Shanghai: Roland Emmerich to Produce Gladiator Series With Chinese Partner

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Roland Emmerich in Shanghai

Based on a 1953 book of the same title, the series is described by the producers as "exploring a side of Rome never before told — the dirty business of entertaining the masses."

Prolific filmmaker Roland Emmerich has lined up a TV project as an executive producer, it was revealed at the Shanghai International Film Festival this week.

The director traveled to Shanghai to meet with his various Chinese financing partners and to speak on a festival panel about the future of science fiction filmmaking.

Emmerich attended a press conference hosted by Chinese production and talent company Er Dong Pictures, unveiling period action TV series Those About to Die, set in the brutal world of the Roman gladiators.

Based on a 1953 book of the same title, the series is described by the producers as "exploring a side of Rome never before told — the dirty business of entertaining the masses, giving the mob what they want most ... blood and sport."

Veteran producer Gianni Nunnari (The Departed, 300) and composer turned producer Harald Kloser (Independence Day: Resurgence, Midway) have also signed on as producers of the series.

The series will be produced by Emmerich's own Centropolis Entertainment, Nunnari's Hollywood Gang Productions banner and Kloser's upstart outfit Street Entertainment. It's unclear at this stage whether Emmerich may also direct on the series. 

Given the setting of the project presentation in Shanghai, China's Er Dong Pictures is expected to come in on the series as a financier and co-producer, but the company declined to specify its involvement when asked by The Hollywood Reporter. Er Dong Pictures has a 12-film co-funding deal with the Hong Kong and Los Angeles-based film investment company Starlight Culture Entertainment, which signed first-look deals with Emmerich and several other high-profile Hollywood directors, including James Wan and Jon M. Chu, in 2017. Starlight also signed a deal this week with Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding.

Emmerch's next major film release will be the WWII action film Midway, starring Woody Harrelson, Luke Evans, Mandy Moore, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas and Dennis Quaid. Set for a U.S. release on Nov. 8 courtesy of Lionsgate, Midway was mostly financed with Chinese capital. Its Middle Kingdom backers include Bona Film Group, Golden Title and Starlight.

Emmerich will follow Midway with the $150 million sci-fi epic Moonfall, which was the biggest U.S. title pre-selling rights at the Cannes Film Market in May.