Claudius: the comeback

Thirty years on, Derek Jacobi returns to the role that made him a household name

It was one of the defining television dramas of its time and a career-making role for the then relatively unknown Derek Jacobi. Now he is to reprise his role in I, Claudius for a whole new audience. The series, to be aired by BBC Radio in January, will see him return to the pivotal role in what was widely considered to be one of the greatest pieces of TV drama after a gap of 30 years.

Based on two novels by Robert Graves, the epic tale chronicles the fortunes of Rome's rulers in the first century AD, as seen through the eyes of Claudius - who rose to power at the age of 49 - in the form of a secret autobiography. Claudius, who succeeded the psychotic Caligula, was an unusual choice for emperor because of his physical disabilities. Some scholars now believe he may have had cerebral palsy.

Sir Derek was keen to get involved in the revival and showed no reluctance over returning to the role that won him a best actor Bafta in 1977, according to Frank Stirling, the series' producer. "He found it a very pleasant trip down memory lane," he said. "I wish there were some great story to tell about how I had persuaded him, but he instantly said that he'd be delighted to do it."

The drama has proved an enduring success for the BBC and regularly tops its sales of drama series on DVD. It was also named as one of the top three UK drama series of all time in a poll conducted by the British Film Institute.

The revamped eight-part serialisation has been staged for BBC Radio 2 and will be broadcast from 12 January. Though the 1976 TV version - which also starred Siân Phillips, Brian Blessed and John Hurt - combined Graves's 1934 novel and its sequel, Claudius the God, the radio revival will stick solely to the first book.

Mr Stirling said: "What's interesting is that when you watch the original TV series, he has to age from a teenager right through to old age. Now he is a middle-aged man, and he can just as easily turn his hand to playing a youth. Because of the span of ages, there is really no wrong age to play Claudius."

There is still a great affection for I, Claudius. Dr Who actor David Tennant said that, for him, viewing the whole series on DVD for the first time was the highlight of the past year. "It's a real gem, the best BBC series of the 1970s. There's a clutch of great performances in it. Derek Jacobi in particular is a genius."

Sir Derek said recently: "I think most actors rather enjoy having a role they are identified with. And it's not as if I could get typecast. There are not too many stuttering, limping, twitching emperors around.

Even so, his initial starring role was nearly not to be: "They'd tried everybody for Claudius before they tried me: Charlton Heston, even Ronnie Barker."

Sir Derek, 68, has recently been filming the movie The Riddle, a murder-mystery about the discovery of an unpublished Charles Dickens novel.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Full Stack Software Developer

£35k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game