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October 7, 2015

I, Claudius set for remake

by Allison Waldman, posted Sep 12th 2008 2:03PM
I claudiusOne of the greatest TV mini-series of all time was I, Claudius. It was riveting TV and every time it's been repeated since it premiered in 1976, I've watched it religiously. The Robert Graves novel about the Roman empire, including the mad Caligula, is now set for a remake. Director Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot) will be helming an adaptation of I, Claudius with Nye Heron and Sheridan penning the script.

At this point, the project seems headed to the big screen. That would be a plus insofar as the set design and lush look. However, one of the benefits of the 1976 version was the length. It was 13 episodes, a hour each (sans commercials). That meant the complexities of Graves' novel -- and there were dozens of them -- not to mention the enormous cast of characters, could be played out.

The story tells of Rome's most unlikely emperor, Claudius, who ruled from 41-54 A.D. He was a stuttering, limping boy who was never considered smart enough or savvy enough to emerge as a successor to the emperor. Despite the odds against him, and thanks to the treachery, murder and political maneuvering all around him, Claudius actually became emperor and ruled successfully.

The plot description doesn't do the story justice. That 1976 version was amazing and made stars of little known British actors Derek Jacobi as Claudius, John Hurt as Caligula and Sian Phillips as the evil Livia. Also in the cast -- with hair -- was a hunky Patrick Stewart, pre-Star Trek: The Next Generation of course.

There was another version of I, Claudius; a 1937 film by Josef von Sternberg that starred Charles Laughton but never was completed. Last year, Scott Rudin was trying to get rights to the project for Leonardo DiCaprio. It would have been a stretch to see Leo as Claudius, but he might have pulled it off. Perhaps he still can if he's willing to work with Sheridan.

I'm curious to see how this plays out, and if it does reach the movies, I'll go see it. But I worry that it may be spoiled; the same way I'm worried about this new AMC version of The Prisoner.

I, Claudius was a brilliant piece of work, filled with everything that makes great storytelling. There's ambition, jealousy, sex, violence, incest, depravity, politics, poison and humor. I'll never forget Livia's line after having killed Augustus, the emperor, her husband, she tells Tiberius, "Don't touch the figs." I hope Sheridan is the right flimmaker to make it great again.

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Brent McKee

You could never show the original "I, Claudius" on PBS today, not with the direction the FCC has been travelling courtesy of Kevin Martin and groups like the Parents Television Council.

September 13 2008 at 5:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why on earth does one need to re-make perfection?

Haven't the scathing reviews of this week's abysmal remake of "The Women" (SHAME on you, Diane English!!) meant anything to anyone?

That mini-series is flawless. Aren't there other stories people can tell?

September 13 2008 at 10:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Karen's comment
Eric Cotton

Agreed. "I, Claudius" may not have had the most expensive and glamorous sets, or big-budget special effects, but it had what many Hollywood productions seem to lack: a good story and exceptional writing. And, without the exemplary talents of Derek Jacobi and cast, it just wouldn't - couldn't! - measure up!

September 14 2008 at 7:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would love to see a re-make but was hoping that the ROME series on HBO would have spawned a similar mini series for Claudius (on Showtime perhaps).

Can't see a major motion picture equaling all the good stuff in the BBC series. But I would go in any case.

September 12 2008 at 7:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Caligula's "Goodnight, great-grandmother" was pretty amazing, too.

September 12 2008 at 3:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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