It's been 47 years since one of the most expensive movies in history, Cleopatra, hit theaters. The film's original $2 million budget ballooned to $44 million, the equivalent of over $300 million today. Now a new version of Cleopatra is in the works and it doesn't look like it's going to be cheap this time around, either.
Last October, news hit that mega-director James Cameron had met with Sony to discuss the possibility of him directing the new Cleopatra film, which is (like most big movies these days) going to be in 3D. But a while after that, Cameron and 20th Century Fox announced that the director was going to be shooting Avatar 2 & 3 back-to-back as his next project.
Sony is now left with the job of finding a director who can suitably handle the epic task of bringing the life of Cleopatra to the big-screen almost half a century after the Elizabeth Taylor classic, which almost single-handedly bankrupted 20th Century Fox. Deadline is reporting that the studio is "pretty close" to pinning down a director and that Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum) is looking like one of the possibilities.
One insider described Greengrass as, "Smart, tough, political, hard-nosed... sort of the idea of Cleopatra in the book." That book is the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Cleopatra: A Life by author Stacy Schiff. Producer Scott Rudin has described Cleopatra herself as "not a sex kitten [but] a politician, a strategist, a warrior" and if this new version of her story is going to stay true to that image then Greengrass is a more than suitable choice, in my opinion.
Ever since Cameron made that deal with Fox to direct Avatar 2 & 3, people have been wondering if Rudin/Sony felt leveraged, but Rudin reveals that's far from the case:
"I’ve been a good friend of Jim Cameron’s since I was the executive on Aliens. I got promoted because of my relationship with Jim Cameron and the guy’s been a seminal figure in my career. I never for one second thought we were being leveraged. I fully expected Fox to make the play they did, to make sure he didn’t do Cleopatra. I wasn’t surprised when they did."
While it obviously would have been advantageous for Sony to be able to say "From the director of Titanic and Avatar" when marketing Cleopatra, having Greengrass certainly wouldn't be a bad thing. In addition to directing The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, Greengrass also directed the masterful United 93 and most recently the underrated Green Zone (amongst others). Coincidentally, the writer of the latter film, Brian Helgeland, wrote the script for Cleopatra, which has been described as "a brilliant script deserving of epic treatment."
It should be noted that Greengrass' name has been thrown into the mix from unnamed sources (Rudin is keeping his mouth shut about who's on the shortlist of potential directors) and his name hasn't been mentioned to Jolie. For now, treat this Greengrass news as a RUMOR until we hear otherwise.
Sony is hoping for Cleopatra to start shooting at some point in 2011 but no dates have been officially set.