Caesar subject of epic pic from Mann, Hanks

Tom Hanks and Michael Mann will team up on an untitled pitch for an epic film about Julius Caesar and his battle with Pompey the Great to become the undisputed master of the world.

Hanks and Mann are in talks to locate the project at Disney, where Mann will direct it. At present, Hanks is aboard solely as producer.

The script is being written by John Orloff, who wrote an episode of the Hanks-Steven Spielberg-produced HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers” that Spielberg is expected to direct. The pitch is an ambitious story about Julius Caesar’s rise to power in ancient Rome. Caesar has become too successful a general for his own good, and he risks execution by a jealous Roman Senate unless he begins a brutal civil war against his closest friend and mentor, Pompey. He presses the campaign, knowing that only one of them can survive and that the victor becomes the most powerful figure in the world.

The film will be a co-production between Mann’s Forward Pass and Playtone, the shingle Hanks runs with Gary Goetzman. Mann, whose “The Insider” has created Oscar buzz, particularly for star Russell Crowe, is circling several projects, including a biopic of Howard Hughes at Disney — which he plans to do with Leonardo DiCaprio from a script by John Logan (“Any Given Sunday”).

After months of negotiations, Mann recently agreed to develop a screen version of the Steven Pressfield novel “Gates of Fire,” about the 300 battle-hardened Spartans who held off 50,000 Persians in the battle of Thermopylae in Greece. Universal has long held the option on the book and had David Self (“13 Days”) write the script. Self will rewrite the film under Mann’s supervision.

CAA repped Mann, Hanks and Orloff.

LIFE IMITATING MOVIES: Producer David Permut (“Face/Off”) and his development exec Steve Longi found themselves in an actual police situation last week when, returning from a meeting at Universal, they were sideswiped by a car driven by a couple of gang members from the San Fernando Valley. Before trouble could escalate, Permut was lucky to have been followed by the other person in the pitch meeting, DEA agent and author Jerry Speziale, whose memoirs of his days from Gotham detective to drug agent was the project they hope to set as a U film based on his book, “White Out.” Speziale and two agents with him quickly jumped into action to question the other driver and its passengers. Turned out the other car was stolen and the road trip ended in an arrest. Permut wants to get a director before making a deal on “White Out,” which is being handled as a book by Gotham lit agent Frank Weimann.

SEAGAL RETURNING TO WB?: After once being Warner Bros.’ franchise star with films like “Above the Law” and “Under Siege,” Steven Seagal and the studio are in talks to do their first collaboration in several years. The pic’s “Exit Wounds,” a Joel Silver-produced drama about a white cop trying to solve a crime in an inner-city precinct.

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