EXCLUSIVE… UPDATED: File this one under tantalizingly possible. James Cameron and Sony Pictures Entertainment are exploring the very real possibility that he will direct Angelina Jolie in a 3D version of Cleopatra, an SPE adaptation of the Stacy Schiff book Cleopatra: A Life. Jolie is attached and anxious to make the movie. Scott Rudin, who acquired the book, is producer. The talks are serious but by no means conclusive yet. Meanwhile, Deadline’s Nikki Finke reports that Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chair Amy Pascal decided to fast-track its PG-13 and 3D Cleopatra project after screenwriter Bran Helgeland wrote what was is being described as a “brilliant script deserving of epic treatment” all about “what the Romans took from Egypt”. In addition, Pascal wants to own the Angelina Jolie franchise the same way it owns the franchises of Adam Sandler and Will Smith because “she’s a real star who can open a movie by herself” and “she knows she was born to play this part” because it’s the “greatest female heroine” that ever lived. Pascal is hoping for a start date in 2011 but has acknowledged that “it won’t be cheap” and is calling this her Gone With The Wind epic. Indeed, a project of this size and scope is a huge risk for any studio, especially considering how much attention will be focused on the production and the last time the story of Cleopatra was made into a movie. The Egyptian queen got her big screen closeup in the 1963 film with Elizabeth Taylor in the title role. Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed the film, which started with a $2 million budget that ballooned to $44 million (the equivalent of over $300 million today) not the least because Taylor became ill and almost died. The production nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox, despite being the year’s highest grossing pic with $26 million. However, with James Cameron as director, he has the ability to produce a huge worldwide spectacle where every penny will be on the big screen. He has several of his own projects in the works, including a title called The Dive, but there is no other outside project he is looking at but this one as he develops the Avatar sequel.
Stacy Schiff’s biography peels away the layers to reveal the true Cleopatra, a much more interesting woman than the Hollywood version, and, as it turns out, a formidable queen after all, according to reviews. A Pulitzer Prize-winning American nonfiction author and guest columnist for The New York Times, Schiff digs up astonishing and rare facts about the queen that could make the film into an entirely new story. Schiff herself has said about Jolie as Cleoptra, “physically, she’s the perfect look, and is hoping for Brad Pitt to play Mark Antony (just as Liz Taylor’s then lover, Richard Burton, did in the 1963 epic). “Angelina Jolie radiates grace and power, exactly the qualities that Stacy Schiff finds in her biography of the most intriguing ruler who ever lived,” the book’s publisher, Little Brown’s Michael Pietsch, told reporters.
As for 35-year-old Jolie, she has been a tomb raider and a spy and even a queen (she played Queen Olympias in 2004’s Alexander.) But she has had a lifelong fascination with Cleopatra and has always wanted to play the Queen of the Nile. She once told reporters: (more…)