Sony, Tandem partner on 'Pompeii' mini

2:45 PM PST 04/11/2010 by Elizabeth Guider, AP

Project relies on same novel as aborted Polanski pic

A movie project about Pompeii that Roman Polanski was set to direct two years ago is being re-imagined as a miniseries by a partnership that includes Sony Pictures TV, Scott Free and German producer Tandem.

As with the aborted Polanski pic, the event mini is based on the bestseller "Pompeii" by Robert Harris and will be unveiled Monday in Cannes during the MIPTV program sales market. (Polanski went on to collaborate with Harris on another pic, "The Ghost Writer," but has no involvement in this epic for the smallscreen.)

Details are still sketchy as to which party will retain which distribution rights on "Pompeii," but Tandem, the company behind another mini based on Ken Follett's "Pillars of the Earth," will likely handle key European territories while Sony retains rights elsewhere.

While the appetite for big-budget miniseries has waxed and waned in the U.S. over the decades, appeal internationally -- especially if they are well made and boast stars -- has consistently been strong.

No word yet on casting or on a broadcast outlet in the U.S. or in Germany for "Pompeii."

But that's one reason the project is being tub-thumbed now -- so that key program buyers can have it on their radar screens during the five-day rendezvous on the Riviera.

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As for the storyline, it unfolds as "both a love story and a thriller, with the historical, apocalyptic backdrop of a city on the precipice of destruction and characters who are totally relatable to a contemporary audience," said SPT exec VP Helen Verno, who will oversee for the Hollywood major studio.

Verno's daughter Judith, who helped bring in the project, will be involved as an exec producer on the suspenser through her Peace Out Prods., as will Scott Free TV head David Zucker.

"We're looking forward to partnering again with Sony Pictures Television and Scott Free, and, with exec producer Judith Verno at the producing helm, we have a team that understands exciting event programming," said Tandem managing director Rola Bauer.

Following the lines of Harris' thriller, the mini will focus on an aqueduct engineer named Marcus Attilius, who finds himself racing against time to keep the military and trade ports on the Naples Bay alive. The young engineer doesn't realize that he's also racing against one of the deadliest forces of nature.

"The creation of worlds -- specifically those historical worlds which continue to capture the popular imagination -- is what we love to do and do best. 'Pompeii' is a strong and compelling character drama set against a backdrop of a flourishing but ultimately doomed civilization -- exactly what makes great event television," Ridley Scott added.

In addition to minis like "Pillars" (which will air on Starz Stateside), Tandem is the Munich-based company behind "Lost City Raiders" for Syfy and the Patricia Cornwell telepics "At Risk" and "The Front" currently airing on Lifetime.

Judith Verno has developed and produced TV movies and minis for SPT for 12 years, including "Who is Clark Rockefeller?" and "Into Thin Air."

Scott Free TV, set up 15 years ago by film directors Ridley and Tony Scott, is behind the CBS drama "The Good Wife" and the TNT mini "The Company."
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