Screenwriting god Robert Towne (Chinatown, The Last Detail) is to adapt Robert Harris' historical disaster novel Pompeii for a new television mini-series, co-financed by Sony Pictures and executive produced by Gladiator director Ridley Scott. Sky have just announced they will screen the series exclusively in the U.K. in 2012 at an announcement made at the MipTV international programming market in Cannes. Harris' novel is an uncompromising vision of the final 72 hours before the famous natural disaster that destroyed the glamorous city of Pompeii when Mount Vesuvius erupted. By Hollywood terms it's a narrative that is fairly common-place... but the intrigue here is the fact it was based on a true story and has a beautiful setting that could translate to some spectacular imagery. There's also a Titantic-esque doomed fictional love intrigue set around a real event as the novel is mainly focused on Marcus Attilius, a young Engineer who is desperate to survive the disaster with his newly found love, Corelia. Four years ago, before Roman Polanski adapted Harris' novel The Ghost for the big screen, the Polish born veteran director had spent months trying to get an adaptation of Pompeii onto the big screen and had locked two Hollywood stars, Orlando Bloom and Scarlett Johansson to lead. When the epic production was delayed in 2007, if I remember rightly over fears of how the budget was spiraling, the stars had to drop out and the producers never could revive the picture to get it in anywhere near camera's. Frustrated by the delays, Polanski turned his intention to The Ghost and the rest is history. Now Sony & Sky are gunning for t.v. - perhaps buoyed by how popular shows such as Rome have become on our small screens. Though I do wonder if Polanski remains somewhat involved, perhaps even as director? After all, Polanski/Towne's partnership on Chinatown is legendary. Some quotes from the press release; Ridley Scott, Executive Producer, said:
"I am thrilled that Robert will bring his trademark vision to this remarkable project. In portraying an historical world on the brink of destruction, he will no doubt capture and engage audiences globally. His adaptation will truly make for an astonishing television event."
Robert Towne added:
All of us, I think, have fantasies about living in the past and POMPEII uniquely allows you to indulge that fantasy. The Harris book tells a compelling story with contemporary relevance. If you want an idea of what it was like to live life back then, POMPEII is it."
Pompeii will air on Sky Atlantic HD in 2012. A fantastic novel, that gets a second chance at seeing life...