Sunday, 29 May 2016

Angelina Jolie's Cleopatra biopic gets a new writer

Last we heard of Angelina Jolie's (Maleficent) mooted Cleopatra, a whole three years ago, Ang Lee (Life Of Pi) was considering joining the film as director. That never happened, and the rest has been more or less silence. You might have assumed that the project had quietly died a death, but word arrives via The Wrap that development is still very much underway with a new screenwriter attempting to crack the material. The latest draft of the script will be by David Scarpa (The Day The Earth Stood Still).

Cleopatra has been the target of at least three directors' affections in the past, with Paul Greengrass (Captain Philips), James Cameron (Avatar) and, most famously, David Fincher (Gone Girl) all considering the idea. Nobody is currently occupying the chair. Scott Rudin (No Country For Old Men) and Amy Pascal (Ghostbusters) remain attached as producers, which may come as a surprise post the Sony hack that revealed a caustic correspondence between them about the film.

This version of the Cleopatra story is based on the bestselling Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. The intended thrust of the adaptation is to ditch the pageantry and pomp of the famously disastrous Elizabeth Taylor epic, and concentrate instead on Cleopatra the power hungry tactician. Scarpa's last produced screenplay was for Scott Derrickson's remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008), but intriguingly he has also been at work on a film about the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, so he clearly has an eye for a political conspiracy. His as yet unmade script for kidnap thriller All The Money In The World made the Black List last year.

Cleopatra wouldn't be Jolie's first powerful woman of the ancient world, having played Colin Farrell's apparently Russian accented mother Olympias in Oliver Stone's Alexander (2004). But in the wake of the whitewash controversies surrounding the likes of Exodus: Gods And Kings (2014) and Gods Of Egypt (2015), her ethnic suitability to play the Egyptian queen will be more under scrutiny than ever. Should Cleopatra ever actually go before the cameras...

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