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HBO, BBC2 Make Deal To Turn Robert Graves Novel ‘I, Claudius’ Into Epic Miniseries

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: HBO has teamed with BBC2 to acquire the rights to turn the Robert Graves historical novel I, Claudius into a miniseries. The mini will be exec produced by BBC Worldwide Productions’ Jane Tranter and Anne Thomopoulos, who were executives producers of HBO’s Rome. The deal ends a long series of twists and turns for the rights to a book that was previously turned into an Emmy-winning 13-part miniseries in 1976 by BBC. In that mini, Derek Jacobi turned in the role of a career as Claudius. The book and mini gave a glimpse into the power, madness, murder, backstabbing and debauchery that was part and parcel of ruling-class Rome. It is seen through the eyes of Claudius, who was content to be the butt of jokes and hide his brilliance behind a stutter and a limp. Because he was never perceived as a threat, Claudius was never poisoned as many others in his circle were. Claudius outlasted them all, and became emperor in 41 A.D.

The feature rights were long controlled by In The Name of the Father helmer Jim Sheridan, but suddenly those rights were shopped in 2007. It looked like producer Scott Rudin beat out a competitive field of suitors to pay $2 million for the rights. He had Oscar-nominated The Departed scribe William Monahan ready to write it and Leonardo DiCaprio ready to attach himself to star. But the deal collapsed when Sheridan successfully challenged the claim in Ireland. By the time Sheridan finally bowed out, Rudin was no longer interested because he had moved on to another Roman Era epic, the movie adaptation of Stacy Schiff’s book Cleopatra: A Life, which has Angelina Jolie ready to play the Egyptian queen and David Fincher keen to direct her. Others flirted with the property, but the story is so big that it became clear that a miniseries was a way to get everything in. That opened the door for Tranter, who pursued the property for a decade. HBO has feasted on episodic period dramas, from Rome to its current run of Game of Thrones. Read More »

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Alec Baldwin Commits To Woody Allen’s Next Pic

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Alec Baldwin has committed to star in Woody Allen’s next film. And where will the quintessential New York actor and Gotham’s arguably most famous director be filming? Try Rome. Allen has chosen that city as the site of his next comedy as he continues sampling countries around the globe after shooting most of his films exclusively in New York. Allen has said that shooting in NYC is just too expensive, but I’d argue that the change of scenery has creatively revived him in recent outings.

Baldwin will work with Allen for the first time since the 1990 comedy Alice. Allen has just begun putting this film together, and word is that The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg is also in line for a lead. Penelope Cruz was previously announced. Baldwin will first star in Rock Of Ages, the Adam Shankman-directed New Line musical that also stars Diego Gonzalez Boneta, Julianne Hough, Tom Cruise, Mary J. Blige and Russell Brand. Amy Adams is being courted to play a journalist who falls into a bedroom romp with the rock star Stacee Jaxx (Cruise). After he finishes the two projects, Baldwin returns for what could be his final season of the NBC sitcom 30 Rock. Could Jack Donaghy really be leaving after Baldwin’s contract ends and the show is still so good? Baldwin told me as much when we did the Playboy Interview awhile back. I argued that his sitcom momentum would … Read More »

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Woody Allen To Shoot In Rome This Time

By | Monday March 7, 2011 @ 3:47pm PST
Mike Fleming

Last time we heard from Woody Allen, he complained that he could no longer afford to shoot films in New York, his former exclusive canvas. In an interview with his new hometown newspaper La Republicca, Allen divulged he’ll shoot his next film in Rome: “I love these sophisticated cities,” he enthused. “It’s fantastic to have the possibility to work there, like when I shot Manhattan in New York, Match Point in London and Vicky Cristina Barcelona in Barcelona … Each time, it’s like a declaration of love for certain places. I project onto the big screen my feelings for places which count a lot in my life. I hope to do the same thing with Rome.”

While some Gotham-ites might react bitterly to seeing Allen so far from home, I think his films got dramatically better when he left New York and that his writing and shooting have been revived considerably by the change in locale.

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