Like 'Spartacus,' Starz lives by the sword

The pay-cable channel hopes to attract attention with its bloody, steamy take on the gladiator tale. Green screen helps save some green. [...]

The cable outlet, best known as an outlet for studio features, is joining the industry's rush into original series programming. "Spartacus" is a flashy, big-budget attempt to forge a brand, complete with a big-name costar ( Lucy Lawless, erstwhile heroine of the syndicated "Xena: Warrior Princess") and the heavily stylized, comic-book-like use of green-screen technology familiar from movies like "300" and "Sin City." [...]

The green-screen technology enabled the producers to cut costs, with a price tag of less than $3 million per episode, less than the typical broadcast series budget. "Empire" and "Rome" were shot using Italian studios and locations, where expenses quickly mounted. "Spartacus" took advantage of tax breaks in New Zealand -- where Tapert and Lawless now spend much of the year -- and was shot entirely on soundstages, with effects and settings filled in later by computer. [...]

Whitfield, who plays the title role, noted that a PG-13 version of "Spartacus" is scheduled to be shown in his native Australia.

"I'm anxious to see it," he said with a wry chuckle. "I can't imagine what's in it."


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