Michael Hirst, the screenwriter of “Elizabeth” and creator of both Showtime’s “The Tudors” and History’s “Vikings,” is teaming with director Martin Scorsese for a new series – “The Caesars”.
The plan is to create a television drama, several seasons long, about the early rulers of ancient Rome – beginning with the rise to power of Julius Caesar. The pilot has been written, plus the outline for the rest of the first season. Filming is expected to begin next year in Italy.
Speaking with The Guardian, Hirst says Scorsese’s passion for the subject matter is a big driver of the project:
“He genuinely loves the period and knows a lot about it. He got on the phone to Justin Pollard, my historical adviser. They chatted, partly in Latin, about sources for the stories and Roman poetry.”
Part of the draw of the project is to portray some of these rulers, mostly portrayed as middle-aged men, in their younger days. While actors like Karl Urban and Todd Lasance have played twentysomething versions of Julius Caesar on TV in “Xena” and “Spartacus” respectively, this aims to be less genre and more accurate to the period – more akin to “Rome” but at an earlier point in Caesar’s life:
“In the movies he [Caesar] is usually a middle-aged guy, struggling with political complexities. But he was fantastically interesting and ambitious when he was younger. A lot of the Caesars came to power when they were young, and we’ve never really seen that on screen. It’s the energy, the vitality, the excess of a young culture that’s being driven by young people. There is something astonishing about the rise of a relatively small kingdom to world power within a very short space of time. It couldn’t have been done by tired old politicos and faded warriors.”
That said, don’t expect complete accuracy. Like Hirst’s previous work there’s going to be some obvious sexing up and a bit of soap to it. He says: “Just like Shakespeare’s history plays, they only start with some historical facts, then the drama takes over. You can’t have both.” How far the future seasons will cover and whether the show will do an “I, Claudius” style spin showcasing the reigns of multiple rulers is unclear.
“Vikings” premiered in 2013 and so far has run five seasons and 59 episodes with a further ten episodes due this year. That follows on from “The Tudors” which premiered in 2007 and ran four seasons and 37 episodes – launching the careers of series regular Henry Cavill and recurring star Natalie Dormer in the process.