The actress Alex Kingston is to star in a £3m drama about the warrior queen Boudicca in her first performance for British television since her US breakthrough in the medical drama ER.
The two-hour drama for ITV has been written by the award-winning master of racy classical adaptations, Andrew Davies, who promises lots of sex and violence in a reworking of Boudicca's rebellion against the Romans.
Davies was also responsible for Kingston's last starring role in Britain as Daniel Defoe's temptress Moll Flanders, in a rollicking series which pulled in an audience of 12m when it aired in 1996.
No other costume drama had won such high ratings since, an ITV spokeswoman said yesterday, including the highly acclaimed Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth.
After Moll Flanders, Kingston decamped to Hollywood where she took on the role of Doctor Elizabeth Corday in ER while recovering from the break-up of her marriage to the actor Ralph Fiennes.
Davies, who was honoured at last Sunday's British Academy's Television Awards for his contribution to British television, said that Ms Kingston was "delightful" and it would be lovely to work with her again.
The film of Boudicca, or Boadicea as she is also known, will be shot in Romania for transmission next year.
Boudicca was a first-century AD leader of the Iceni tribe in East Anglia. Her husband, Prasutagus, had been running his fiefdom in modern Norfolk and Suffolk as a "client kingdom" for the Romans. But when he died, the Romans seized the kingdom, raping Boudicca's two daughters and flogging Boudicca.
Boudicca led an uprising against the Romans, conquering Colchester, then a major city, and sacked London, massacring an estimated 70,000 people. The revolt was eventually quashed, signalling the end of English resistance to Roman rule.
Mr Davies said: "If you think of it as a cross between Braveheart [the Mel Gibson film about Scottish hero William Wallace] and I, Claudius [the classic BBC television drama on ancient Rome], you're pretty much there. It's not going to be old-fashioned history.
"There's quite a lot of sex and violence in it, but I'm not going to put in any more sex and violence than there was in the original story. There was quite enough to be going on with.''
Boudicca's story is known only from surviving Roman records, because the Celts did not write things down. Davies said he would be drawing parallels between Boudicca's time, when the Druids were the principal religion in Britain, and the present day.
"The film will have battles and heroics. It will also be quite satirical and it will, we hope, point out some of the parallels between the problems of the Roman Empire and present situations in world politics.
"Boudicca gave the Roman Empire a tremendous fright. There are some quite rich pickings out of that. There are piquant parallels between the Druids and the Taliban," Davies added.Reuse content