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Casting The Film
Finding the right actors for the central roles of Aurelius, the leader of the band protecting Caesar, and Romulus, the 12-year old Emperor, was key. Harvey Weinstein was instrumental in casting the central role. "Harvey loved this script and he immediately suggested Colin Firth," explains Martha De Laurentiis. "So, we met Colin who really liked the script and loves Italian culture. He was very keen to try something different than the roles he is so well known for. He is a powerful actor and this was a fantastic opportunity for him to do something totally different." 

The appeal for Colin Firth, best known for his performances as the brooding Mark Darcy in BBC's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and in the BRIDGET JONES films, was partly the chance to undertake a very different role, but also the attraction of the adventure story: "I've never been anywhere near this genre before. I haven't done anything with this much action and I didn't know what to expect. First and foremost, it was the story that attracted me; an adventure with a beginning middle and an end, in which you see the characters develop. There's also a bit of magic in it. It made me think of the way that I enjoyed stories when I was a child, which I think is storytelling in its purest form and, it gave me something of that. It felt different to any other thing I've done and I found that appealing. It involves a different set of skills that I've never really exercised." 

Director Lefler didn't want to replicate how other action movies were cast: "We were looking for somebody that was a strong character, but I wanted the character of Aurelius to be more intelligent than he was brawny. So, we looked for an actor who could convey that sense of intelligence. We were very careful with casting. We wanted to do things that were unexpected, but right. In some ways, I was modeling the character of Aurelius after Horatio Hornblower. I wanted him to be more of a strategist than just somebody who was good with a sword. Colin has risen to that challenge wonderfully." 

The role of young Romulus went to Thomas Sangster, known for his roles in LOVE ACTUALLY and NANNY McPHEE, both of which starred Firth. Sangster was inspired to become an actor at a tender age after seeing his parents, both actors by profession, performing. "I thought I'd give it a go as it looked like fun," he says. "So, I had a couple of photos done and sent them off to their agent and started getting auditions. I got my first part and it just escalated from there." 

About working with Firth for the third time, Sangster says: "I get to know him a bit better on each film we do. It's a relief coming onto a film where you already know someone, and somebody knows you and what you're like." 

For the young actor, the film also had an educational element: "I had studied the Romans in school, but doing this film, I've learned a lot more about the Romans than I did when I was younger." 

Director Lefler says of his young star: "Thomas turned out to be such a delight. He's great. What an incredibly talented young man!" Martha De Laurentiis adds: "Thomas was one of the last pieces of casting to fall into place. We were initially concerned with his size as he has to have the ability to fight and to carry a sword, but he had the physicality as well as the experience. We were very pleased to have him." 

Colin Firth was delighted to be reunited with his young co-star and says that he was cast on his own merit: "It helped that I knew him already, but they had already clocked him for the role before I came on board. I kept my fingers crossed that he would be cast, and when they tested these boys, he won hands down. I wanted to work with him again because I knew that he's a terrific actor, but also because when you've worked with someone before, it gives you a shorthand. There's a trust, so you don't have to start<

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