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Michael Hirst and Martin Scorsese teaming up for The Caesars TV series

Hugo, Martin Scorsese

Story by Jack Foley

MICHAEL Hirst, the British screenwriter behind Vikings and The Tudors, is teaming up with Hollywood director Martin Scorsese to make a series about the Roman Empire.

The Caesars will follow the early rulers of ancient Rome, beginning with the rise to power of Julius Caesar.

The pilot has been written, along with an outline for the rest of the season. The plan is to create a television drama, several seasons long.

Filming is expected to begin next year (2019) in Italy.

Commenting on Scorsese’s involvement, Hirst described the veteran filmmaker as highly knowledgeable and even “passionate” about the Romans.

“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.”

On paper, the union between Hirst and Scorsese looks set to be a match made in TV heaven. Scorsese’s film work includes such revered classics as Goodfellas, The Departed, Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, while his small screen work extends to the classic crime saga Boardwalk Empire.

Hirst, meanwhile, shot to prominence for his screenplay for the 1998 film Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett, which won one Oscar and was nominated for six more, including best picture.

In North America, Vikings drew up to eight million viewers an episode. It has so far had a run of six series, with 90 episodes. And The Tudors spanned four seasons and 37 episodes, won Emmy awards and was nominated for Golden Globes. Jonathan Rhys Meyers starred as a handsome young Henry VIII.

According to Hirst, The Caesars aims to give a new insight into the young Julius Caesar.

He explained: “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.”

However, despite being set in the past, Hirst aims to ensure that the drama will draw parallels with today, adding: “The past and the present are virtually the same to me, because it’s just continuity. With The Tudors and Vikings, we make them seem resonant and relevant to people today.”