- that Zemeckis will be using the computerized motion-capture technique he previously deployed to dubious effect ["at best disconcerting, and at worst, a wee bit horrifying," sez CNN] in The Polar Express and
- that Angelina Jolie has been cast as "the beautiful queen of darkness," a character I don't rightly recall as appearing anywhere in the poem.
(I'm disappointed that Ms. Jolie won't be playing Grendel's mom. She's certainly scary enough.)
Hugo Award winner (for American Gods) Neil Gaiman is writing the screenplay, which suggests that it is likely to be interesting but also that resemblances to the original material will be strictly coincidental.
Los Angeles will be seeing a different sort of Beowulf next summer when the Los Angeles Opera offers the world premiere of Grendel, adapted from John Gardner's novel with a score by Elliot Goldenthal and a libretto co-written by poet J.D. McClatchy and director Julie Taymor. Goldenthal and Taymor are long-time collaborators (Goldenthal won an Academy Award for his score to Taymor's film Frida and, oh yes, they married in 2002 after some 20 years together) and the Grendel project has been developing for at least 15 years.
An intriguing detail: in the cast for this production Beowulf himself is not listed as a character. He appears relatively late in Gardner's novel, depicted as a taciturn, humorless, Terminator-like fighting machine, and does the predestined job of killing Grendel after ambushing him in the meadhall; he even has a few lines of dialogue. But he does not appear, at least as a singing part, in the opera. Given that this is a Taymor production, I have to suspect that Beowulf will be portrayed by a puppet. In a 1989 article referencing Grendel, which doesn't necessarily reflect what the actual production will look like more than a decade later, Taymor is quoted as groaning, "It's a hundred and fifty to 200 puppets. Not little things, either, but big things." Perhaps Beowulf is one of the big things.
Dragons, such as Fafnir in the Ring and the scaly creature chasing Tamino at the opening of Magic Flute, are often portrayed by puppets and similar effects in operas. The Dragon in Grendel -- a central figure in the novel, this dragon may or may not be the same one as Beowulf slays and is slain by later in the poem -- is a mezzo-soprano, to be portrayed by the splendid Denyce Graves.
After premiering in Los Angeles in June, the production will be heading to Lincoln Center in late 2006.
UPDATE [1744 PDT]: Hmm. I'm not the only one with Beowulf on my mind lately: Here's a late-August item on the topic from escapegrace.
Geat Down! Geat Funky!