Cleopatra | Details of the Angelina Jolie headlined version that never was

Angelina Jolie
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Brian Helgeland has been discussing his script for Sony’s aborted take on Cleopatra which was set to star Angelina Jolie…

Cleopatra is one of those iconic figures that Hollywood seems perpetually interested in bringing to the screen again, even if the vast majority of these projects never seem to get anywhere.

One of the other nearly-ran Cleopatra projects was set to feature Angelina Jolie back in 2011. Writer and director Brian Helgeland has been chatting about his time on the project as the first writer to get a crack at the script. According to the director of Payback and A Knight’s Tale, it would have included some surprising events, apparently rooted in history:

“I was the very first writer on Cleopatra when it was being developed for Angelina Jolie to star in, which was almost made,” Helgeland said in an interview with Inverse. 

“It had elements of a political thriller with assassinations and sex, but it’s an epic that’s divided between her love affairs with Caesar and Marc Antony. Lots of true events surprised me when I was writing it.”

Angelina Jolie would have been quite the Cleopatra as well, and given that at one point, David Fincher was being ‘courted’ to direct the film, that could have been something truly special.

Denis Villeneuve is the latest director to be linked with an epic re-telling of the Egyptian queen’s life and times. 1917 screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns has reportedly been hired to pen the script for that one, although given Villeneuve’s supposed interest in several other projects, there’s no telling if it will ever happen.

Before Villeneuve it was Patty Jenkins looking to get a take on Cleopatra up and running. That would have featured her Wonder Woman collaborator Gal Gadot in the title role, but that all went south too, and we’d imagine that the soft theatrical box office for Wonder Woman 1984 back in 2020 had at least something to do with that (although it’s easy to forget that there was precious little box office in 2020).

That’s because any film bearing the title Cleopatra is bound to be expensive (unless it’s Carry On Cleo). The 1963 epic that starred Elizabeth Taylor has become legendary for its ballooning budget that very nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox. It’s no surprise then, that studios might be a little gun-shy when it comes to pulling the trigger on such a costly project.

As for Helgeland, he’s also been talking about the Netflix algorithm turning down his idea for a follow-up to A Knight’s Tale.

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