HBO, BBC hail Caesar in drama skein

Season slated to bow in 2005

HBO and the BBC will co-produce the epic historical drama “Rome.”

Skein reps the first series co-production between the paybox and the Blighty pubcaster. Nets previously partnered on the Emmy-winning Steven Spielberg miniseries “Band of Brothers.”

Set in 51 B.C. at the onset of Caesar’s return to Rome, series centers on two Roman soldiers who prevent Caesar’s mentor Pompey from instigating mutiny, an act that interweaves their lives with Marc Antony, Cleopatra and Octavian, the boy destined to become Rome’s first emperor.

“Like HBO, the BBC has a strong tradition of success in projects of this massive scope,” HBO topper Chris Albrecht said.

Exec producers are creator-scribe Bruno Heller (“Touching Evil”), William J. MacDonald (“The Saint”) and John Milius (“Apocalypse Now.”) BBC head of drama commissioning Gareth Neame and HBO senior VP of original programming Anne Thomopoulos will exec produce.

Stan Wlodkowski (“American Beauty”) will co-exec produce the project, to be penned by Heller, Milius, MacDonald, Alexandra Cunningham, David Frankel and Adrian Hodges.

First 12-episode season of “Rome” is slated to bow on HBO and BBC2 in 2005. Series will be shot in Rome’s Cinecitta studios and various parts of Europe and North Africa. Casting is under way in London.

Project spent at least three years in development, having initially been conceived at HBO as a miniseries, Thomopoulos noted. “When the scripts came in, the concept was so broad and lengthy they just lent themselves to a series format,” she said.

“I think what differentiates this project from other stories about ancient Rome is that it encompasses the lives of everyday Romans as well as the historical figures you think you know about,” Thomopoulos said. “I think audiences will be able to see themselves in some of the characters.”

“Rome” is one of the BBC’s largest co-production deals for an American project.

“This is one of the most ambitious projects I have come across, and its epic scale is inspiring,” BBC programming director Jana Bennett said. “Forging such a strong creative partnership with HBO, one of the world’s most respected drama producers, is part of the BBC’s role as both a catalyst and an enabler for exciting new projects.”

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