Will Leonardo DiCaprio say I, Claudius?

After a battle that wouldn’t seem out of place in the book itself, producer Scott Rudin has emerged victorious in a bidding war for the rights to Robert Graves’ historical tome I, Claudius.

And if he gets his way, Rudin will nab the services of Leonardo DiCaprio and Departed scribe William Monaghan to star and script. It’s a sneaky move, as the pair had been part of Warner Brothers’ stab at the rights.

In fact, Warners, Working Title and Universal (as well as a rumoured Paramount and New Line) had all been vying for the title, but Rudin scooped them with a $2 million bid. He doesn’t have studio backing, but he does have a deal with Disney, which means that Touchstone and Miramax are the likely destinations for the project.

Graves’ plot – which was turned into an award-winning miniseries by the Beeb back in 1976 – follows the Roman Empire through the eyes of the titular character from the time of Caesar to the crowning of the nutty Nero, and is loaded down with backstabbing, blood and lust. Director Jim Sheridan had been holding the rights and trying to get a movie made, but when his option lapsed, it was shoved on to the auction block.

Can Claudius work today? Well, Rome was popular, so perhaps Leo as a big screen Roman might just fight the toga curse...

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