Call it “NYAD.”
“Gladiator” studio DreamWorks is teaming with “NYPD Blue” creator David Milch to create an ambitious hourlong cop drama set in ancient Rome.
“Gladiator” helmer Ridley Scott would likely direct a two-hour pilot for the project and consult on the design of a series, which has attracted serious interest from ABC, NBC and Fox; DreamWorks Pictures co-topper Walter Parkes, an exec producer of “Gladiator,” has been actively involved in pitching the project.
Parkes brought the idea to Milch, a longtime friend. Milch jumped on the concept and proceeded to sketch a broad outline for the characters and stories the show would explore. Show would be produced by Paramount Network Television (where Milch is based) and DreamWorks.
Despite the pedigree of the participants attached, the ambitious scope of the project may force nets to think hard about signing on.
According to network insiders, Par is expected to make a formal ask today, and will most likely seek a 13-episode commitment, with a huge license fee of $1.8 million per episode. Studio is also seeking $8 million for the pilot, bringing the total cost for a web that wants the show to just over $30 million. Assuming the series sells, Par could get much less for the idea — or perhaps more, if a bidding war erupts.
While inspired by the socko success of “Gladiator” — this summer’s second-biggest grosser, with over $183 million tallied to date — the TV project is not a sequel or spinoff of Scott’s pic.
Instead, the action will take place during the reign of Nero in 65 A.D., nearly 100 years before “Gladiator.” Show will focus on the head of the Urban Cohort, the Roman police force assigned to keep the city streets safe. Stories will combine the traditional aspects of a cop show with the unconventional backdrop of ancient Rome.
Series will be “a reflection of contemporary society,” one industry insider familiar with the outlines of the pitch said. “Amid all the immorality of (ancient Rome), there’s a man who’s trying to keep his morality intact.”
Web heads who’ve heard the pitch seem excited about Milch’s vision for the series, as well as the chance to capitalize on the popularity of “Gladiator.”
“It’s one of the most intriguing pitches you could ever hope to hear in your life. Milch is brilliant,” said one exec.
One big concern, however, is whether it’s logistically and financially feasible to translate the scope and ambition reflected in the pic onto the small screen.
Production insiders believe that won’t be a problem since Milch plans to focus on intimate character and plot details that will imply a larger scale than is likely to show up on-camera.
Eye on another show
While a deal for the Milch series could be wrapped up relatively soon, it’s uncertain how quickly a series would get on the air. Milch’s first priority is a CBS cop drama he’s creating with “Miami Vice” exec producer Anthony Yerkovich for the 2001-02 season. It’s almost certain Milch would be partnered with another exec producer to oversee daily production of the series.
Should the Roman cop show move forward, it would rep Milch’s second series under his four-year, $15 million pact with Par, inked just over a year ago.
Execs at Par and DreamWorks refused to comment on negotiations. Milch did not return several phone calls seeking comment.
Milch is repped by Alan Berger of Artists Management Group.