Sony's Cleopatra - based on Stacy Schiff's "Cleopatra: A Life" - was continuously linked to a high-profile director for three years, prior to David Fincher detaching himself last summer. Oscar-winner Ang Lee immediately entered the conversation as a possible replacement, but we haven't heard anything else on the subject since then... until now.
Lee's searching for his next directing project and believes Cleopatra could make for a strong addition to his varied resume. Hence, he's (finally) going to read the script and determine whether or not this is worth devoting around 2-3 years of his life to making (after spending some four years putting together Life of Pi).
Pi is a surefire bet to secure a Best Picture Oscar nomination tomorrow, when the announcement is made. Similarly, Lee's all-but assured yet another Best Director nomination, as foreshadowed by him landing Director Guild of America and Golden Globes nods. Thus, it means something that the filmmaker (who was recognized by the Academy for Brokeback Mountain) says the Cleopatra project "feels right" to him.
Here is the full Lee quote (via THR):
"I'm about to read the script. It just feels right to me after all the other types of films I've done. What does it have in common with any of them? They’re all totally different! That’s what makes this perfect.”
Indeed, Lee has never been satisfied to work as a niche storyteller or auteur who can be easily-pigeonholed. Over the past two decades, he's directed a Jane Austen adaptation (Sense and Sensibility), Civil War drama (Ride with the Devil), mythical Chinese martial arts epic (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), an experimental comic book movie (Hulk) and erotic WW II espionage-drama (Lust, Caution) among other diverse genre products. That's to say: Cleopatra is an obvious choice in the sense that it's, well... not at all.
Jokes aside, Cleopatra fits Lee's sensibilities for a handful of reasons. Perhaps chief among them is that Lee's good with crafting engaging female characters and that's called for in the script by Oscar-winner Brian Helgeland (Mystic River, Robin Hood). It is said to follow Schiff's lead by portraying the famous last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt - and member of the Ptolemaic dynasty - as a cunning warrior and master politician, among other things.
Moreover, the project is shaping up to be a massive (re: ambitious) ancient world tentpole production covering Cleopatra's eventful life. If there's one thing that Lee posses an over-abundance of, it's the artistic ambition necessary to meet that challenge.
We'll keep you up-to-date on Cleopatra as more information is released.