HBO, BBC Teaming Up to Rome

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Home Box Office and the British Broadcasting Corp. are teaming up to co-produce a $60 million dramatic series about ancient Rome, officials said Monday.

The first season of 12 episodes of the epic Rome
-- a saga of two ordinary Roman soldiers and their families -- is slated to air on HBO and BBC Two in 2005. Production for the series will be based at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios, with location shooting in Europe and north Africa.

"Like HBO, the BBC has a strong tradition of success in projects of this massive scope," HBO chairman Chris Albrecht said in a prepared statement. "Our unprecedented partnership on this exciting series will result in memorable entertainment."

Rome is one of the largest co-production deals ever by the BBC for an American series, and it is the first series co-production between the two networks. HBO and the BBC previously partnered on a miniseries, Band of Brothers
, which won the 2002 Emmy Award for best miniseries.

HBO would not officially comment on the cost of Rome
, but sources familiar with the situation said it is in the $5 million-per-episode range, which would make it one of the priciest TV series ever.

"This is one of the most ambitious projects I have come across, and its epic scale is inspiring," said Jana Bennett, the BBC’s director of programs and former general manager of The Learning Channel.

"We have not attempted to bring the ancient world to life since the seminal series I, Claudius, so this one was too hard to resist," she added.

Rome kicks off in 51 B.C. after Gaius Julius Caesar has conquered Gaul following eight years of war.

The series’ executive producers are Bruno Heller (who will also write most of the episodes), William J. MacDonald, John Milius (Apocalypse Now
, Clear and Present Danger) and Anne Thomopoulos, senior vice president of original programming for HBO. Gareth Neame, the BBC’s head of drama commissioning, is executive producer for the BBC.

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