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Rome, the Eternal Story: From Ben Hur to The Eagle
Posted January 21, 2011 to photo album "Rome, the Eternal Story: From Ben Hur to The Eagle"
The Eagle explores a part of ancient Roman history rarely seen on stage. But the history of Rome changes throughout history as well.
© Photo: Matt Nettheim
Slide 1: Exploring New Territory
Photo: Matt Nettheim
Kevin MacDonald’s epic The Eagle follows Marcus (Channing Tatum), a Roman solider, and Esca (Jamie Bell), a Celtic slave, beyond the known world of the Roman Empire into the terra incognita of ancient Britain in order to recover the lost Eagle of the ninth legion. In making this Roman epic, the filmmakers also explored new territory. For one thing, MacDonald altered how the English are represented in Roman films. “There is a convention in Roman Empire films,” explains MacDonald, “that the Romans be played by Brits, and the Americans play the slaves or freedom fighters. In the 1940s and 1950s, Britain itself was more of an empire so that was likely a factor, but nowadays it made far more sense to have Americans playing the Romans because America is the empire of today.” The Eagle is, in MacDonald’s own words, an “Iraq or Afghanistan war film taking place in the second century.” Writing in TheOohTray.com, Chris McDonald observes, “The tale of the Ninth Legion—an elite cadre of Roman troops who set off north of Hadrian’s Wall to put down the Picts and never returned—seems to have a special relevance in these troubled times. [In The Eagle] the parallels between the modern day Coalition and Ancient Rome couldn’t be more striking—the world’s most powerful state ventures to the wild edge of the world to punish an enemy whom it fails to understand and badly underestimates.”