From Roman Polanski to the other Paul Anderson? This may be only the second-biggest tragedy to strike the ancient city of Pompeii, but it is certainly the most recent. Four years ago, Roman Polanski planned to mount a massive historical epic based in Pompeii that would have culminated with the eruption of Vesuvius and the destruction of the city. The script was to be based on the Robert Harris novel about Pompeii, but plans were dashed when SAG and WGA strikes loomed.

But other pitches about the city and its tragic, disastrous fate — totally unrelated to the scuttled Polanski film, aside from the basic setting — have circulated, and now Paul W.S. Anderson will make one that is positioned as a big disaster movie with a love story to keep us all emotionally engaged.

THR says that Pompeii is at Summit, and that other sales will take place at Cannes. There’s no cast yet, but even money puts Milla Jovovich in the film somewhere. The script is by Lee Batchler and Janet Scott Batchler.

What is it about, other than lava? So glad you asked. Per the trade the film is set in 79 A.D. and ” revolves around the slave of a shipping tycoon who dreams of the day he can buy his freedom and marry his master’s daughter. What the slave doesn’t know is that she’s already been promised to a corrupt Roman senator, while he’s been sold to another owner.”

And then Vesuvius erupts. The slave, however, has been shipped off to Naples, and so he has to get back to the city and rescue his love and his best friend (a gladiator) “as  fire and ash destroy the only world he’s ever known.” Can you imagine the 3D spectacle of a slave hopping from one cooled lava lump to another, back across the Mediterranean Sea to fiery Pompeii?

Go ahead and insert boilerplate complaints about Paul W.S. Anderson here. What I’ll say to follow up is that I’m happy to see that he’s at least trying something a little bit different. Granted, I’m not thrilled that ‘trying something different’ in this case looks a lot like ‘trying to grow into Roland Emmerich,’ but since I don’t have much say in the matter I’ll sit back and watch what happens. Pompeii should shoot next spring.

Oh, and the Roman Polanski movie that never happened? Ridley Scott is now possibly producing that as a TV miniseries, but as it is one of his five thousand pending projects, we have no real timeline for it.

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