350-word Reddit post inspires new Warner Bros movie

The studio is pushing ahead with Rome, Sweet Rome - a time-travel film based on author James Erwin's short but sweet social media update

Some struggling writers spend years pitching ideas to major Hollywood studios with no success. But for one lucky author, the path to superstardom came about entirely accidentally.


James Erwin – author of a book titled The Encyclopedia of US Military Actions (Through Facts on File) – took to social news and entertainment site Reddit in 2011 to answer the question, “Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern US Marine infantry battalion?”

His answer, posted under the username Prufrock451, took the form of a 350-word story about the exploits of the fictitious 35th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) which unexpectedly disappears from modern-day Kabul and emerges on the Tiber River in 23 B.C.

The response on the thread was overwhelming, with thousands of users commenting and demanding more from the 37-year-old writer from Des Moines, Iowa, so he continued to submit supplementary pieces, posting more than 3,500 words over the next week.

After acquiring himself an agent, Erwin was then contacted by Warner Brothers who bought the rights to the story, titled Rome, Sweet Rome.

Now the studio has announced plans to push ahead with the time-travel movie. Although Erwin was originally commissioned to write a draft screenplay, Warner Bros have decided the story needs a fresh approach and authoring duties have now been passed on to Apollo 18 screenwriter, Brian Miller.

Despite Erwin relinquishing screenwriting duties, it is reported that the essential premise of his Reddit story will remain the same, although the new version will replace the US marines with members of a US special force unit.


So, a lesson for us all: next time you have an inspired idea for the next Spielberg or Tarantino blockbuster, it’s always worth a punt on social media to get yourself noticed…