October 27, 2008 / 9:43 AM / in 10 years

"Spartacus" unshackled with Starz

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Starz is bringing “Spartacus” to life on the small screen, greenlighting a 13-episode series set in the brutal world of gladiators.

The series — developed by “Spider-Man” director Sam Raimi, production partner Rob Tapert and Joshua Donen — will start production in New Zealand early next year, targeted for a summer debut on Starz and its suite of channels. The network touted the series’ production values; it’s estimated that the budget will end up north of $2 million an episode.

“Spartacus” was inspired by the real-life slave of the Roman Republic who in 73 B.C. led a slave revolt that grew to more than 120,000 fighters. Starz said the story will be “reimagined” it for what it calls a generation of TV viewers raised on graphic novels and cutting-edge production technology.

“This is not going to be at all like the 1960s Kirk Douglas film,” said Stephan Shelanski, Starz Entertainment executive vp programing. “We didn’t want your typical sword-and-sandals. It’s going to be fun, fast-moving, full of action and interesting characters and have a little more depth to it than the 1960s film.”

Shelanski added that the show will be produced specifically for a premium cable audience, with “R-rated” action and storytelling. The goal is to accomplish the graphic-novel look and feel of such movies as “300” and “Sin City.” As with “300,” producers also will be looking to cast “Spartacus” with a group of fresh-faced, unknown actors.

“Spartacus” will be one of the first TV series to use an “almost 100% virtual environment,” added William Hamm, executive vp original production at Starz, using live-action actors against virtual sets in the style of “300” and “Sin City.”

“It will bring the younger audience who has grown up on graphic novels and video games this heightened reality; it’s not going to look like anything you’ve seen before, especially on TV,” said Hamm, who previously worked with Raimi and Tapert on the duo’s “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.”

“Spartacus” marks Starz’s second original drama after “Crash,” a series based on the Oscar-winning ensemble drama.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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