EXCLUSIVE: In a competitive situation with two networks bidding, NBC has landed Cleopatra, a period drama about the famous Egyptian queen produced by Di Bonaventura Pictures TV and ABC Studios. The project will be written by Michael Seitzman who penned the ABC/ABC Studios drama pilot Americana this past season. Seitzman is executive producing with Lorenzo Di Bonaventura and Dan McDermott.
Cleopatra is one of the most popular figures in ancient history. The last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, she is known mostly for her beauty and her liaisons with Rome’s Julius Caesar and Mark Antony and her tragic suicide that was followed by the fall of Egypt, which became a Roman province. The NBC project is described as an epic romance set in a world of sorcery, gods and monsters that centers on Cleopatra, Mark Antony and Julius Caesar. The young queen makes a sacred pact with a goddess to win back her throne, igniting a curse and an infamous love triangle that changes the course of history, forever ending the 4,000 year dominion of the Pharaoh.
There have been numerous screen adaptations of the story of Cleopatra, most notably the 1963 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor. There is also a high-profile new Cleopatra movie percolating at Sony, with David Fincher attached to direct, Angelina Jolie to star and Scott Rudin to produce. Surprisingly, there have not been major Cleopatra-centered series projects I can think of… until now. (Cleopatra was recently featured as a peripheral character on HBO’s Rome.)
Cleopatra stems from WME-repped Seitzman’s overall deal with ABC Studios where the North Country writer has been since 2008. His pilot Americana last season attracted Phillip Noyce as director and Anthony LaPaglia as star and came very close to a series order. CAA-repped Di Bonaventura Pictures TV also is under an overall deal at ABC Studios. In its first season, the company landed a series on the air, ABC’s upcoming Zero Hour. In addition to Cleopatra, the pod recently sold the Texas militia drama pitch Founding Fathers to ABC with Rich D’Ovidio writing.
This marks ABC Studios’ first major sale outside of ABC this development season. Cleopatra joins several other projects that have received put pilot/pilot production commitments so far: Alex Kurtzman/Bob Orci/Len Wiseman’s Sleepy Hollow at Fox, a McG/Byron Balasco soap at ABC, a Rand Ravich drama at NBC and Hart Hanson’s Backstrom at CBS.