The 2007 writers’ strike wound up either rushing a lot of films into production or killing them off completely: one of the many projects to bite the dust was an adaption of Robert Harris‘ “Pompeii.” Set to be directed by Roman Polanski, with Scarlett Johansson and Orlando Bloom in the leads, problems with the film’s spiralling budget were only compounded by the impending work stoppage and the feature film was canceled. Polanski went on to film another Harris novel, “The Ghost Writer,” instead. Last spring however, “Pompeii” kicked back to life with Ridley Scott snatching up the rights and looking to take it the television mini-series route and now he’s handed it to one of the most famed screenwriters of all time.
Variety reports that Robert Towne — whose resumé includes “Chinatown,” “The Last Detail” and “Misson: Impossible” — has been tasked with turning the best-selling book into cinematic fare. The period-based tale is centered on Marcus Attilius Primus, a young Roman engineer who works on the Aqua Augusta aqueduct that feeds the ancient cities of the Bay of Naples. While battling a vile real estate speculator who has a water embezzlement scheme, Primus learns that Vesuvius is about to erupt and races to warn his true love before it’s too late.
Television viewers have fallen in love with period fare of late. “Spartacus,” “Game Of Thrones,” “The Borgias,” “The Tudors,” “Pillars of the Earth” and “Camelot” are just some of the series luring audiences recently. No word yet on when this will hit but international rights are already starting to be sold. As HBO‘s “Mildred Pierce” has proven, the mini-series format is a great way to not only allow a story to breathe, but to take a chance on risky material that might not play as well in theaters. While the Polanski/Johannsson/Bloom version will always live as a “what if” we’re curious to see what Towne and Scott cook up here.