Relativity says aye, 'Claudius'

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Relativity Media has picked up the rights to Robert Graves' classic Roman Empire-set novel "I, Claudius." Jim Sheridan will write the screenplay with longtime collaborator Nye Heron and direct as well.

Graves' 1934 novel recounts the internecine plots and counterplots surrounding Claudius, the fourth emperor of Rome who ruled from 41-54 A.D. The stuttering and handicapped Claudius, born into a murderous, imperial family, used his cunning mind and rivals' misjudgment to not only survive but eventually become one of Rome's greatest emperors.

Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh will produce alongside Sheridan. Relativity's production president Tucker Tooley will serve as an executive producer.

The novel was adapted into the 1937 film of the same name, directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Charles Laughton. But it is best known as the basis for the 1976 BBC miniseries, "I, Claudius," that starred Derek Jacobi as the stuttering Claudius, Sian Phillips as the scheming Livia and John Hurt as the dissolute Caligula.

The tale of Claudius has intrigued talent and execs for decades, and last year the rights to the book, repped by RWSH and AP Watt, were won in a heated bidding war by Scott Rudin, with Leonardo DiCaprio and writer William Monahan attached. That deal ultimately fell through.

CAA-repped Sheridan, known for dramas such as "In America" and "My Left Foot," worked with Relativity on his latest movie, the upcoming "Brothers" starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman. (partialdiff)
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