According to Variety, Sony and Steve Bing are gambling north of $2 million on a Beowulf script, penned by Richard Avary and Neil Gaiman, for Robert Zemeckis to direct.

Like The Polar Express, for which Bing plunked down $80 million, pic will be a motion-capture film, produced by ImageMovers' Zemeckis, Jack Rapke and Steve Starkey.

Sony insiders say the preliminary budget on the film is $70 million, though that number is likely to increase considering the film's scope and technology.

"Beowulf" is one of the oldest surviving pieces of Anglo-Saxon literature, penned sometime before the 10th century A.D. Almost a decade ago, Avary and novelist Gaiman wrote a bigscreen version of the epic poem about the adventures of a Scandinavian warrior in the sixth century who takes on the monster Grendel.

The script was optioned by ImageMovers in 1997 and set up at DreamWorks, where ImageMovers is based, with Avary slated to direct. But the project went into turnaround, and when the option expired, the rights reverted to the scribes. For the last year Avary has tried, unsuccessfully, to get the project going again.

More recently, Zemeckis decided he was hot to direct Beowulf, but Avary was unwilling to part with his script -- until Bing stepped in.