Tahar Rahim, the star of one of this year's most acclaimed films, Un Prophète (A Prophet), has joined the cast of the Roman epic adventure The Eagle of the Ninth, currently being directed by Academy Award winner Kevin Macdonald and produced by Duncan Kenworthy. The film is co-financed by Film4 with Focus Features, which holds worldwide rights excluding U.K. free-TV.
Heading the cast are Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the upcoming Dear John), Jamie Bell (Defiance, Jumper), two-time Golden Globe Award winner Donald Sutherland, and Mark Strong (the upcoming Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood). Mr. Macdonald is reunited on the new film with Jeremy Brock, BAFTA Award-winning screenwriter of his 2006 film The Last King of Scotland, who has adapted the screenplay of The Eagle of the Ninth from Rosemary Sutcliff's classic novel of the same name.
The Eagle of the Ninth is set in the dangerous world of second-century Britain. In 140 AD, twenty years after the unexplained disappearance of the entire Ninth Legion in the mountains of Scotland, young centurion Marcus Aquila (played by Mr. Tatum) arrives from Rome to solve the mystery and restore the reputation of his father, the commander of the Ninth. Accompanied only by his British slave Esca (Mr. Bell), Marcus sets out across Hadrian's Wall into the uncharted highlands of Caledonia - to confront its savage tribes, make peace with his father's memory, and retrieve the lost legion's golden emblem, the Eagle of the Ninth. Mr. Sutherland portrays Marcus' uncle Aquila, who has retired in Britain; Mr. Strong is cast as Guern, an ex-soldier who holds crucial information about the Ninth.
Mr. Rahim will portray the Gaelic-speaking Seal Prince, the fearsome leader of a band of warriors who pursue Marcus and Esca through the highlands. The actor recently came to international prominence with his lead role in Jacques Audiard's A Prophet, which world-premiered at last spring's Cannes International Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix. The film has since been selected as France's official submission for the Academy Awards.
The Eagle of the Ninth is shooting entirely on location. Following six weeks in Hungary, where filming began in August, the unit has now moved to Scotland and will remain there until production wraps next month. Duncan Kenworthy, an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominee for Four Weddings and a Funeral, developed and is producing The Eagle of the Ninth through his Toledo Productions. Caroline Hewitt is co-producer. Focus senior vice president, European production Teresa Moneo - who with Focus Features International president of sales and distribution Alison Thompson brought the project into the company - is supervising the film's production with Film4 head Tessa Ross.
Anthony Dod Mantle, who won the Academy Award earlier this year for his cinematography of Slumdog Millionaire, is director of photography on The Eagle of the Ninth. 2009 Academy Award winner Michael O'Connor and Academy Award nominee Michael Carlin (both of The Duchess) are the film's costume and production designers, respectively. Justine Wright will edit The Eagle of the Ninth, marking her fifth consecutive feature collaboration with Mr. Macdonald.
In addition to The Last King of Scotland, for which Forest Whitaker won the Best Actor Academy Award, Mr. Macdonald's films as director include One Day in September, which won him the Best Documentary Feature Oscar; the mountain-climbing thriller Touching the Void; and, most recently, State of Play, starring Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck.
Duncan Kenworthy has produced three of the most successful British films of all time: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Love Actually. Together, they have grossed nearly $900 million at the worldwide boxoffice. He has been nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award and three Golden Globe Awards, and has won five BAFTA Awards and three Emmy Awards. He was made an O.B.E. in 1999 for services to film, and is vice president of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA). In 2004, he created the Toledo Scholarships at the National Film and Television School for British ethnic minority students; there have been eight Toledo Scholars so far.