A few years ago, Roman Polanski was set to direct Scarlett Johansson and Orlando Bloom in the period epic "Pompeii" based on the novel by Robert Harris. Unfortunately, a spiralling budget and a subsequent writer's strike ended up putting the kibosh on the project, with Polanski eventually tackling another Harris novel, "Ghost Writer" instead.
Well, the project has come back to life in the shape of a four-hour mini-series that will be produced by Ridley Scott, who has no shortage of affection for ambitious period fare. A co-production between Sony Pictures Television and Germany's Tandem Communications is summarized as a "is a thriller about the race to survive the looming disaster of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in ancient Italy." But with four hours to tell the story, we imagine it will delve a bit more deeply. Here's the book synopsis from Publisher's Weekly:
In this fine historical by British novelist Harris (Archangel; Enigma; Fatherland), an upstanding Roman engineer rushes to repair an aqueduct in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, which, in A.D. 79, is getting ready to blow its top. Young Marcus Attilius Primus becomes the aquarius of the great Aqua Augusta when its former chief engineer disappears after 20 years on the job. When water flow to the coastal town of Misenum is interrupted, Attilius convinces the admiral of the Roman fleet-the scholar Pliny the Elder-to give him a fast ship to Pompeii, where he finds the source of the problem in a burst sluiceway. Lively writing, convincing but economical period details and plenty of intrigue keep the pace quick, as Attilius meets Corelia, the defiant daughter of a vile real estate speculator, who supplies him with documents implicating her father and Attilius's predecessor in a water embezzlement scheme. Attilius has bigger worries, though: a climb up Vesuvius reveals that an eruption is imminent. Before he can warn anyone, he's ambushed by the double-crossing foreman of his team, Corvax, and a furious chase ensues. As the volcano spews hot ash, Attilius fights his way back to Pompeii in an attempt to rescue Corelia. Attilius, while possessed of certain modern attitudes and a respect for empirical observation, is no anachronism. He even sends Corelia back to her cruel father at one point, advising her to accept her fate as a woman. Harris's volcanology is well researched, and the plot, while decidedly secondary to the expertly rendered historic spectacle, keeps this impressive novel moving along toward its exciting finale.There are no details of a director or cast at this time. Reading through that synopsis we think this is the first disaster flick with a water embezzlement subplot. Oh, the intrigue!