HBO’s “Rome” Becomes A Feature

There’s a long history of acclaimed shows being prematurely cancelled by HBO. Even now, years on, the sting of both “Deadwood” and “Carnivale” being pulled off their air before coming to a proper conclusion still draws fury and sadness from discerning viewers.

Now, another of its other unfairly canned shows may be getting a reprieve. Bruno Heller, who created CBS’ current hit “The Mentalist”, tells The Hollywood Reporter that he wants to produce a theatrical wrap-up to his earlier work – HBO’s “Rome”.The news comes several months after actor Ray Stevenson admitted that Heller started working on a script for it last year which was put off due to the writer’s strike.

“There is talk of doing a movie version. It’s moving along. It’s not there until it is there. I would love to round that show off” says Heller. The series followed two legionnaires (Kevin McKidd, Ray Stevenson) and dealt with key historical figures of the time including Julius Caesar (Ciaran Hinds), Mark Antony (James Purefoy), Brutus, Pompey Magnus, Cleopatra, Octavian and more. It became infamous for its edgy elements including much full-frontal nudity to rather bloody recreations of famous events such as the death of Caesar.

The series proved a solid but unspectacular ratings success in its first season in 2006 for HBO, but the show’s enormous production costs along with some attributing much of the ratings to its “The Sopranos” final season lead-in made the network cancel the series which was halfway through production of the second season.

However when the second season went to air it drew ratings not far off the first season, and scored even more accolades (including seven Emmys). This lead to the normally stubborn HBO executives to begrudgingly admit that they probably shouldn’t have cancelled the project.

Heller prepared a multi-season outline for the show which got compressed by the cancelled second season. However his plans for a fifth season would form the basis of what the movie would be – namely Rome’s handling of the rise of Jesus of Nazareth.

Heller says “I discovered halfway through writing the second season the show was going to end. The second was going to end with death of Brutus. Third and fourth season would be set in Egypt. Fifth was going to be the rise of the messiah in Palestine. But because we got the heads-up that the second season would be it, I telescoped the third and fourth season into the second one, which accounts for the blazing speed we go through history near the end. There’s certainly more than enough history to go around.”