The latest addition to the cast of Alex Proyas' Paradise Lost adaptation looks to be multiple Oscar-nominee Djimon Hounsou, who will portray Abdiel, the Angel of Death, in the expensive Biblical project.
Byzantum is expected to reach theaters by late 2012, possibly in time for it to make a run during awards season. Paradise Lost is being fashioned as more of a mainstream blockbuster than anything else, but likewise isn't expected to reach theaters until the latter half of 2012.
John Milton's classic epic poem will be given a Hollywood studio makeover in Paradise Lost, which has already cast Benjamin Walker as the Archangel Michael and Bradley Cooper as his brother Lucifer, whose fall from God's grace ignites a war between the forces of Heaven and Hell.
Variety has the scoop on Hounsou joining the cast as Abdiel, who attempts to warn God of Lucifer's treachery and plays a pivotal role in the battle between good and evil. He's the sort of strong-willed character who will benefit from being brought to life by someone with a powerful screen presence - like Hounsou (see: his work in Amistad, Blood Diamond, and Gladiator, for proof of that).
Paradise Lost will boast three impressive action set pieces - one in Heaven, one in Hell, and the final one in Eden - which will be brought to life via a combination of live-action material and extensive digital animation. Suffice it to say, this won't be a quiet and atmospheric interpretation of Milton's original text; rather, it'll be one full of CGI angels duking it out against evocative apocalyptic backdrops.
Proyas has nonetheless made it clear that he intends to deliver a faithful take on the religious tale, focusing largely on the destructive schism that forms between Lucifer and his (literally) holy family. So hopefully that means Paradise Lost will be more of an epic along the lines of Lord of the Rings, in terms of both scale and content - rather than just an overblown effects extravaganza.
Caleb Landry Jones didn't have a lot to do as the sound wave-emitting Banshee in this summer's X-Men: First Class, but he will get to show off his dramatic side by playing the lead in Byzantium, a (sort of) vampire tale directed by Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles helmer Neil Jordan.
To clarify: Byzantium is based on the play "A Vampire Story" by Moira Buffini, who also penned the script for the film adaptation. It revolves around a pair of mysterious women (Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan) who arrive in a small British town, claiming to be vampires. Even as locals begin to mysteriously disappear, there's still question as to whether the two ladies actually are centuries-old monsters who survive on human blood - or just a pair of troubled people on the run from more everyday dangerous forces (tip of the hat to Latino Review, for these plot details).
Variety says that Jones will star in Byzantium as a dying leukemia patient whose outlook on life is changed by his encounter with Ronan's (possibly) immortal character. Based on that detail alone, you can start to see how the film will encompass certain classic themes from previous vampire stories, be they Dracula or more recent tales like Let the Right One In.
Some variation on the "mysterious woman" archetype has popped up many a time in Jordan's previous work (see: The Crying Game, The End of the Affair, Ondine, etc.); similarly, he's no stranger to handling stories that make heavy metaphorical use of supernatural creatures, as evidenced by films like Interview with the Vampire or The Company of Wolves. So, all in all, Byzantium sounds like a nice fit for him.
We will keep you posted on the status of both Paradise Lost and Byzantium.
Source: Variety (link 1) (link 2)