BBC, HBO to co-produce series about ancient Rome

LONDON: The success of Oscar winning filmGladiator a couple of years ago stirred interest in Roman culture and history. Taking a hint from this, the BBC and premium movie channel HBO will co-produce an epic and sweeping new drama series Rome, chronicling the rise of the ancient Roman empire through the eyes of two foot-soldiers.


Production will start next year and will be based at Rome's Cinecitta Studios. Additional location footage will be shot throughout Europe and North Africa. The lead writer is English screen-writer Bruno Heller, who is also an executive producer on the drama. The first series of 12 episodes is planned to be broadcast on BBC Two and on HBO in 2005. Rome is an intimate drama of love and betrayal, masters and slaves, and husbands and wives. It chronicles epic times that saw the fall of a republic and the creation of an empire.

The series begins in 51 BC, as Gaius Julius Caesar has completed his masterful conquest of Gaul after eight years of war, and is preparing to return to Rome. He heads home with thousands of battle-hardened men and a populist agenda for radical social change. Terrified, the aristocracy threatens to prosecute Caesar for war crimes as soon as he sets foot in Rome.

Caesar's old friend and mentor, Pompey Magnus attempts to foment mutiny in order to maintain the balance of power. Two of Caesar's soldiers, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, thwart Pompey's plan. Their fates become entwined with those of Caesar, Mark Antony, Cleopatra, and the boy Octavian, a strange and awkward child. By political guile and bloody force, he will become Rome's first Emperor.

HBO has produced critically acclaimed shows such as the tongue 'n' cheek comedy Sex And The City, the black comedy Six Feet Under, the gangster saga The Sopranos and Steven Spielberg's Band of Brothers.

BBC Two controller Jane Root adds, "Rome is a unique drama series that allows us to look at the birth of the Roman Empire through the eyes of ordinary citizens as well as famous historical figures such as Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Octavian. It is an intimate portrayal of a fascinating and influential period of history - the birth of a modern society as we know it today. It brings us vividly into everyday Roman life."

HBO chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht says, "This intriguing saga of ancient Rome is both a fascinating historical epic that offers insights into the foundations of the modern world, and a story of timeless passions with contemporary resonance. Like HBO, the BBC has a strong tradition of success in projects of this massive scope. Our unprecedented partnership on this exciting series will result in memorable entertainment."

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