Rome, 476AD. The Roman Empire is under threat. A mighty force for almost 500 years, at its height Rome’s power spread from Mesopotamia in the east to the Iberian peninsula in the west, from the Rhine and Danube in the north to Egypt in the south. This story follows the events surrounding the historical capture of Romulus Augustus and his imprisonment on the island of Capri.
On the eve of the ceremony to crown twelve-year-old Romulus Augustus as the new emperor, the Barbarian general Odoacer arrives in Rome to make a deal with Orestes, patrician and father of the young Caesar. Odoacer makes demands on the power of the Roman Empire, in fair exchange for his decade-long support of the Roman legions in the east. Orestes refuses.
On the day of the coronation, as the whole of Rome gathers to watch the proceedings, Ambrosinus, the shaman who is a mentor and tutor to Romulus, predicts danger. Orestes is worried for his son’s safety and appoints Aurelius, the tribune of the fourth legion, as his personal guard. That night Aurelius and his legionnaires are confronted by a real danger—Odoacer and his army of Goths have returned to the outskirts of Rome to conquer the city.
With a deafening roar, the Barbarian army storm the city. A terrible battle ensues, the brutal invaders show no mercy and blood flows through the streets.
With Orestes and his wife Julia slaughtered, Romulus is captured along with Ambrosinus and both are taken to the island fortress of Capri built by the emperor Tiberius. It is there that Romulus finds the mythical sword of Caesar that holds the prophecy ‘One edge to defend, one to defeat; In Britannia was I forged…to fit the hand of he...who is destined to rule’.
But not all the Roman legionnaires are dead. Aurelius is alive and when he learns that the Byzantine Empire will give Romulus sanctuary, he embarks on the journey to the coast accompanied by a small group of his men and a mysterious, black-clad Byzantine warrior. On the journey, Aurelius discovers what lies behind the black clothing—a young, beautiful woman called Mira.
Thanks to the strategic cunning of Ambrosinus and the fighting skill of Aurelius and Mira, Romulus is freed. But when the group arrive on shore, they learn that the Byzantines have joined forces with the Goths. Faced with such betrayal, the only course of action is to reach the one legion still loyal to Rome—the ninth legion in Britannia.
As they set off on their dangerous trek North in search of the last legion, Romulus discovers a new father figure in his protector Aurelius and together they embark on a new beginning.
Doug Lefler Interview
(The Trades, Aug 17, 2007, by Scott Juba)
When it comes to making movies, Doug Lefler has just about done it all. He has worked as an animator, a second-unit director, a producer, a writer and a storyboard artist. He took on the role of director for “The Last Legion,” which opens today.
“The movie is about the last emperor of Rome,” Lefler explains. “The story starts with the fall of the Roman Empire. What was interesting to me about the story when they first sent me the script was that it deals with these history-altering events, but it’s seen through the eyes of a twelve-year-old boy.”
Lefler assembled an all-star cast for the film, which includes Ben Kingsley and Colin Firth. “I had such a tremendous cast,” he says. “It was really a director’s dream. All of my cast were so dedicated to this project. In their opinion, it was a very unique experience, because there was not a cynical voice amongst them. Nobody was doing it for a paycheck. Everybody was into it. They would read books about Roman military strategy in their spare time.”
As with all film projects, Lefler says time and budget proved to be challenges during the production of the movie. “I’ve never worked on anything where I’ve had enough time or money to do it,” he says with a laugh. “And I don’t know anybody who doesn’t deal with that. My friend Sam Raimi, while working on 'Spider-Man 3,' had similar complaints.”
In anticipation of such concerns, Lefler says he eliminates as much unnecessary baggage from a film as possible before shooting begins. “One of the first things I’ll do is go through and look at what I can get rid of that’s going to cost a lot of money. I know I’m never going to have enough money to do the things I really want to do, so anything I can change or fake or lose, I’ll start by eliminating those. Then, I focus all the efforts on the things that are dearest to my heart.”
Despite the fact that Lefler’s diverse production roles gave him a great deal of filmmaking experience, Lefler says he never intended to be a director until others urged him to consider making the transition to directing. “I just really wanted to be a good storyboard artist, so I wanted to learn as much as I could about filmmaking and storytelling. Eventually, I worked with enough directors I respected who told me I should try to direct. Then, Sam Raimi gave me my first opportunity. I had been a storyboard artist on a film we had worked on called 'Army of Darkness.' I storyboarded the film for him, and he offered me a chance to do three days of second-unit directing just to get my feet wet. Then, three days became three weeks, and we’ve been working off and on ever since.”
He adds, “What’s interesting about directing, and maybe it’s true with everything, but you never know if you’re going to take to it until you get into the thick of it. I didn’t know how bad I wanted to direct until the first time I was going to direct and somebody tried to take the job away from me. I’ve never done a film when somebody hasn’t tried to take the job away from me. When that happens, and you have to fight to keep it, suddenly you realize how much it means to you.”
Given how strongly Lefler has taken to directing, it seems certain that Lefler doesn’t intend “The Last Legion” to be his final foray into directing.
Quotes from Stars Attending the Premiere
(Gulf News, Apr 10. 2007, by Shireena Al Nowais)
I caught up with Sir Ben Kingsley during the premiere of The Last Legion at Emirates Palace...During the 15-minute one on one interview arranged for tabloid!, Kingsley is charming, patient and down-to-earth. He answers my questions in what I like to describe as "simple English". This I believe was subconscious and while I usually find it offensive, coming from Ben Kingsley it is very charming and considerate—as is everything about him...
"I loved my role in The Last Legion because the film is about British mythology which is an important part of the British culture. It is where history and mythology meet. My character is part of King Arthur's circle of advisers. And (in the movie) while the Roman Empire is collapsing at the same time another empire is rising."
Alexander Siddig plays a small role in The Last Legion (Theodorus Andronikos). He has also played several diverse characters over a long and varied career....For the time being, Siddig says he is happy playing Arab roles. "I don't feel like I am being typecast in Arab roles. That would be like asking a woman if she feels that she is being typecast in a woman's role. But for now, I am happy playing these roles."
Who could forget the adorable Thomas Sangster and his crush in Love Actually? Still adorable, Sangster looks a lot older than he did in Nanny McPhee and Love Actually. In The Last Legion this 16 year old plays a different and central role in the film.
"I didn't find the role hard. I was able to relate to the character which is what I try to do in all my roles. The character (Romulus Augustus) is kind of a lonely boy and his mother and father want him to become powerful. So I sort of sympathise with him."
He enjoyed doing the movie "because ancient Rome was built for us, it wasn't blue screen or anything like that."
MGM's pipeline widening
(The Hollywood Reporter, June 1, 2006, by Tatiana Siegel)
MGM is continuing to beef up its domestic theatrical distribution operations and has added three Weinstein Co. releases to its slate, the company said Wednesday....The Weinstein Co. will continue to oversee the marketing for its titles.
"The Last Legion," based on Valerio Massimo Mandredi's novel of the same name, is scheduled for a Jan. 19 release. The Doug Lefler-helmed film, set against the backdrop of the fall of Rome, stars Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley.
Screening the goods
(The Hollywood Reporter, May 21, 2006, by Charles Masters)
Producer/financier Tarak Ben Ammar said the move to jump the gun on the Marche du Film and screen the three Dino de Laurentiis pictures he is backing a day ahead of the market's opening has paid dividends. "I've closed deals worth $137 million on the three pictures, including what's been done in Cannes," Ben Ammar said, with deals on a number of major territories still pending. "When you have big movies, there is always a demand." The Tunisian producer said he has offers on all three pictures for the U.K. Some or all of the films are still available for Scandinavia, Japan and Spain.
The screenings included...work-in-progress screenings of the Hannibal Lecter prequel "Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask" starring Gaspard Ulliel and "The Last Legion," a Roman tale starring Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley. Ben Ammar said the pictures had a combined budget of $170 million. The Weinstein Co. has committed to $15 million in P&A on "Guilty" and $25 million on "Legion," both of which will be released in January...All three will be released in France by Ben Ammar's distribution outfit Quinta...
Sex on legs! Me?
(Daily Record, Oct 21, 2005, by John Millar)
He's one of the sexiest men on legs after his starring role as Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, but it's exactly those legs that are worrying Colin Firth. Famed and adored for playing romantic dashing leads and no stranger to dressing up for a part, movie hunk Firth was worried his latest role might make him more comedy star than swoon material.
Off to Tunisia and Slovakia to film The Last Legion, an epic drama set during the end of the Roman Empire, the 45-year-old plays a seasoned Roman general guarding the boy emperor from ferocious barbarians.
But it's the costumes—and his legs—which are playing on his mind. He said: "Whether you have the build or not, you can be killed in a costume.
"Russell Crowe didn't look ridiculous, but even if you have the most incredible physique there is still the danger of looking comical flaunting it in a skirt.
"You might become some kind of cheesy erotic fantasy."
And he added, clearly concerned about how he might look: "It is dangerous if you have beautiful legs and dangerous if you have legs like pipe cleaners. I can leave you to guess what applies to me."
Luckily producers have set The Last Legion, which also stars fellow Scots Peter Mullan, James Cosmo and John Hannah, in a period where fashions of the day mean he is covered up.
Colin said: "I thank my blessings that the film takes place at a time when they were out of mini skirts and wearing slightly more dignified apparel.
"I have done masses of the more balletic style of sword fighting, but this type of combat is more cut and thrust."
Colin is relieved he is more covered up because he is only too aware that even some of the hunkiest stars of Hollywood, like Brad Pitt in Troy, have some difficulties with that sort of outfit. (Read full article here)
My Firth My Last My Everything
(Empire, Oct 10, 2005)
At last night's Nanny McPhee premiere, Empire managed to quash their Mr Darcy blushes for long enough to find out what Colin Firth and onscreen son Thomas Sangster were up to next, only to find that both are filming Doug Lefler's debut feature, The Last Legion, in Slovakia.
Sangster coolly deflected Empire's questioning saying: "I can’t say too much but it’s about Ancient Rome. I play Caesar and Colin is kind of like my bodyguard I suppose." Sangster 1, Empire nil.
Luckily for this news piece, Colin Firth proved to be a little more loose-lipped on the subject, and The Last Legion sounds like it's a good leap away from the cosy comedy of Nanny: "This is fighting off Saxons and Goths and the menaces of the ancient world," said People magazine's Hottest Man Alive. "It’s an adventure story and I think it has an intimacy about it because, unlike a lot of these things with massive battles, it’s a group of stragglers, about seven people trying to survive and you get to know each other very well under those circumstances.
The film is adapted from the novel by renowned historical writer Valerio Manfredi. Sangster, who played the eldest of Firth's brood in Nanny McPhee, stars as Romulus Augustus, the last emperor of Rome, who flees the city to Britain to track down a group of supporters while Firth's character Aurelius follows him to keep him out of harm's way.
"We’re in a bit of a father and son role there as well really," says Firth. "It’s Ancient Rome you see, so I’m appointed to guard this last, child emperor at the moment where the whole thing collapses. Apparently this is true, that the Goths, when they finally did sack Rome, spared the life of the Emperor because he was so young. We don’t know any more, but the writer just supposed, 'Well, what about the guy who was sworn to protect him? Is he going to carry on protecting him even though he’s not the Emperor any more?' It’s about that kind of relationship."
Aishwarya Rai enlists in De Laurentiis' Last Legion
(Screendaily, July 26, 2005, byTim Dams)
Aishwarya Rai has joined the cast of Dino De Laurentiis’ The Last Legion, which begins filming in Tunisia on August 5. The Bollywood star joins previously confirmed leads Colin Firth and Sir Ben Kingsley.
Directed by Doug Lefler, The Last Legion is a Dino De Laurentiis presentation produced by Martha De Laurentiis and Raffaella De Laurentiis. It is also being produced with Quinta Communications’ Tarak Ben Ammar and British co-producers Chris Curling and Phil Robertson of Zephyr Films.
The production will move from Tunisia to Slovakia in September. Filming is scheduled to wrap at the end of October.
Harvey and Bob Weinstein’s provisionally titled The Weinstein Company has acquired North American distribution rights to The Last Legion. All other territories are being handled by producers consultant Pamela Pickering, at Dino De Laurentiis Productions in Los Angeles.
Rounding off the cast are 15-year old Thomas Sangster (Love Actually, Nanny McPhee) who has signed to play the young Romulus Augustus; Peter Mullan, John Hannah and veteran Scottish actor James Cosmo.
Roman holiday for Rai
(Variety, July 26, 2005, by Adam Dawtrey)
Aishwarya Rai has joined the cast of "The Last Legion," which will be directed by Doug Lefler for producer Dino De Laurentiis. The sword-and-sandal epic, which starts shooting Aug. 5 in Tunisia, already stars Colin Firth, Ben Kingsley and Thomas Sangster.
Based on Valerio Massimo Manfredi's bestseller, the movie is set in 470AD as the Roman empire crumbles. It's the story of Rome's last emperor, the 12-year-old Romulus Augustus, who escapes the rebels over-running the city and embarks on a perilous trek to Britain with a small band of companions to track down his last legion.
Peter Mullan, John Hannah and James Cosmo play supporting roles.
The independently-financed pic is produced by Martha and Raffaella De Laurentiis, in partnership with Tarak Ben Ammar's Quinta Communications and British co-producers Chris Curling and Phil Robertson of Zephyr Films. North American rights have been presold to the Weinstein Co. as part of a three-pic deal including "Decameron" and "Young Hannibal."
Ash goes to Hollywood, finally!
(Rediff, June 20, 2005, by Subhash K Jha)
Aishwarya Rai begins work on her first Hollywood project this August. The film, entitled The Last Legion, will be shot in Tunisia, Capri and Slovakia. It is a classic period drama featuring Ben Kingsley (Gandhi) and Colin Firth (Bridget Jones' Diary), with Ash as the only female lead.
Ash isn't allowed to speak about the costume drama as yet. But it's reliably learnt that the Dino De Laurentiis production is to be shot with an estimated $70 million budget. The project's buzz was so positive at Cannes last month that Harvey Weinstein (who recently left Miramax to start his own production and distribution company with his brother, Bob) immediately bought the North American distribution rights to Last Legion.
Doug Lefler, who directed several episodes of the television shows Hercules and J.A.G., and served as the second unit director on Spider-Man, will direct the film.
Restraining from commenting on The Last Legion, Ash spoke about her international career. "There never was any doubt in my mind about which way my career abroad would go. Only the doubters back home seemed to feel I was imagining the offers from abroad, when in fact they were coming in constantly.
"Yes, I've been offered several international projects which I couldn't do because of date problems. When it came to choosing between a film in Bollywood and its international counterpart, I was very clear I'd always opt for the former," she says.
All said and done, Ash's career abroad is starting now. After (Gurinder Chadha's husband) Paul Mayeda Berges' Mistress Of Spices and Jagmohan Mundhra's Provoked where she plays Indian characters for an international audience, in The Last Legion she'll finally play a character that has nothing to do with her nationality.
Blighty fund sets pic slate
(Variety, June 17, by Adam Dawtry)
Ingenious Film Partners, the new fund launched by British financier Ingenious Media, has unveiled its debut slate of productions, including four pics from 20th Century Fox and three from veteran producer Dino De Laurentiis...The De Laurentiis trio includes "Young Hannibal," directed by Peter Webber and starring Gong Li; David Leland's version of "The Decameron," starring Hayden Christensen; and Doug Lefler's Roman epic "The Last Legion," with Colin Firth and Aishwarya Rai.
Firth, Kingsley enlisting in De Laurentiis' 'Legion'
(The Hollywood Reporter, May 12, 2005, by Stuart Kemp)
British actors Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley will dust off their togas for the long-gestating "The Last Legion," directed by Doug Lefler, from indie veteran Dino De Laurentiis' company.
Billed as a Dino De Laurentiis presentation, "Legion" will be produced by his partner Martha De Laurentiis together with Raffaella De Laurentiis. Tarak Ben Ammar's Quinta Communications and British co-producers Chris Curling and Phil Robertson of Zephyr Films also will partner on the independently bankrolled movie.
The $67 million film, which is billed as part fact and part legend, is set against the backdrop of the fall of the Roman Empire and tells the story of 12-year-old Emperor Romulus Augustus' rise to power.
Doug Lefler ("Dragonheart: A New Beginning") will helm the picture, which is set to roll in August on location in Tunisia and Slovakia. Entertainment Film Distribution has snapped up U.K. rights to the film, while producing partner Quinta retains French rights. Rai has taken Italian rights to the movie. Worldwide sales efforts are being co-ordinated by Pamela Pickering at Dino De Laurentiis Prods. in Los Angeles.
Firth will be hitting screens in Atom Egoyan's "Where the Truth Lies," which unspools Friday In Competition. Both Firth and Kingsley are repped by ICM.
Oscar-winning Kingsley will next appear onscreen in Roman Polanski's "Oliver Twist" and in director Paul McGuigan's thriller "Lucky Number Slevin."
"Legion" will reunite Dino and Martha Laurentiis with Ammar, Curling and Robertson, who are in Italy filming "Decameron: Angels and Virgins," which stars Hayden Christensen, Mischa Barton and Tim Roth.
Firth, Kingsley enlist in The Last Legion
(Screendaily, May 11, 2005, by Jeremy Kay)
Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley have been cast in Doug Lefler’s upcoming Fall of the Roman Empire adventure and Dino De Laurentiis presentation The Last Legion.
Martha De Laurentiis and Raffaella De Laurentiis will produce the project in partnership with Quinta Communications’ Tarak Ben Ammar and British co-producers Chris Curling and Phil Robertson of Zephyr Films.
Principal photography is set to begin on Aug 8 in Tunisia and Slovakia on the project, which follows the fortunes of the 12-year-old Romulus Augustus, the last Roman emperor who rules briefly before he is banished to the fortress island of Capri.
After engineering an escape from exile he flees to Britannia in the hope of finding the fabled Dragon Legion to help him make a last stand for Rome, and in so doing becomes the king who launched the Arthurian legend.
Firth will play the youngster’s ally and heroic legionnaire Aurelius and Kingsley will portray his wise teacher and advisor Abrosinus.
Firth will next be seen later this year opposite Emma Thompson in Working Title’s comedy Nanny McPhee, while Kingsley next appears as Fagin in Roman Polanski’s Oliver Twist and in Paul McGuigan’s crime thriller Lucky Number Slevin.
Dino and Martha De Laurentiis, Tarak Ben Ammar and Chris Curling and Phil Robertson are currently in Italy filming Decameron: Angels And Virgins, starring Hayden Christensen, Mischa Barton and Tim Roth.
Firth & Kingsley Enlist In "Legion"
(Dark Horizons, May 11, 2005, by Garth Franklin)
Colin Firth & Sir Ben Kingsley have been cast in the upcoming independently financed "The Last Legion", a Dino De Laurentiis presentation. "Spider-Man" and "A Simple Plan" second unit director Doug Lefler will helm, with principal photography scheduled to begin on 8th August 2005 in Tunisia and Slovakia.
Part fact, part legend, "The Last Legion" is an action/ adventure story surround the Fall of the Roman Empire and its last emperor, 12-year-old Romulus Augustus, who would rule for a day before losing all that he loved: his family, his home and an empire that once stood for truth and honor. Imprisoned on the island-fortress of Capri, Romulus, aided by the clever strategies of his teacher Abrosinus (Sir Ben Kingsley) and the heroic skills of his legionnaire Aurelius (Colin Firth), escapes the island.
Accompanied by his friends and a mysterious envoy from Constantinople, Romulus travels to Britannia in search of the Last Legion - the fabled Dragon Legion. There, Romulus will fight alongside his friends to make his last stand for Rome, and take his first steps to becoming the man and the king who started the Arthurian legend.
Tarak Ben Amma, Chris Curlin, Phil Robertson and Martha De Laurentiis will produce. All four are currently at work on "The Decameron" starring Hayden Christensen and Mischa Barton.