Renny Harlin Set to Direct 'Hercules 3D' for Millennium (Exclusive)

Renny Harlin - P 2013
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The big-budget take on the Greek demigod is competing with another Hercules film coming from MGM and Paramount.

Renny Harlin is ready to take on what will surely be more than 12 labors to direct Hercules 3D, Millennium’s big-budget take on the Greek demigod.

Millennium has begun preproduction on the $70-million-budgeted film and expects to cast its eight leading roles in the next few weeks. The company is eyeing a May production start on its lot in Sofia, Bulgaria, and hopes to have the movie ready for a March 2014 release.

The aggressive schedule is squarely aimed to beat Paramount and MGM’s rival Hercules project, which is being directed by Brett Ratner and is to star Dwayne Johnson. That movie is set for an Aug. 8, 2014, release.

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Millennium has been developing its Hercules project since 2007, and the script, written by Sean Hood and Hanna Weg, tells a revisionist tale of the classic Greek myth.

"It's not a comic book, cartoony fantasy thing," Harlin tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It's closer to Gladiator than flying horses.”

On the subject of the competing Hercules project, Harlin says, "I think these are very different kinds of movies in their approach to this legendary character. Obviously, Hercules has been portrayed in many different films, such as the Disney animated movie. I wish them luck. Ancient Greek mythology is an endless source of good stories ... Let's see both movies be successful."

Les Weldon and Danny Lerner are producing, with Avi Lerner, Trevor Short, Boaz Davidson and John Thompson as executive producers.

"Our international independent distribution partners have made it clear to us that they very much want Hercules,” says Lerner, who serves as Millennium's chairman. “Now that we have a strong script, a very talented director and the prospect of an exciting cast, we’re ready to move forward with the project.”

Harlin is the Finnish director of such adrenaline-fueled films as Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and Cutthroat Island. After a few duds, he has revived his career in recent years with horror films The Covenant and Exorcist: The Beginning, as well as episodes of TV’s Burn Notice and Covert Affairs. He is heading this week to Berlin, where he will be promoting The Dyatlov Pass Incident, a horror thriller set in Siberia.

Hercules will mark his return to big-budget filmmaking, something he has been itching to do for quite some time. "I'm so excited and feel very blessed," he says. "I've been working really hard, and it's starting to pay off."

Millennium has found success in the past few years with its action franchise The Expendables.

The Hercules project won’t be the first time the company has taken on a major studio with a film about a similar subject. On March 22, the company is set to release Olympus Has Fallen, a Die Hard-in-the-White-House action thriller starring Gerard Butler. That project was in a race with Sony’s White House Down, which stars Channing Tatum and is slated to open June 28.

Email: Borys.Kit@thr.com, Kim.Masters@thr.com

Twitter: @Borys_Kit, @KimMasters