We were recently approached by Paramount to produce some ideas for a Special Edition package for a series based on one of Rome’s most notorious families… The Borgias. It has been said that the tales of historic family inspired the Mario Puzo to create his infamous novel “The Godfather”, which went on to become one of the best crime movies of all time. In 1492 while Columbus was sailing the ocean blue to discover the Americas things weren’t so tidy in Rome. It was a time when the papacy was in disrepair with popes having wives and mistresses and all manner of scandal and form this period in history highly regarded writer Neil Jordan has pasted together enough information about the infamous Borgias – ‘the original crime family’ to create what resulted in a fascinating account of world history.
The opening title sequences are masterworks of graphics and art history albeit splatter or washed in blood. The series opens with the nefarious Spanish family taking over the important Roman power vested in the papacy: Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (Jeremy Irons in a splendid tour de force of acting), becomes Pope Alexander VI when Pope Innocent VIII dies. As Pope, the elder Borgia gains election of his son Cesare (François Arnaud, a gifted young actor in one of his very first roles) to the College of Cardinals while his other son, the libidinous Juan (David Oakes) is made head of the military: these sons and the daughter Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger) are the children by the pope’s ‘wife’ Vanozza Cattaneo (Joanne Whaley), though the pope is now in the throes of a sordid relationship with Giulia Farnese (Lotte Verbeek). One cardinal – Giuliano Della Rovere (Colm Feore) – is out to depose the unctuous Borgia reign and works with outside forces to overthrow Pope Alexander VI and makes alliances with King Charles VIII of France (Michel Muller). In the meantime Lucrezia is married off to the rather piggish Giovanni Sforza (Ronan Vibert) for monetary gain for the papacy but prefers sleeping with the illiterate commoner groomsman Paulo (Luke Pasqualino). Cesare appears to be the wisest of the descendants (despite a love affair with a married woman) but the entire family wiles its way into the role of oily evil that sets the stage for the episodes to follow.
The cast is uniformly excellent: there are cameo roles for the likes of Derek Jacobi, Sean Harris, Steven Berkoff, etc. The settings and costumes are enormously successful and the pacing of the action is fast – but not too fast to pause here and there for some rather graphic sensual scenes and bloody fighting. Oink certainly gives this series our seal of approval!
You can check out our designs for The Borgias Special Edition DVD Box set here:
The Borgias is out now, so if you feel your life is lacking a little debauchery and treachery then look no further than this well crafted series!