Last Legion Begins Production

By Garth Franklin Wednesday July 27th 2005 03:18PM

Filming commences in Tunisia on August 5th on THE LAST LEGION, a Dino De Laurentiis presentation produced by Martha De Laurentiis and Raffaella De Laurentiis, to be directed by Doug Lefler. Aishwarya Rai has been signed to star alongside Colin Firth and Sir Ben Kingsley. THE LAST LEGION is an independently financed film produced in partnership with Quinta Communications' Tarak Ben Ammar and British co-producers Chris Curling and Phil Robertson of Zephyr Films.

Part fact, part legend, THE LAST LEGION is an epic adventure based on acclaimed author Valerio Massimo Manfredi's international best-selling 2003 novel of the same name. The film is set against the fall of the Roman Empire in 470AD and its last emperor, 12-year-old Romulus Augustus (Thomas Sangster).

Over-run with rebellion, Rome is a city on the brink of chaos and destruction. Imprisoned by rebels on the island-fortress of Capri, Romulus, aided by the clever strategies of his teacher Ambrosinus (Sir Ben Kingsley) and the heroic skills of his legionnaire Aurelius (Colin Firth), escape the island. Despite the turbulent events around them, this small band of Roman soldiers, accompanied by Byzantine warrior Mira (Aishwarya Rai), are determined to continue their mission to restore the Empire. This resolute group sets out on an arduous and dangerous trek for Britannia in search of the Last Legion, in their bid to make one final stand for Rome.

The producers have assembled a stellar cast on this epic film about courage, loyalty and unfailing resolve. Previously hailed as the Queen of Bollywood, Aishwarya Rai most recently starred in 'Bride and Prejudice' directed by Gurinder Chadha. Her other credits include 'Devdas', which was nominated for a BAFTA and she has just completed filming on Roland Joffé's 'Singularity' alongside Brendan Fraser.

Director Doug Lefler, whose credits include second unit direction on 'Spider-Man' and 'A Simple Plan', explains that "The list of requirements for the one major female role in the film, Mira, was long. We needed an actress of rare beauty, with enough screen presence to hold her own against the likes of Colin Firth and Sir Ben Kingsley.) Aishwarya was the obvious choice".

Colin Firth most recently starred in 'Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason' and Atom Egoyan's 'Where the Truth Lies', which screened in competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival.  Next up for Firth is Working Title's "Nanny McPhee" opposite Emma Thompson. 

Academy-award winner Sir Ben Kingsley, stars as Fagin in Roman Polanski's upcoming 'Oliver Twist' and in director Paul McGuigan's thriller 'Lucky Number Slevin'.

Rounding off this headline cast are 15-year old Thomas Sangster ('Love Actually', 'Nanny McPhee') who has signed to play the major role of the young Romulus Augustus; Peter Mullan ('Braveheart', 'Trainspotting', 'Criminal') as Goth general Odoacer; John Hannah ('The Mummy Returns', 'The Hurricane', 'Sliding Doors'); and veteran Scottish actor James Cosmo ('Troy', 'Trainspotting', 'Highlander').

The production will move from Tunisia to Slovakia in September. Filming is scheduled to complete at the end of October.

THE LAST LEGION reteams Dino De Laurentiis and Martha De Laurentiis with Tarak Ben Ammar, Chris Curling and Phil Robertson, who recently completed principal photography in Italy on 'DECAMERON: Angels and Virgins'. The film stars Hayden Christensen, Mischa Barton and Tim Roth.

Harvey and Bob Weinstein have acquired North American distribution rights to THE LAST LEGION.