There was a surge of creativity on the independent comics scene in the 80s, giving birth to everything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Love & Rockets and The Crow. Joining them is a superhero story unlike anything seen before in comics however, with Matt Wagner’s Grendel. Drawing inspiration from the centuries-old myth of Beowulf, Wagner extrapolated those ideas and mixed them with french noir, pulp fiction and crime stories to create a hero who wasn’t really a hero at all.
The story follows a exceptionally smart young man named Eddie who thrives at everything he sets his sights on, but its all taken away after his affair with his fencing instructor is cut short by her death. Eddie plunges into himself and re-emerges as a new man — or new men, if you can count. On the surface he’s Hunter Rose, a novelist, socialite and celebrity that’s reserved and respected. But on the inside he’s Grendel, a costumed crime boss and assassin.
According to Wagner there’s been several near-misses when it comes to bringing Grendel to the big screen, but with Hollywood now flush with comic book cash and searching for more, Grendel could be a ready-made hit that can be a critical, as well as commercial, success.
Wagner’s explored the Grendel story in over a dozen comic miniseries, describing an entire legacy of the moniker in the past and future, but for a starting point I’d go back to the original miniseries, subtitled “Devil By The Deed.” It’s a superhero story so the common movie-goer will be familiar with it, but it should carry a setting not unlike The Crow with a storytelling method similar to the cerebral paranoia of Stephen King. The high concept of this for movie-goers would be as a stylish anti-hero crime boss, carrying a heavy style not unlike Tim Burton or David Fincher’s works. Tough? Yes. But That’s what the best film-makers hope for with their projects, especially young ones hungry to make a name for themselves.
Director Pierre Morel worked under Luc Besson for years as cinematographer for The Transporter, Unleashed and War, and then stepped up to directing with District B13 and the excellent Taken. I’d love to see Morel continue that, and step it up a notch, with the creative story Matt Wagner wrote in the comics.
Grendel / Eddie / Hunter Rose – Johnny Depp: Depp’s been wooed for a number of superhero films, yet none have been able to secure him. He seems to be attracted by off-center movies with an interesting story, and Matt Wagner has served that up to the tee in his comic. Depp would be positively mesmerizing as Hunter Rose, and would even look great with greying hair as he is in the comics.
Jocasta Rose – Jennifer Connelly: A very tough part to cast, but for this part of Grendel’s lost love I’d enlist Jennifer Connelly. I chose her specifically off her performance in Requiem For A Dream, and I’d love to see her add an edge to the story – -and to Depp’s character — in this small but demanding role.
Argent – Fred Ward: Some might want to get an A-list actor to stand toe-to-toe with Depp, but for this role I wanted someone who doesn’t overpower the character and could really perform it, and Fred Ward has it all. He has the voice, the Native American background, and he knows how to play the bad guy. Bring it on, Fred!
Stacy Palumbo – Maisie Williams: Can I admit that Arya Stark is my favorite part of Game of Thrones? I was downright gleeful when I put 2-and-2 together and imagined her in this role. The Stacy Palumbo role is important as it tempers Hunter Rose when he’s at his darkest, and also carries on the Grendel name in future stories. Maisie and Depp, through — what a captivating pair.