Gladiator co-writer David Franzoni is returning to the arena for Colosseum, a drama series at Stephen David Entertainment (Sons Of Liberty) that is set in the world of the Roman Empire’s gladiatorial games.

This marks the first major drama project announced since the Banijay Group-owned SDE brought in former History GM Dirk Hoogstra as chief creative officer with the goal to make a push into scripted programming.

David and Hoogstra will executive produce Colosseum along with Franzoni. Written by Franzoni, the series is slated to begin production in SDE’s New Zealand studio in 2017. It is currently being shopped to networks.

Using the gladiator arena and its deadly games as the backdrop, Colosseum is described as a multi-layered drama that deals with the lives of the gladiators and the powerful men and women who attempt to use them as political pawns.

“The Colosseum was a mad machine meting out hope, death and spectacle in obscenely entertaining portions,” Franzoni said. “This is a chance to embrace the beast; its workers, interns, slaves, creatures and geniuses – the shadow community that truly ruled Rome.”

Franzoni shared in Gladiator‘s Best Picture Oscar as a producer. He also earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing the Roman Empire-set epic starring Russell Crowe. Franzoni also penned acclaimed historical-based films such as Amistad and King Arthur.

“We are incredibly excited to be working with David Franzoni on Colosseum, a project that exemplifies the ambition of SDE and is perfectly aligned with our brand,” Stephen David said. “The reason SDE & Banijay brought Dirk on board was to develop series that not only sell into the U.S. marketplace, but also have inherent international value.”

Franzoni’s company is probably best known for its docudrama series that blend documentary and re-enactments, including Sons Of Liberty and The Men Who Built America at History, as well as The Making Of The Mob franchise and The American West, which airs on AMC.

“I haven’t come across an opportunity like this since Vikings,” said Hoogstra, who developed the hit period drama while at History Channel. “It’s incredibly rare to find a project with a writer of David Franzoni’s caliber, that you can simply put up a billboard and people will say, ‘I want to watch that.’”

Franzoni is repped by Paradigm Talent Agency.