Word that David Fincher was a possibility to helm Sony Picture’s upcoming Cleopatra biopic surfaced earlier this year. The acclaimed filmmaker is reportedly still circling the project, which Angelina Jolie remains attached to headline.

Oscar-winner Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River, Robin Hood) penned an earlier draft of the film’s screenplay, which is based on Pulitzer Prize-winner Stacy Schiff’s decorated best-selling non-fiction book, “Cleopatra: A Life”. Now, another Academy Award-winning scriber is in negotiations to take a stab at the Cleopatra script.

Variety is reporting that Eric Roth is in “early discussions” to work on the screenplay for Cleopatra. Roth won an Oscar for his Forrest Gump script and has penned (or co-written) many a historical and/or biographical drama before, including The Insider, Ali, Munich, and The Good Shepherd. He also previously collaborated with Fincher on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Fincher’s involvement with Cleopatra is far from a sure thing, at this point. The filmmaker is already committed to directing the House of Cards pilot episode and a new 3D adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Plus, he has the option to direct The Girl Who Played with Fire: a project that Sony is all the more likely to fast-track should Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo adaptation prove to be a sufficient hit (and chances are good it will be) when it arrives in theaters during the 2011 holiday season.

An “epic” biographical picture would be untested territory for Fincher, but one that the technical-perfectionist auteur could easily handle. Plus, Roth’s period drama screenplays tend to be his most widely-respected and generally aren’t criticized for being overly-romanticized or sentimental, like some of his other work (see: his scripts for Forrest Gump and the upcoming Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close adaptation).

That is to say: Fincher should have some solid material to work with, if he does sign on for Cleopatra, which may or may not be designed as a 3D picture (it was back when James Cameron was involved).

Angelina Jolie as Olympias in ‘Alexander’

Cleopatra will be told from the perspective of its namesake: the famous “last pharaoh” of Ancient Egypt and member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, who was purportedly descended from parents of joint Macedonian (re: Greek) ancestry. The biopic reportedly depicts Cleopatra as “a master strategist in politics and war” and offers a fairly sympathetic portrait of the Egyptian queen who Jolie previously described as “misunderstood… much more interesting than what she was summed up to be.”

There’s arguably the potential for Cleopatra to be a great biopic, assuming that Jolie works under the direction of a meticulous and high-caliber helmer of Fincher’s status. If nothing else, the final product should (hopefully) turn out better than the last Ancient World historical drama that featured Jolie (ie. director Oliver Stone’s widely-panned Alexander).

We will continue to keep you posted on the status of Cleopatra as the story develops.

Source: Variety