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27.10.03


TV DRAMA


BBC and HBO unite to co-produce major drama series about ancient Rome


The BBC and US subscription channel HBO are to co-produce an epic and sweeping new drama series which chronicles the rise of the ancient Roman empire through the eyes of two foot-soldiers, it was announced today by Jana Bennett, BBC Director of Television, and Chris Albrecht, Chairman and CEO of HBO.


Rome is a co-production between the BBC and HBO, which is best known for Six Feet Under, Sex and the City, The Sopranos and Band of Brothers.


Production, which will start next year, will be based at Rome's Cinecitta Studios, with additional location filming throughout Europe and North Africa.


The lead writer is English screen-writer Bruno Heller, who is also an executive producer on the drama.


"This is one of the most ambitious projects I have come across and its epic scale is inspiring. We have not attempted to bring the ancient world to life since the seminal series I, Claudius, so this one was too hard to resist," says Jana Bennett.


"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.


"Audiences around the world can look forward to a landmark piece of great television."


The first series of 12 episodes is planned to be broadcast on BBC TWO in the UK and on HBO in 2005.


Jane Root, Controller of BBC TWO, says: "Rome is a unique drama series that allows us to look at the birth of the Roman Empire through the eyes of ordinary citizens as well as famous historical figures such as Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Octavian.


"It is an intimate portrayal of a fascinating and influential period of history - the birth of a modern society as we know it today - and brings us vividly into everyday Roman life."


Chris Albrecht says: "This intriguing saga of ancient Rome is both a fascinating historical epic that offers insights into the foundations of the modern world, and a story of timeless passions with contemporary resonance."


"Like HBO," he added, "the BBC has a strong tradition of success in projects of this massive scope; our unprecedented partnership on this exciting series will result in memorable entertainment."


Rome is the saga of two ordinary Roman soldiers and their families. An intimate drama of love and betrayal, masters and slaves, and husbands and wives; it chronicles epic times that saw the fall of a republic and the creation of an empire.


Jane Tranter, BBC Controller of Drama Commissioning, says: "We've been developing this project with HBO for some time and we're delighted that Rome has now come to fruition as our first co-production.


"Rome is a powerful story and, alongside The Lost Prince, State of Play, Canterbury Tales, Charles II, Hustle and Gunpowder, Treason and Plot, is another example of our ambition to create the boldest, most original and engaging events on television."


The series begins in 51 BC, as Gaius Julius Caesar has completed his masterful conquest of Gaul after eight years of war, and is preparing to return to Rome. He heads home with thousands of battle-hardened men and a populist agenda for radical social change.


Terrified, the aristocracy threatens to prosecute Caesar for war crimes as soon as he sets foot in Rome. Caesar's old friend and mentor, Pompey Magnus, attempts to foment mutiny in order to maintain the balance of power.

Two of Caesar's soldiers, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, thwart Pompey's plan. Their fates become entwined with those of Caesar, Mark Antony, Cleopatra, and the boy Octavian, a strange and awkward child who, by political guile and bloody force, will become the First Emperor of Rome.


Rome is the first series co-production between the BBC and HBO, who previously co-produced the acclaimed serial Band of Brothers, which won the 2002 Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries.


It is executive produced by Bruno Heller, William J MacDonald, John Milius and Anne Thomopoulos for HBO, and Gareth Neame, BBC Head of Drama Commissioning, for the BBC.


The co-executive producer is Stan Wlodkowski; the producer is Marco Pugini; co-producers are Robert Papazian and James Hirsch.


Additional writers of Rome will be Alexandra Cunningham, David Frankel, John Milius and William J. MacDonald.



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