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I, Claudius (TV Mini-Series 1976) Poster

(1976)

Trivia

Ray Brooks and Helen Mirren turned down key roles.
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The series spanned seventy-seven years, from 23 B.C. to 54 A.D.
Sir John Hurt (Caligula) was born on January 22, 1940, the same day and month that Caligula was assassinated (January 22, 41).
George Baker (Tiberius) was two years older than Siân Phillips, who played his mother Livia.
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An Alexander Korda version was abandoned back in 1937. Directed by Josef von Sternberg, it starred Charles Laughton in the title role alongside Mrs. Korda, Merle Oberon. A car crash involving Oberon was the main reason cited for the cancellation, but sources say it was a troublesome shoot, with Laughton the main source of the problem.
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Derek Jacobi (Claudius) is the only cast member to appear in all thirteen episodes of the series. In second place are George Baker (Tiberius) and Margaret Tyzack (Antonia), who each appear in nine episodes.
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Referred to as "I, Clavdivs" because the title sequence followed the Roman convention of using a letter "v" to stand for either a "u" or a "v".
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The series was filmed over a period of six months in a BBC studio. Charlton Heston was one consideration for the title role, but because of the extent of the shoot, and Heston's U.S. residency, the idea was abandoned.
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The final installment, "Old King Log", contains a pun on the names of both the Screenwriter and the Author of the "Claudius" novels. Before his vision in the Senate, where he sees the ghosts of his past, Claudius mysteriously declares "The man who dwells by the pool, shall open graves, and the dead will live again." This plays on Jack Pulman, the Screenwriter, and Robert Graves, the Author.
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Derek Jacobi is only a year younger than Brian Blessed in real-life, Claudius was fifty-three years younger than his great-uncle Augustus. Similarly, Sir John Hurt (Caligula) was only fourteen months younger than Jacobi, whereas Caligula was twenty-two years younger than his uncle, and successor Claudius.
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George Baker, who was in his early forties, went on a regiment of diet and exercise, so he could realistically play a young Tiberius. He managed to equal the weight he used to have when he was twenty-four. His tiredness and exhaustion from working out so much, and eating so little, actually made it easier for him to play an often frustrated and bitter character prone to mood swings.
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Although Augustus (Brian Blessed) was twenty-one years older than his eventual successor Tiberius (George Baker), Baker was six years older than Blessed in real-life.
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Derek Jacobi was only seven years younger than Margaret Tyzack, who played his mother. In reality, Antonia was twenty-six when she gave birth to Claudius in 10 B.C.
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Sir John Hurt (Caligula) plays the great-grandson of Siân Phillips (Livia), who is only six and a half years older than him. In reality, Livia was already sixty-nine years old when Caligula was born in 12 A.D.
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Kevin Stoney reprised his role as Thrasyllus of Mendes from The Caesars (1968).
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When Derek Jacobi was first offered the role of Claudius, he mistakenly believed that he was being considered for the character of the same name from "Hamlet", and opined that he was too young. He eventually played King Claudius of Denmark in Hamlet (1996).
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Brian Blessed originally auditioned for the role of Tiberius, but was eventually persuaded to play Augustus instead. He recounted some of Director Herbert Wise's key pieces of advice on how to play Augustus. Wise told Blessed that he should "be as you are, full of flannel", and that he should always play Augustus as an ordinary person, because the reactions of those around him would make him the Emperor.
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Sir John Hurt revealed that he declined the role of Caligula when it was first offered to him. Because of the time-span of the production, the fact that Derek Jacobi would be the only cast member to appear in every episode, and the subsequent commitments of the other cast members. It was decided that rather than the customary "wrap party" at the end of the series, there would be a special pre-production party instead, to give the entire cast and crew the chance to meet. Hurt explained that Herbert Wise deliberately invited him to attend the party, hoping he would reconsider, and that he was so impressed on meeting the cast and crew, that he immediately reversed his decision, and took the part.
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Derek Jacobi played a different Claudius in Hamlet (1996).
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On early episodes, Derek Jacobi put a stone in his shoe so he would limp realistically. Once he got used to it, he didn't need the stone any more.
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The opening credits were later parodied in Black-Adder II (1986), which also featured Patsy Byrne.
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According to his memoirs, Ronnie Barker was originally offered the role of Claudius.
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Filming was studio-based, for artistic rather than budgetary reasons.
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The miniseries was made at a relatively low cost of sixty thousand pounds for an hour of broadcast material, in a series that had a total running time of six hundred fifty minutes. Considering pound sterling inflation, the entire show would have cost nearly four million pounds in 2013.
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During its original airing in 1976, the BBC estimated that the series had an average audience of 2.5 million viewers per episode, based on rating surveys.
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When the author Robert Graves came to see the filming, he loved it so much, that he refused to leave. His only comment on the acting, was that George Baker was just the right height to play Tiberius.
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Ava Gardner became great friends with Robert Graves when they lived in Spain in the early 1950s. Coincidentally, MGM tried to set up a version around this time, with Ava in the lead.
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Peter O'Toole, who was Sian Philips' husband at the time, reassured the cast at an early showing that the audience would love it, even if the critics didn't. Sian recalled that he found the reviews of the original books which were similar to the first reviews on the television series.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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