Columbia acquires ‘Anabasis’ epic

Robert Schenkkan to write Greek action film

Columbia will turn the story of an ancient Greek military expedition into an epic action film.

The studio has acquired a pitch for an adaptation of “Anabasis,” a memoir written around 400 B.C. by Xenophon, a Greek soldier who was among 10,000 elite mercenaries who attacked the Persian Empire and who led them back through hostile terrain after their leader was betrayed and slain.

The tale inspired Walter Hill’s 1979 film “The Warriors.”

Script will be written by Robert Schenkkan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who just served as writer and co-producer on HBO miniseries “The Pacific.” Jimmy Miller will team with Robbie and Jonathan Stamp to produce under Miller’s Sony-based Mosaic label.

Project marks a dramatic departure for Miller, a prolific supplier of Sony comedies like “Talladega Nights” and “Step Brothers.” “Anabasis” will be the first of several period dramas he will produce with the Stamp brothers, clients of his management company who are accomplished historians, authors and documentary filmmakers.

Robbie Stamp, former partner of author Douglas Adams (“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”), has produced docus and co-authored historical books, as has Jonathan Stamp, a former Unesco Intl. Scholar who was historical consultant and producer on the HBO series “Rome.” The brothers also have an HBO deal to develop other history-based series.

“Anabasis” is an ancient work written right after Xenophon’s ordeal. Sony Pictures chairman-CEO Michael Lynton and Schenkkan both had read the book in college and sparked to the tale. The success of “300” also helped.

“Crazy tribes, brutal terrain, vicious combat, hellacious weather — ‘Anabasis’ is full of astounding endurance and heroism,” said Jonathan Sharp.

Miller said they chose this project to be the first of several historical pics.

The Stamps “are so knowledgeable in this world of big historical pieces, and I think they’re going to be formidable in the genre,” Miller said.

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