And Now a Brief History of the Cleopatra Reboot
News that Paul Greengrass might direct Cleopatra for producer Scott Rudin is the type that seems instinctively earmarked for Movieline's 2011 list of ridiculous casting/development rumors. (Hey, it's never too early to start planning those year-end lists!) Still, from the looks of things, this 3-D adaptation of Stacey Schiff's book -- with Angelina Jolie in the lead role no less -- is probably happening sooner rather than later. How did we get to this point? Ahead, Movieline tracks the development of the Greek queen's return to the big screen.
Nov. 2006: Scott Rudin and Columbia Pictures acquire the rights to Schiff's upcoming autobiography, Cleopatra, after reading a 10-page proposal. Schiff's book will focus on the political power of Cleopatra, and not her sexual prowess.
Oct. 2008: Not to be outdone, Steven Soderbergh announces that he's planning a musical version of Cleopatra. Titled Cleo, the film would star Catherine Zeta-Jones and Hugh Jackman as Cleopatra and Mark Antony (!), feature music from Guided By Voices (!!) and be shot in 3-D (!!!). All of this would be done for $30 million.
Jan. 2009: Citing "scheduling conflicts," Jackman drops out of Cleo. Soderbergh is still hopeful that his "Elvis-style" musical can happen.
Feb. 2009: Soderbergh signs on to direct Brad Pitt in Moneyball for Columbia, and, despite acquiring financing, pushes Cleo to "next year."
June 2009: Sony/Columbia cancel Soderbergh's version of Moneyball. The fate of Cleo remains up in the air.
June 2010: Schiff says Angelina Jolie has "the perfect look" to play the titular queen. She also envisions Pitt as Mark Antony. Rudin's office confirms that conversations with Jolie are progressing; no mention of Pitt is made.
Oct. 14, 2010: James Cameron "flirts" with the idea of directing Jolie in Cleopatra, which is now set to be shot in 3-D, too.
Oct. 27, 2010: Cameron announces that he will make two Avatar sequels instead of Cleopatra. Alas, maybe next time.
Jan. 2011: The filmmakers behind Cleopatra "like the idea" of hiring Paul Greengrass. Says Rudin: "It is a completely revisionist Cleopatra, a much more grown-up sophisticated version. She's not a sex kitten, she's a politician, strategist, warrior. In the Joseph Mankiewicz movie, Elizabeth Taylor is a seductress, but the histories of Cleopatra have been written by men. This is the first to be written by a woman." That Cleopatra's script was written by Brian Helgeland is apparently neither here nor there.