It sounds like a blast, but I can't help thinking about the chain of decisions that led them to me. Apparently they called the English department at UCLA and asked a medievalist there (Andy Kelly) for someone who had the necessary skills. He gave them my name.
On a forum that I frequent, I recently ran across a message lauding that crusty old favorite of high school English teachers: Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. Generations of students have had this slender volume inflicted on them. Personally, I can’t stand the book, and that so many people continue to praise it makes me testy.
So one of the first requests I received in my capacity as expert on all things Old English was for a list of swear words. This is one of tasks that seems simple on the surface: hit the dictionary and find the equivalents, but there are all sorts of problems that come up in trying to produce anything adequate. In a project like this, of course, scholarly uncertainty is simply not an option. We might not know, but we still need to have something for the characters to say.
So I'm officially on as a consultant for Beowulf. My wife is jumping up and down with excitement. She's a Neil Gaiman fan--our koi are named after the seven immortals from the Sandman series. I had to sign a confidentiality agreement, so don't expect me to give you any juicy details. I will say that the script very much bears the style of Neil Gaiman. I think his fans will be pleased.
Today I was forcefully reminded of how our inconsequential decisions can snowball--the proverbial butterfly wing that unleashes a hurricane. I received an e-mail out of the blue from a production assisstant for Robert Zemeckis. They are doing a major Hollywood film of Beowulf and want an Old English consultant who can translate into OE and coach the actors on pronunciation. They're filming in Culver City, and so they want someone local.
And we're off and running.