ER star Goran Visnjic will trade scalpel and scrubs for sword andsandals to topline in Spartacus, a four-hour USA Network mini based on theHoward Fast novel that Stanley Kubrick turned into the 1960 Kirk Douglas drama.
Robert Dornhelm has committed to the project after directing USA's recent JamesWoods starrer Rudy.
While best known for playing the brooding hunkdoctor Luka Kovac on ER, Visnjic has been making headway in films like The Deep End and the upcoming thriller Hypnotic.
"He was suggested to me as the right type, and he had all the physicality neededfor the role, plus this sad, somewhat despairing Eastern European look," said Dornhelm. Alan Bates has been cast to play Agrippa, the role played by Charles Laughton inthe Kubrick classic.
Dornhelm said his version of the epic will be quite different from the one done by ubrick. He just arrived in Bulgaria, where the pic will shoot on a $20 million budget.
"They say Rome was not built in a day, but six weeks is not a long time toaccomplish it either," Dornhelm said. "We've got 400 people here, and we'll build the gladiator school, the Senate, the streets of Rome and the underground Roman baths. It's big stuff, and the people here are very excited to build our version of the revolt by slaves." He added that the Bulgarians are working cheaply to re-create ancient Rome.Dornhelm has made socially conscious TV films like RFK and Sins of the Father, but Spartacus is his first period pic. Still, it has relevance to current events, Dornhelm said. "There are interesting parallels about power and evildoers."