Rudin rules 'Claudius'

DiCaprio, Monahan eye project

Beating several suitors — including Warner Bros. Pictures, in a deal worth seven figures — producer Scott Rudin has pick up the film rights to Robert Graves' Roman Empire-set novel, "I, Claudius."

Leonardo DiCaprio and screenwriter William Monahan, who worked together on "The Departed," are circling the project, though no offers have been made.

"Claudius" is not yet set up at a studio, though sources said it likely will land at Walt Disney Studios, where Rudin's shingle is housed. If that takes place, the adult-oriented project most likely would land at the studio's specialty films division Miramax or its Touchstone Pictures label.

Graves' 1934 novel "I, Claudius," recounts the internecine plots and counterplots surrounding Clauxdius, the fourth emperor of Rome, who ruled from 41-54 A.D.

The novel previously was adapted into the 1937 film of the same name, directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Charles Laughton as the beleaguered emperor. 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.