Roman Polanski’s Old Project Becomes TV Miniseries

4/19/2010 Posted by Admin

Television News

Roman Polanski’s Old Project Becomes TV Miniseries

By our guest blogger, Alexandra Cervenak

For the travelers stranded this past week in airports across Europe due to the clouds of ash from a massive volcanic eruption in Iceland, it is perhaps a comfort to know that a canceled flight is a small disaster compared to what might have been. It could have been much worse – it could have been like Pompeii, the ancient Italian city wiped off the map by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. And thanks to Ridley Scott, this suddenly timely disaster story may be coming to the small screen.

Based on the Robert Harris novel of the same name, “Pompeii” was originally slated for the big screen and to be directed by Roman Polanski. But even after spending months working on it, the director dropped out of the project in fall 2007. It stalled until recently, when it was reconfigured into a four-hour TV miniseries, with Scott signed on to produce for Sony Pictures Television and Germany's Tandem Communications.

Having had another of his novels, “The Ghost,” transformed by Polanski into a film released in February in the US under the title “The Ghost Writer,” Harris claims he is disappointed Polanski’s version of “Pompeii” will never be realized. He tells BBC News that "it would have been quite a movie: a combination of Roman Polanski and Mount Vesuvius would have been guaranteed to get everybody watching!"

But considering Polanski’s legal troubles they might have been watching for the wrong reasons, and it seems that the material is in more than capable hands with Scott. Having directed 2001’s Oscar winning “Gladiator,” Scott should be comfortable enough handling more “ancient Italy” fare with “Pompeii.”

"The creation of worlds - specifically those historical worlds which continue to capture the popular imagination - is what we love to do and do best. 'Pompeii' is a strong and compelling character drama set against a backdrop of a flourishing but ultimately doomed civilization - exactly what makes great event television," says Scott.

“Pompeii” will tell the story of Marcus Attilius, an aqueduct engineer, and according to SPT Executive VP Helen Verno, promises to be “both a love story and a thriller.” The miniseries will be co-produced by Judith Verno (“Into Thin Air”), and is being shopped during this week’s MIP convention in Cannes. Even though there is no word on casting or who will air the miniseries, by presenting it at the convention backers hope it will help generate buzz for “Pompeii” with program buyers.

Disaster flicks tend to be enjoyable and mindless entertainment, mostly because it can be fun to watch stuff blow up, so “Pompeii” has the potential to offer this sprinkled with a little historical melodrama. And if done intelligently, in the vein of “Gladiator,” it has the possibility to be a good combination – especially if it’s picked up by a network like HBO that’s likely to give it a more cinematic treatment.

I think whoever eventually picks up “Pompeii” will be wise to treat it cinematically – all those lava explosions just seems tailor made for the big screen – and be careful that it doesn’t come off as one those lame “disaster of the week” made for TV movies, because the material seems better than that. Keeping it more focused on character drama like Scott claims it will be should help avoid this, as good drama is good drama now matter if it happens in tennis shoes or togas.


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