HBO's "Rome" set burns in Italian studio fire

ROME (Reuters) - Fire ripped through a section of Italy’s famous Cinecitta film studios late on Thursday, partly destroying the set for the HBO television series “Rome.”

The blaze at Cinecitta, known as ‘Hollywood on the Tiber,’ began around 10 p.m., apparently in an area of sprawling studio complex that was used to warehouse old film, a studio official said.

Flames climbed 40 meters (131 feet) high and spread to the old “Rome” set, which HBO once billed as the largest standing film set in the world. Cinecitta had hoped to reuse that recreation of ancient Rome for other projects.

The blaze was doused overnight by firefighters. There were no injuries, and most of the studio complex was unaffected.

“For ‘Rome,’ there’s no impact because it’s over. But it could be bad in terms (of the ‘Rome’ set’s) future use in other productions,” a Cinecitta official said, asking not to be named.

Cinecitta, also known in Italy as the “dream factory,” is famous for its elaborate sets. Beyond recreating Caesar’s Rome, it also recreated New York City of the 1800s in Martin Scorsese’s epic “Gangs of New York.”

Part of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” was filmed there, along with William Wyler’s “Ben-Hur” and parts of more light-hearted movies, like “Mission: Impossible III” and “Ocean’s Twelve.”

It is perhaps best known as the creative workshop of Italy’s legendary “La Dolce Vita” director Federico Fellini and the stomping grounds of actress Sophia Loren and even visiting luminaries like Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn.

The Cinecitta official speculated the fire may have been caused by an electrical short circuit, but an investigation was ongoing.