NZ Listener August 21-27 2010 Vol 225 No 3667
Swords, sex and sandals with Spartacus
by Sarah Barnett
There’s plenty of red in Rob Tapert’s Kiwi-made Spartacus, but the American husband of Lucy Lawless (who plays Lucretia) says it’s only a little gratuitous.
From the set of Spartacus: Blood and Sand (Sky D05, Sunday, 9.30pm), executive producer Rob Tapert is confident Kiwis can handle the uncut version of this swords, sandals, sex and swearing melodrama: “I’ve seen what’s on local television.” Tapert is as good as local these days. After discovering New Zealand as a filming location for shows such as Xena: Warrior Princess, he has continued to roll camera here – and he married Lucy Lawless. The set this time? An Auckland warehouse. One hundred and fifty extras today, 250 tomorrow, with digital effects to come to transform it into ancient Capua, Rome.
Our hero, Spartacus (Andy Whitfield), is a Thracian warrior sold into slavery after crossing the wrong Roman (Craig Parker), and winding up in the gladiatorial arena. Parker and Lawless have major roles beside UK import John Hannah, and Michael Hurst pops up in the director’s chair – these ancient Romans often speak with a Kiwi inflection. There were, it’s fair to say, middling reviews in the US, although they began to turn around as the series went on. Some reviewers, Tapert says, “recanted by episode 13. We felt good about that.”
It’s a long way from Tapert’s early days with fellow executive producer Sam Raimi, making the Evil Dead films on a shoestring, even mixing their own blood. Or perhaps not so long – there’s still plenty of blood, but rather than being mixed set-side, this is filmed exploding in glorious arcs in front of green screens to give it that vivid, comic-book effect seen in flicks like 300.
Spartacus is, in other words, decadent, debauched and ghoulishly stylish. “There’s only probably two times in the first 13 episodes that, looking back on it, I feel we did something gratuitous,” Tapert says. “The rest of it, everything had a reason, and decisions about blood or gladiators fighting – that’s more about a ballet in a kind of chop-socky Japanese kind of fashion.”
Article submitted by Barbara Davies