Friday, January 21, 2011

Detroit Free Press: 'Spartacus' series a thrilling ride for MSU pals

B.J. Hammerstein writes:
A quarter of a century ago, few people could've predicted Rob Tapert would emerge as a Hollywood heavyweight responsible for some of today's most popular and sensational fantasy and horror genre vehicles, including tonight's premiere of Starz's "Spartacus: Gods of the Arena."

His coursework at Michigan State University was filled mostly with economics and history credits. But a group of friends including Sam Raimi (who'd go on to direct the "Spider-Man" franchise) and Bruce Campbell (who'd become a name actor in movies and TV) put their twisted young minds together and exploded onto the silver-screen scene with the 1981 cult classic "The Evil Dead."

Over the past 30 years Tapert, 55, has produced a plethora of popcorn entertainment like "Darkman" and "The Gift." In 2004, Tapert and Raimi's big-screen horror label Ghost House Pictures debuted with the monster hit "The Grudge." They have since produced more than a dozen films, including 2009's throwback "Drag Me to Hell."

On the small screen, their partnership has been just as fertile with "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and "Xena: Warrior Princess," which starred Lucy Lawless, whom Tapert married in 1998.

Tonight, the latest installment of their bloody-good brand "Spartacus" will be unleashed with a six-episode prequel. A second season of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" is set to begin production this spring.

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