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Trendus Maximus: 'Gladiator' Fever

Russell Crowe’s hit inspired a legion of film ideas set in ancient Rome

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Rome is on fire, and this time you can’t blame the Visigoths. Not only has Gladiator‘s summer conquest catapulted Russell Crowe to superstardom, but it has spawned a legion of sword-and-sandal spin-offs. Leading the pack — at least in terms of sheer strangeness — is a teen-oriented pitch for a ”coming-of-age comedy set in ancient Rome” cooked up by 102 Dalmatians scribes Kristen Buckley and Brian Regan. Fox snapped up the idea last week and hopes to begin filming in February, say insiders. ”We’ve utilized all the elements of the time,” says Buckley, ”the gladiators and the baths and the orgies.” Adds Regan: ”There’s a lot of comparisons with contemporary America. It was a very sexed-up society.” Bring It On with lions — yeah!

TV’s planning a toga party of its own. NYPD Blue‘s David Milch is in early talks with Gladiator emperor DreamWorks for an hour-long cop drama set in Caesar’s salad days. (Dennis Franz in a toga? Can’t wait!) Viewers probably won’t get a peek inside the arena until at least 2001, but rumors are flying that Gladiator‘s Ridley Scott will be involved (although a source close to Scott says it’s highly unlikely he’ll direct the pilot). With all this Roman synergy in the air, could pay-per-view gladiator bouts be far behind? Only if Hollywood’s got the Gaul.