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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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‘Cleopatra’ Conversation Turns To David Fincher

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: What has happened with Sony Pictures’ plans to mount an exciting new biopic of Cleopatra, with Angelina Jolie attached as the Egyptian queen, based on Stacy Schiff’s bestselling book Cleopatra: A Life? I’m told the director conversation right now is with David Fincher, who just got a Best Director Oscar nomination working with Cleopatra producer Scott Rudin, and who is working with Rudin on the Stieg Larsson novel adaptation The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, also at Sony Pictures.

You’ll recall last October that Deadline revealed James Cameron’s keen interest in directing a PG-13 3D version of the movie with a Brian Helgeland script, until 20th Century Fox stepped up and got him to commit instead to two Avatar sequels. After that, speculation centered around Paul Greengrass, who wound up instead directing his own script, Memphis, about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., for Universal, also with Rudin producing.

It’s not surprising that the top directors in town are after this gig. As Rudin has described it, this is the first telling of the Cleopatra story from a woman’s perspective. Instead of simply being a seductress, as she was portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 Joseph L. Mankiewicz-directed film, Cleopatra is also a shrewd politician, strategist and warrior, with sexual charisma to spare. The feeling is the role is a perfect fit for Jolie, who might be the only actress right now with the box office … Read More »

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