As epics starring Mescal and Hopkins go toga to toga over props and sets, it’s . . .
GET ready for sandals at dawn! Sir Ridley Scott’s hotly anticipated Gladiator sequel, starring Paul Mescal, is going toe to toe (and toga to toga) with another gladiator epic: a TV drama called Those About To Die starring Sir Anthony Hopkins.
By complete coincidence, both projects start production at the end of this month, and I’m told there has been rivalry over everything from shooting locations to props.
Those About To Die will be filmed at the fabled Cinecitta studios in Rome; while Gladiator 2 will be shot mostly in Malta, with some studio work in the UK.
Sources indicate that Ridley Scott, 85, was ‘peeved’ not to be able to shoot in Italy but the other production seems to have beaten him to that prime site.
Scott did, however, make the original Gladiator in Malta (where there are generous tax breaks for film makers), and some of his forthcoming epic Napoleon was filmed there, too.
The budgets are immense. Those About To Die, which will tell the story of how Romans were provided with bloodthirsty entertainment in the Colosseum, is budgeted at $140 million (£116 million) for ten episodes — which mean it’s one of the most expensive TV shows ever made.
That cost means it’s more per episode than The Crown; on a par with The Mandalorian — and just a shade behind House Of The Dragon. Gladiator 2 will likely cost even more. In the UK, it can be revealed, a deal has been struck to show the TV series on the BBC.
As well as Sir Anthony, who will play the Roman emperor Vespasian, it will feature British actor Jojo Macari (Sex Education), as the emperor’s son Domitian. Tom Hughes (Prince Albert in TV series Victoria) also appears.
Based on author Daniel Mannix’s book, it is being directed by Roland Emmerich, who made Independence Day. In the U.S. it will go out on NBCUniversal.
Both projects have enormous casts and hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of extras. A ‘situation’ has arisen over props, with an unprecedented run on tunics, swords, sandals and helmets.
I’m told Gladiator 2 has nabbed every Roman prop in existence, and the TV production has had to resort to making most of theirs from scratch.
Those About To Die will come out next spring and Gladiator 2 in November 2024.