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Neil’s back into battle

Sunday Sun

A HISTORIC battle for the North sets the scene for the latest blockbuster movie by Geordie director Neil Marshall, the Sunday Sun can reveal.

The Newcastle-born movie- maker has just started shooting Centurion, an epic tale inspired by the legend of the Romans’ Ninth Legion, who are said to have vanished after heading into battle with the Picts.

And Hadrian’s Wall forms the backdrop for the tale, set in the year AD 117, which features a top cast including Bond femme fatale Olga Kurylenko, Michael Fassbender and Dominic West of The Wire fame.

Filming on location in Badenoch and Strathspey in Scotland, and Ealing studios in London, Neil — who lives in London with his wife Axelle — has enlisted historical re-enactment groups to play Roman soldiers and Picts in what promises to be a gritty and gruesome action thriller.

Centurion tells the story of a soldier called Quintus Dias — played by Fassbender — who is the sole survivor of a Pictish raid on a Roman frontier fort.

He manages to make his way back to the Roman forces and then marches North again with the Ninth Legion, under orders to wipe out the Picts and kill their mysterious leader, Gorlacon.

Some film fans have speculated that Olga Kurylenko’s character is Gorlacon herself, a fictitious female warrior.

However, the official line is that Olga plays Etain, a beautiful yet savage-looking Pict warrior woman.

Neil, 38, said: “Etain is kind of revenge incarnate.

“Her family were butchered by the Romans, she had her tongue cut out by the Romans, she’s had a hell of a time and she’s out for Roman blood.”

Olga added: “She’s quite furious. Because one sense is not there — she can’t speak — all the others are more developed.

“She sees very well and hears very well . . . she is an animal.”

Neil first revealed he was writing Centurion back in March 2006, when the script had the working title Ninth Legion.

The Ninth Legion, known as the “Lost Legion” are said to have marched into Scotland from Hadrian’s Wall with as many as 4000 men, and then disappeared.

Historians have become sceptical about the Lost Legion, with some suggesting they disbanded and others believing they were massacred in Germania years later . . . a battle which has been shown on the silver screen in Ridley Scott’s award-winning Gladiator.

Either way, Neil — who also directed Dog Soldiers, The Descent and Doomsday — say he’s not aiming to make a historical document.

He added: “It’s not meant to be historically perfect. I’m picking up on a legend and exploring it . . . it’s an action thriller.”