William Hurt to star in ITV’s re-imagining of Beowulf

The Humans actor will play the legendary Danish king Hrothgar, joined by Downton Abbey's Ed Speleers and Wolf Hall's Joanne Whalley

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William Hurt will play the role of mythical Danish king Hrothgar in ITV’s Game of Thrones-style take on Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf.

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The four-time Oscar-nominated US actor, more recently known for his performance in David Cronenburg’s A History of Violence in 2005, will have a lead role as the powerful monarch in the epic new drama.

Hurt will be joined by Ed Speleers (who played Jimmy Kent in Downton Abbey) as Slean, and Joanne Whalley (Jamaica Inn, Wolf Hall) as Rheda.

Kieran Bew (Da Vinci’s Demons) will star as the hero warrior Beowulf who battles a fearsome monster during Britain’s Dark Ages.

The epic poem (which actually has no title, but is known by the name of its protagonist) sees Scandinavian warrior Beowulf come to the aid of Danish King Hrothgar, whose home is under attack from a terrible creature called Grendel whom the visitor slays.

The killing prompts an attack from the monster’s mother, a battle also won by Beowulf who returns home to Sweden to be crowned king. The poem then revisits its protagonist many years later as he battles a dragon.

Speaking of his ambitious new project, writer and executive producer James Dormer (Wallander) said: “Hundreds of years ago our ancestors listened to the story of Beowulf because it was a great adventure story – it scared them, thrilled them, made them laugh and cry.” 

“But they also listened because they recognised themselves and their fears in it. By holding a mirror up to them this story helped define them and thus – us. So it’s incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to make it relevant again for a wide audience.”

Filming will begin in the North East in late March 2015 and the series will air on ITV later this year.

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Beowulf’s exterior set