Wanted: An emperor to lead ‘Rome’

Ambitious project lacks an exec producer

NEW YORK — HBO is seeking another executive to help ride herd on the production of its massive series “Rome” after Tony To chose not to sign up.

The network sought To — who shepherded “Band of Brothers” and “From the Earth to the Moon” as exec producer for HBO — because the stakes are enormous. “Rome” may become the most ambitious project HBO has ever undertaken; if it works in its first two seasons, the network plans to film 65 hours’ worth of episodes over five years at a total cost of $400 million. The pay cabler is co-producing “Rome” with the BBC.

To said he declined HBO’s offer following a couple of days’ visit to Rome to discuss the plan with HBO Entertainment prexy Carolyn Strauss and exec VP of miniseries Anne Thomopoulos.

To begged off the assignment, he said, because he doesn’t want to tie himself up for as long as five years and prefers to be involved from the beginning in the production of such large-scale epics as “Rome,” as he did with “Brothers” and “Earth,” rather than join them months into filming.

HBO has an exclusive lock on To for TV series and miniseries, but he also has a deal for theatrical movies with Nigel Sinclair and Guy East of Spitfire Pictures, which has a number of projects in development, including a biopic of Galileo.

With To bowing out, Thomopoulos — who has spent a big chunk of the past six months in Rome to oversee both pre-production and the start of filming in March — will stay on in the city for another three months or so, said an HBO spokeswoman.