Gladiator Writer Turns To Constantine

David Franzoni scripts new Roman epic

Not a new movie involving the DC Comics warlock (although that may be happening elsewhere, sort of), the Constantine now in development at 1019 Entertainment is an old-school Roman epic. Constantine I was the founder of the Byzantine empire and the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. His immense life has caught the imagination of screenwriter David Franzoni (Gladiator, King Arthur), with Ralph Winter (X-Men), Terry Botwick (TV's Zorro), and ex-baseball star Mike Piazza producing.

Ex-baseball star? Yes, you read that right. While he has no obvious history in film (aside form appearing as himself), former Major League hero Piazza appears to be one of the prime movers and shakers behind this project. "I've always been interested in the Roman Empire," he says, "and this peaked when I visited Rome. The spread of Christianity during Constantine's reign struck me as a huge turning point in human history and I think film is the best medium to capture such a significant moment."

The screenplay apparently takes the death of Galerius, the previous Roman emperor following the abdication of Diocletian, as its starting point. The brutal Galerius was a fierce opponent and persecutor of Christianity, but relented and issued an edict of toleration just before his death in 311. Constantine officially legalised Christianity in 313, and the focus of the proposed film seems to be on the power struggles leading to that moment, and to the founding of New Rome, which would become known as Constantinople.

Playing down the religious angle and playing up the Gladiator spin, however, Franzoni says that, "Although one of the most revered figures in the history of the world, Constantine was above all, a man. Portraying his loves, fears and his drive to simply survive, make him very much a Maximus-style hero."

There's no start date or studio attached as yet.