Martin Scorsese and Michael Hirst are collaborating together on a TV series about the power and political structure of ancient Rome titled The Caesars. Hirst is no stranger to such small screen historical fare himself, having previously created The History Channel’s Vikings and Showtime’s King Henry VIII drama The Tudors, as well as Starz’ short-lived “grounded” take on the King Arthur mythology Camelot. Scorsese was similarly a creative force behind the scenes on HBO’s Prohibition era crime drama Boardwalk Empire and the 1970s music industry drama Vinyl (which ran for just a single season).
Hirst has already written the pilot episode script for The Caesars, which begins with the young Julius Caesar’s rise to power. Filming on the series (which is being envisioned as a TV drama that will run for multiple seasons) is tentatively slated to get underway in 2019, with production taking place on location in Italy. Although Scorsese called the shots on the pilots for both Boardwalk Empire and Vinyl, it’s not clear yet whether he intends to do the same for The Caesars or if he will be serving as an executive producer on the series only.
Speaking with The Guardian, Hirst says that Scorsese is “totally passionate about the Romans” and has been wanting to make a TV drama about the ancient civilization for years now. Hirst further emphasized that The Caesars will focus in no small amount on Julius Caesar’s experiences as a young man, something he feels hasn’t been properly explored in either film or television before:
“In the movies he’s 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.”
Whereas Scorsese is renowned for the realism and authenticity of his period dramas, Hirst is known for taking more creative liberties in order to make the subject matter of his historical TV series enticing to modern audiences (see how The Tudors in particular cast Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the gluttonous King Henry VIII through all stages of his life). Hirst emphasizes that Scorsese is “very hot on authenticity” during his interview with The Guardian, but also suggests that The Caesars will ultimately be in the vein of his own previous small screen ventures:
“Just like Shakespeare’s history plays, they only start with some historical facts, then the drama takes over. You can’t have both.”
The political maneuvering and machinations of young Julius Caesar ought to make for good historical melodrama storytelling in Hirst’s hands, and Scorsese’s involvement further suggests that The Caesars will make for a compelling meditation on the power dynamics of ancient Rome. It’s plausible that The Caesars will eventually land at The History Channel, given their established relationship with Hirst and the benefits that they continue to reap from the success of Vikings. While it’s not impossible that the show will find its way to Scorsese’s old stomping grounds at HBO instead, the network only aired its own ancient Rome TV series Rome ten years ago and might be all the less inclined to jump on another Scorsese historical drama, following the costly under-performance of Vinyl.
We will keep you posted on The Caesars‘ development as more information comes to light.
Source: The Guardian
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