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Just how bad is Gods Behaving Badly? Based on Marie Phillips’ comic novel about ancient Greek gods gone to seed in in the modern world, the movie was screened in 2013 at the Rome Film Festival (read a review here), then disappeared without a trace. Will we ever get to see Christopher Walken as Zeus, John Turturro as Hades, Edie Falco as Artemis, and Sharon Stone as Aphrodite? If you know of any screening or DVD release, please let Steven know!

Curiously, Greek gods in the modern world has been the premise of a spate of recent fiction. In The Infinities by Man Booker Prize winner John Banville, Greek deities flit about an English manor where the patriarch is dying, playing gleeful and lustful tricks on the inhabitants. Deus Ex Machina by Maria Aragon likewise has the ancient gods complicating life for a modern Londoner, while Olympic Games by Leslie What finds Zeus and Hera at odds in the 21st century. Steven Sherrill’s The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break finds the mythic man-beast keeping his horns down and trying to get by in a trailer park in North Carolina. All these novels owe a debt to Thorne Smith’s 1931 classic Night Life of the Gods, which brought mischievous Olympians to Prohibition-era New York.

Still in development?: Jason and the Argonauts: The Kingdom of Hades, apparently based on the graphic novel of the same name, which follows the fortunes of the Argonauts after the quest for the Golden Fleece—essentially a sequel to the 1963 movie Jason and the Argonauts.The same publisher, under the “Ray Harryhausen Presents” imprint, gave us the graphic novel Wrath of the Titans. This has been a troubled production, with release date repeatedly postponed. (The IMDb page lists Status as “Development Unknown.”)

In production from Séquana Média of France is a 7-part TV series Seven Wonders: Secrets of Lost Monuments—one documentary episode for each wonder plus a single-episode docudrama recounting a visit to the all. The production seeks to take advantage of the latest research plus CGI modeling to present a panoramic tour of the ancient world. (Hopefully the overall accuracy of the series is not represented by the fanciful recreation of the Colossus stradling the harbor of Rhodes.) See a trailer and lots of other info at the official site. See also the item on this page about another Séquana Média production, Olympia: The Origins of the Games. (Was this series ever broadcast or released on DVD? If you have info, please let Steven know!)

In Ovid and the Art of Love, a young boy learning about Ovid in school begins to see ancient Rome come to life around him in his native Detroit. The independent production, the first feature by director and writer Esmé von Hoffman, stars John Savage as Augustus. You can watch a short TV news report about the on-location filming in Detroit here. (IMDb page lists a huge cast but no release date. If you have an update, please let Steven know!)

Said to be in development is The Redemption of Cain, based on the Bible story of the world’s first siblings. One of them is murdered…but it’s not much of a whodunit, is it? Cain and Abel, Romulus and Remus; brothers were always killing each other in the Ancient World! Reports suggest that Will Smith may make his directorial debut with this movie, and rumor has it that the script puts a vampiric twist on the Bible tale. The poster art at left mysteriously appeared at the film’s IMDb page; the cuneiform supposedly translates, “Call Your God,” and promised release in Summer 2015. (Perhaps God did not take the call?) If you have an update, please let Steven know!

Writer-director Tiago Mesquita is said to be in pre-produciton of Caesar, a new film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, which word for word may have more famous lines than any other play. The publicity poster shown here, naming cast members, is now defunct. Anybody got the scoop on this project? Please let Steven know!

Legendary British filmmaker Peter Greenaway (The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover) plans to produce a multi-media project dedicated to “Agrippa, the right-hand man and brother-in-law of the Emperor Augustus.” Greenaway made the announcement in September 2014 at the Museo Archeologico Virtuale at Herculaneum. “I went to Herculaneum first when I was 21,” said Greenaway, “I was fascinated by the power that these ruins have to recount history. For me history does not exist, only the historians who recount it and in their accounts there always is an element of falsehood. Agrippa has always fascinated me because in an era in which there was a great struggle for power, he chose, and in some way accepted, to live in the shadow of the Emperor Augustus. In my story, which will be recounted with a film, an exhibit, a performance and a website, I will make Agrippa die at Pompeii.” Shown here: a still from Greenaway’s The Belly of an Architect, which was shot in Rome.

Young Alexander the Great, about the conqueror’s teenaged years (think “Alexander 90210”), stars Sam Heughan (right) as Alexander and Paul Telfer (of Hercules and Spartacus) as Hephaestion. This movie has been in the can since 2007. If you have more info, please let Steven know! Meanwhile, you can check out the Paul Telfer demo reel at IMBd.

In 53 BC, the Roman army of Crassus was massacred by Parthian forces at the battle of Carrhae. In the 1940s, Oxford scholar Homer H. Dubs speculated that some of Crassus’s Roman soldiers were taken prisoner and eventually found themselves in the Gansu province of Han Dynasty China. From this intriguing material, scripter Kurt Johnstad is working on a movie project for Warner Bros. (Johnstad was co-writer of 300 and 300: Rise of an Empire.) This project apparently has no connection to the 2005 novel Empire of Dragons by Valerio Massimo Manfredi (cover art above), which engaged in similar clash-of-cultures speculation. (Manfredi set his story in A.D. 260, with the capture of the Roman emperor Valerian by the Persians.) Did a “lost legion” of Romans ever end up in China? Read a rather skeptical Wikipedia article about the question here. If you have updates on this project, please let Steven know!

Vin Diesel long ago announced his intention to make his directorial debut and star as Hannibal the Conqueror, the Carthaginian general who crossed the Alps with elephants to menace Rome, working from a script by Oscar-winner David Franzoni (Gladiator, King Arthur) based on the novel Hannibal by Ross Leckie. In April 2014, Vin announced that the project was back in pre-production, and credited his friend and co-star the late Paul Walker for inspiring him to get the project back on track. “He would always say, ‘You need to do Hannibal. It will be your life's work.’ Vin also indicated his intention to expand the project into a trilogy. “We must go further back in time, to grasp the magnitude and relevance of this underserved historic character. The first film in this trilogy will do just that, by introducing us to an even more obscured yet extremely pivotal character, Hannibal’s father.” Holy Melkart, does Vin intend to film Flaubert’s astonishing Salammbo? If you’ve got an update, please let Steven know! (Victor Mature played the role in the 1960 Hannibal, and Alexander Siddig starred in a 2006 BBC telemovie included as an extra in the DVD set Warriors.)

Lost in the glut of religious-themed movies: Nicaea, which begins with the blood-soaked triumph of Christian emperor Constantine at the battle of the Milvian Bridge outside Rome, then proceeds to depict the intrigue and infighting at the Council of Nicaea, which established the official creed of state-sponsored Christianity (and classified dissidents as heretics). The movie’s once-upon-a-time official site (including an interview with hedge fund manager and producer Charles Parlato, and the illustration above) seems to have vanished, but there’s still a facebook page.

Steven is sometimes asked: Why doesn’t Hollywood make your books into movies? Maybe it’s because they’re too busy coming up with better ideas, like…ZvG: Zombies vs. Gladiators. Yes, that’s a real project, possibly to be helmed by veteran horror writer-director Clive Barker; more info here. It’s the latest of a trend of upcoming Ancient World+monster mash-ups (see items about Gladiators vs. Werewolves and Mortis Rex elsewhere on this page). No movies about Roman sleuths in sight.
It had to happen: Gladiators v. Werewolves! Britannia, A.D. 160: When a Roman governor discovers a clan of werewolves, he decides to capture the beasts so he can show them off in the arena—but the fur flies when the werewolves strike back. Official web page is here. According to IMDb, shooting commenced in June 2012…so where is the movie? If you have more info, please let Steven know. There’s more Ancient World monster mayhem upcoming in Mortis Rex and Zombies vs. Gladiators (see items elsewhere on this page).

The Ancient World monster movie Mortis Rex (Latin for “King of the Dead”) is set in A.D. 122, as a disgraced Roman warrior, sent to defend a garrison in remote Scotland from a spate of mysterious killings, must unite with the local Druids to vanquish a terrifying supernatural beast. The project is the brainchild of Hellboy co-writer Peter Briggs. The setting (Hadrian’s Wall and beyond) is similar to 2010’s Centurion and 2011’s The Eagle; there’s more monster mayhem in Roman Britain upcoming in Gladiators v. Werewolves and more supernatural madness with Zombies vs. Gladiators (see items elsewhere on this page). Latest updates may be found at the project’s facebook page. Concept art above by Stuart Jennett.

Among the numerous Bible-inspired movies in development, this may be the most off-beat: Unholy Night, based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, who previously gave us Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. In this take on the Nativity, the Three Wise Men turn out to be professional killers who deliver lots of Hollywood-style blood and gore to liven up the otherwise ho-hum tale of Jesus’ birth. To get an idea of what the movie might look like, check out this animated book trailer.

The Northern Mist is a graphic novel/movie project from writer Patrick O'Brien and Cohort Pictures. In the misty north of England, Roman soldiers battle savage Britons and Picts, as well as an enemy they’ve never encountered before. The horror/action project joins other movies in the works with a supernatural theme set in Roman Briton, including Mortis Rex, Gladiators v. Werewolves, and Zombies vs. Gladiators (see items elsewhere on this page.) Illustration above: “Early stage pencil drawing of Legionnaire Dax. Doing what he does best.” You can keep abreast of progress at the project’s facebook page.

No, not a new movie…but probably soon to be one: Shadow Legion, a 4-part graphic novel from Amigo Comics in which Romans battle monsters, promised for 2013. It’s part of a Roman horror trend exemplified by movie projects like ZvG: Zombies vs. Gladiators (see items elsewhere on this page). Love the cover art by Enrique Lorenzana.

Angelina Jolie as Cleopatra? Producer Scott Rudin (Oscar winner for No Country for Old Men) bought the screen rights to Pultizer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff”s bestseller Cleopatra: A Life and hinted at a movie project to be developed for and with Jolie.

Back in 2012, a story in the New York Times discussed plans for a new TV version of I, Claudius (based on the novel by Robert Graves) with HBO and BBC2 collaborating “to remake the mini-series, with the creative team that produced the HBO series Rome in charge.” (Derek Jacobi catapulted to stardom as the stuttering emperor in the 1976 BBC miniseries; picture at right.) Got an update? Please let Steven know!
A rumor has Brad Pitt taking the title role in Pontius Pilate and playing the Roman governor of Judea who sat in judgment on Jesus,Read a description of the screenplay and an interview with writer Vera Blasi here. If you have more info, please let Steven know! (Photo by Sam Taylor-Wood)
Gianni Nunnari, producer of Alexander, 300, and Immortals, has more irons in the Ancient World fire. Nunnari is working on a movie about the young Julius Caesar based on Conn Iggulden’s Emperor novel series, and Odysseus, an epic costumer based on Homer’s The Oddysey to be helmed by Russian director Fedor Bondarchuk. If you have updates on any of these projects, please let Steven know!

A few years ago the Web buzzed with news that Catherine Zeta-Jones would play Cleopatra in a 3-D musical, Cleo, to be directed by Steven Soderbergh. Although the story has been oft-filmed (most famously with the 1963 Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor in the title role), this Cleo would be Hollywood’s first musical based on the star-crossed lovers—and transposed to 1920s America, with songs by the group Guided by Voices. (No buzz about this project in a long time. Has it been shelved? If you have info, please let Steven know!)

For years, the grapevine buzzed about John Boorman’s ambition to film Marguerite Yourcenar’s classic novel Memoirs of Hadrian. The last round of rumors posited 007 star Daniel Craig as Hadrian; no word on who might play Antinous, the young lover deified by the emperor after drowning in the Nile. For the ultimate in Antinous worship, visit The Sacred Antinous. Got an update? Please let Steven know!

Coming down the chimney one of these years? Nicholas of Myra is about the original St. Nick. No, Virginia, not Santa Claus, but his ancient prototype who attended the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, shortly after Constantine the Great made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. This independent feature, clearly a labor of love, has been in production for years, with a lavish web site. But where is the movie? If you have any release info, please let Steven know!

Will there be a feature film follow-up to the TV series Rome? Executive producer and scripter Bruno Heller has such a project in development with the working title Bona Dea. The story broke here. Actor Kevin McKidd (Vorenus) affirmed that Heller was still working on the script as of late 2010.
Way back in March, 2009, the web buzzed with talk that Scarlett Johansson would star in The Amazon Warrior, the tale of a gladiatrix who exacts vengeance on the army that destroyed her homeland, circa 200 B.C., with a screenplay by the team of Dirk Blackman and Howard McCain (scripters for Outlander and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans). Since then, Scarlett grew up and became an Avenger! Got an update? Please let Steven know!
Spanish auteur Julio Medem (Sex and Lucía) may direct Pericles and Aspasia, an English-language film based on one of antiquity’s great love stories, between the 50-year-old Pericles, ruler of Athens in its fifth century B.C. heyday, and the 24-year-old Aspasia, a free-thinking, sexually liberated beauty who was also a skilled rhetorician. There’s been zero buzz about this project for a while; if you have more info, please let Steven know! (And has anyone out there read the recent novel by Karen Essex about Aspasia, Stealing Athena?)

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