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‘LOTR’s’ John Rhys-Davies, Rutger Hauer to Star in Feature Version of 1980s ‘Star Wars’ Spinoff

A feature-length version is to be produced of “Black Angel,” a short film that George Lucas commissioned to accompany screenings of “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980. Among the cast of the new pic are John Rhys-Davies, who played the dwarf Gimli in the “Lord of the Rings” franchise, and Dutch thesp Rutger Hauer, who starred in “Blade Runner,” “Batman Begins” and “Sin City.”

“Black Angel: The Feature Film” has partnered with crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to launch a 45-day campaign, which goes live from today. The film will be shot in “an earthy and authentic style combining high adventure with high drama hot on the heels of fantasy icons ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hunger Games,’” according to promotional material accompanying the campaign. Production is slated for September, with filming locations to include Hungary, Belgium, Morocco and Scotland. Carnaby Intl. will handle worldwide sales.

The film will be directed and written by Roger Christian (“Nostradamus,” “Underworld,” “Masterminds”), who also penned and directed the original short. Christian will once again be teaming up with “Nostradamus” producer Harald Reichebner (“Never Talk to Strangers,” “The New Adventures of Pinocchio”), as well as Sean O’Kelly, Alex Tate and Andrew Loveday. Co-producers will include Jozsef Cirko and John Engel. The film will be an international co-production between Belgium, Hungary, Canada and U.K.

The campaign on Indiegogo has a fundraising target of £66,000. Contributors will be given the chance to snap up exclusive perks, from an invite to the red-carpet premiere, to a part in the film as an extra in the Demon King’s army, an all-expenses paid one-week mentorship with the audio department during the post-production process, and even the chance to own a piece of the actual film negative from the original “Star Wars: A New Hope,” gifted to Christian by Lucas.

The original short film “Black Angel” played with “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” in Europe and Australia in 1980. Shot in the Scottish Highlands, the 25-minute film was produced on a shoestring budget of £25,000 in 1979. One fan was Steven Spielberg who said it was “one of the most enigmatic films he’d ever seen.” It is also claimed that it had an influence on subsequent fantasy films, such as John Boorman’s 1981 pic “Excalibur.”

After its theatrical run, all copies of the short film were thought to be lost, but an archivist at Universal Studios found a negative in 2011. The prints had wound up in the U.S. following the collapse of U.K. studio Rank which, it turned out, had stored the prints along with other film negatives in World War II bunkers. Some 33 years later in October 2013, teams at several visual effects companies in San Francisco headed up by David Tanaka, Brice Parker and Jon Peters restored the film frame by frame. “Black Angel” had its world “re-premiere” as the closing film of the Mill Valley fest in California. It was also screened at the Glasgow Film Festival in Scotland and finally re-released digitally in early 2014 through iTunes. More than 385,000 people have viewed it on YouTube.

“Black Angel: The Feature Film” is an epic fantasy based on a knight who undertakes a classic hero’s journey to fight the Black Angel, the Demon Kings commander in the lands of Serandal. Guided by the sorcerer Myrddin and aided by Princess Kyna, the daughter of a rival king, they take on an epic adventure to stop the darkness from taking over the lands and allowing the demon king to reign supreme.

Christian said: “I wrote ‘Black Angel’ as an epic adventure inspired by the great Samurai films. For the feature film I want the audience to experience the intensity of the battles where life or death is the only prize. Like the first ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Alien’ we are going for absolute reality, engaging the audience in the drama so they feel like they are really there in this ancient world, shot in staggeringly beautiful landscapes, ancient cities and castles. With flying demons and sorcerers, princesses and knights, armies of the undead and an evil god of the underworld, we are filming down and dirty; ultimate realism that audiences hunger for and the world I am passionate to create on film again.

“’Black Angel: The Feature Film’ is being made for the fans and crowdfunding is the best way of ensuring creative freedom so that audiences get the film they want to see made,” Christian continued.

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