‘Great’ mini conquers HBO

Project based on Renault novels 'Fire,' 'Persian Boy'

Mel Gibson’s and Bruce Davey’s Icon Prods will produce HBO’s next big-budget miniseries, 10-part “Alexander the Great,” which is aimed at a 2004 debut on the pay-cabler.

Budget is expected to be about $120 mil, the same amount spent on the cabler’s recent 10-part mini “Band of Brothers.”

Project is based on Mary Renault’s novels “Fire From Heaven” and “The Persian Boy.” Gibson and Davey are exec producing, along with Tony To, who co-exec produced “Brothers.” To, whose Ensemble Prods. also is producing, brought the books to HBO and was instrumental in getting Icon involved.

David Frankel, Gene Kelly and Jim Lemley will serve as co-exec producers. John Lauricella, who owned the rights to Renault’s books, will be consulting producer.

Production is set to get underway this summer in England, as well as other to-be-determined Euro locations. While Frankel will oversee the book adaptation and will serve as one of the writers and directors, additional directors and writers — as well as casting — are to be determined.

‘Great’ selection

Mini is one of several projects in the works that takes a look at Alexander the Great: Ridley Scott, Alfonso Arau, Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone have all either circled or attached themselves to pics in development.

However, Anne Thomopoulos, senior VP of HBO original programming, west coast, said HBO’s project will be unlike any other.

“Just by virtue of the amount of time we can spend with the character when looking at 10 hours versus a two-hour movie, we know the character development will be far more extensive,” she said.

“We’ve always talked about Alexander and didn’t have a forum before we had the miniseries department at HBO because of the breadth of his quest and journey,” she said.

Thomopoulos and Bruce Richmond, HBO original programming VP of production, will oversee “Alex” for the cabler.

“We feel like at this point it’s a wonderful form for his life and adventure,” Thomopoulos said. “Even though it’s ancient history his appetite and ambition to unify cultures is really very timely.”

Mini continues in HBO’s tradition of the last several years of mounting event programming. In 1993, the network presented two-parter “Laurel Avenue,” followed by 12–part “From the Earth to the Moon” in 1998, six-part 2000 mini “The Corner” and September’s 10-part “Band of Brothers.”

Meanwhile, HBO continues to look at three drama pilots as potential new series. Pilots have been shot for cop drama “The Wire” and for “Baseball Wives.” The 1930s drama pilot “Carnivale” is set to roll in the coming weeks. Upon completion of all three, HBO will make decisions about whether to go forward on them.

And HBO recently renewed frosh comedy “Mind of the Married Man.” Scripts had been ordered, but it had until now been unclear whether an additional season would be greenlighted.