin shooting in fall 2010. Before it happens, Gibson will star in How I Spent My Summer Vacation, a Mexican prison drama. Even earlier, we’ll see him in Edge of Darkness and Jodie Foster’s The Beaver. As for Leonardo DiCaprio, in 2010 he stars in Nolan’s Inception and Scorcese’s Shutter Island.
Gibson’s Viking movie project is very promising. Indeed, when a top notch filmmaker, who won Best Director and Best Picture honors for Braveheart, directs a new period drama set in the Viking Age context, it is a good omen. DiCaprio, with his blue eyes, blond hair and great artistic talent, can be easily imagined as a Norse Viking warrior. It is interesting that Gibson’s Viking project is the first time when Gibson and DiCaprio are working together. As it seems, the connecting link for that project is Graham King: he produced both Edge of Darkness (with Gibson) and The Departed (with DiCaprio, and with Monahan as the screenwriter).
Mel Gibson’s previous movies, Braveheart, set in the 13th century, The Passion of Christ, first century, and Apocalypto, 16th century, all show his great ability in directing period dramas. According to Graham King, the new Viking movie “will be an awe-inspiring story.” All this shows great promise, indeed. However, I cannot help but worry about it. The last more or less decent Viking film that can be mentioned is The 13th Warrior (1999) with Antonio Banderas as Ibn Fadlan. Despite its obvious goofs and weaknesses, this movie remains one of the favorites with all those who are interested in the Norse cultural and historical heritage. Neither Outlander nor Pathfinder reached even that level. Both Severed Ways and Valhalla Rising are disastrous.
William Monahan, who is writing the screenplay for Gibson’s Viking movie, also wrote 2005 Kingdom of Heaven, directed by Ridley Scott. Academics criticized the plot saying that peaceful relationships between Christians and Muslims in Jerusalem, as they can be seen in the movie, never existed. Crusader historian Jonathan Riley-Smith even stated that “nonsense like this will only reinforce existing myths.” Paul Halsall defended Ridley Scott and remarked that the filmmaker was “not writing a history textbook.”
Vikings are not as hotly debated as Christian-Muslim relationships. However, also in a Viking Age story, “not writing a history textbook” is not a license to “reinforce existing myths.” We know that myths about Vikings are no less enduring than myths about the Crusades. To be sure, William Monahan’s task in connection with Mel Gibson’s Viking movie is very challenging.
No tresses, horned helmets and double axes go without saying, but a few things to focus on should be mentioned:

  • By all means anachronism should be avoided. Vikings cannot wear 16th century Spanish helmets, as they do in The 13th Warrior. Pekin ducks that waddle around in Pathfinder were not introduced to the Americas until 1873.

  • The language has to be treated carefully. Be it Old Norse or any other dead or even non-existent language, it should be handled carefully; it is disgusting when people take a passage from Caesar and say it is a medieval charm. Inviting Paul Frommer to design a language for Na’vi people in James Cameron’s Avatar is a very good example of responsible approach.

  • Both fantasy and mockumentary do not seem to be justified in a good Viking movie; demonic Vikings in Pathfinder look like Nazgûl from Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. Vikings in Valhalla Rising look real but the film is just boring.

Would you like to state what you expect from Mel Gibson’s forthcoming Viking movie? Do not hesitate to leave comments below.

Photo courtesy Steve & Jemma Copley. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike 2.0 Generic Licence.

55 comments… add one
  • Tracy

    I love Norse Mythology so I’m looking forward to seeing is but stay way from sterotypes! That will give bad press about the movie. Hope it as some awesome specail effects and starring Leonardo DiCaprio? It wil be good!

    • Viking Rune

      I love Norse mythology, too.

  • Kevin H

    Let us hope that Mr. Gibson does not have a Christian agenda while creating this movie. As we all know, the christians were not too fond of the Heathen Vikings and visa versa. Gibson can create some well done movies, but lets not forget that he did Passion for a reason and he could easily be making this move to continue stereotypes. Apocalypto is an example of his work showing barbaric people needing Christian values. We should be just as cautious as excited.

    • Viking Rune

      I don’t see any need for Christian values in Apocalypto. I don’t think Mr. Gibson promoted Christianity in any way in this movie.

  • Mike Peterson

    I’m very happy about this. YES!!!! It should be epic.

    • Viking Rune

      It really should, Mike.

  • Bob Nicholas

    Please no road warrior style armor, most Vikings had no armor. they stole armor from any one that they killed. No shiny swords, iron did not shine up.

    • jeff

      I beg to differ iron shines up just fine! There are plenty of sword finds with areas of original surface that shows very well polished swords from the period. That and there is literary evidence of the same. Iron dosent shine…..nonsence

  • Richard Clark

    Please, NO SKINHEAD OR BUZZ CUT VIKINGS!!! Vikings wore their hair LONG. And no horned helmets either. As one poster already stated, the present Icelandic language is pretty close to Old Norse.

    • Ray

      Actually, it was not so uncommon for Jarls and kings to shave their heads as a mark of distinction.

    • Brian

      Long hair on a viking have been at a disadvantage said special forces combat exports. Long hair could be pulled out or grabbed as a way to hold steady before a beheading. Hair would get in the face if it was not in some kind of braid or herring bone. The hair would get dirty and hold lice and other insects making the person miserable.
      Long hair for viking would be more of a tribal idea. To show wisdom and let face it the extra hair kept the Viking warm. Romans at the time wore short hair because of all the negatives. Some Norse or Vikings would have joined the Romans and after returning home would have brought the new hair style and ideas the Romans had.

      • danish pete

        long hair were the sign of being a free born, the hair cut of people being taken on varius raids were the first thing done. it takes you about 1,5 to 2 years to sport a decent head of hair, during that time everybody would be more than willing to escort you back to your owner in case you should have strayed.
        the idea that you are at a disadvantage in a fight with long hair is just a old myth. with the weapons and the fighting styles on the viking periods it would have meant nothing.

        best regards


    • Viking Rune
  • Dave

    If it’s as good as Apocalypto, it will be good!

    What do folks think of Outlander? Big inaccuracies, but an entertaining movie nonetheless?

    • Viking Rune

      I hope, it could be as good as Apocalypto.

  • Terrance Nolan

    I’m very excited about this new Viking movie, and agree that it is a subject that should be treated with respect. Especially with the current resurgence of Asatru beliefs in the world. I’m a big fan of movies like “Braveheart” and “Kingdon of Heaven” and hope to see something just as epic and just as well done. That being said, I didn’t see any props for “Eric the Viking” in your article. Very disapointing. :p

    • Viking Rune

      To be sure, Terrance, the subject should be treated with respect.

  • Gaude

    I hope for responsible accuracy but not a documentary. I hope it’s more an original story than a bullet points of Viking history like many other screen adaptations of the Viking Age.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Gaude. Yes, responsible accuracy is a great expression. That’s what I expect of the Viking movies, too.

  • Gunnar Olafsson

    Mr. Gibson’s Viking film might be made here in Iceland, since he scouted the country last year. Also the Icelandic spoken here is over a thousand years old, it had never changed since the first settlers that came in the year 874 ad. It would be easy for an Icelander to speak to Leif Eiriksson who found America in the year 1000 and named her Vinland.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Gunnar. Some changes did occur, but you are right to say that modern Icelandrs would easily understand Leif Eriksson.

  • I enjoy Mr. Gibson’s period dramas. Certainly, no horned helmets, but I must concede that artistic license be granted to cinematographers when they feel compelled to focus on developing characters and entertaining plot lines, rather than kill themselves trying to “do things right”. Without the usual apparatus that one commonly finds in academic books, without countless equivocal statements and cautious theorizing, movies can never successfully maintain historic accuracy. Let’s be gracious towards them!

    • Viking Rune

      To be sure, cinematographers should be granted artistic license.

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