The Cleopatra project may have a director. Deadline Hollywood reported that Sony is courting Paul Greengrass (“Green Zone”) to helm the historical feature about the infamous Egyptian queen starring Angelina Jolie.
To attract a wider audience, Sony is going for a PG-13 rating and the film will be shot entirely in 3D. Amy Pascal, co-chair of Sony Entertainment, would production to start this year and is very optimistic “Cleopatra” will be her “Gone With The Wind.” Expect “Cleopatra’s” budget to be massive.
This is a risky endeavor considering that in 2010, the viewing audience avoided films starring big names, choosing concept over celebrity. “Robin Hood,” “The Tourist,” “Green Zone” and “How Do You Know” all underperformed, whereas “Inception,” “The Social Network,” “Black Swan” and “True Grit” exceeded expectations. “Cleopatra” will easily cost $200 million to produce and the marketing budget will probably fall anywhere between $50 million to 100 million.
Although Jolie is a media darling, her popularity doesn’t always translate to box office success. It doesn’t look like “The Tourist” will break even and if you look at Jolie’s box -office history, she hasn’t opened a film since “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” “Wanted” did exceptionally well, but the comic-book film had a fan following. “Salt” was a fun popcorn action flick that raked in $293 million worldwide, but with a production budget of $110 million and an additional marketing tag of at least $40 million (that’s being very conservative), the Russian spy thriller is barely in the green.
Next, we have the dramas Jolie starred in. “A Mighty Heart” didn’t make a profit. “Changeling” broke even. “The Good Shepherd” certainly didn’t make its money back during its theatrical run. So it boggles the mind as to why Pascal believes a Cleopatra film starring Jon Voight’s daughter would be a commercial success when the numbers indicate the exact opposite.
Several Cleopatra films were made for the small and big screen, the most notable being the 1963 version starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Other than a scandal, of which Jolie is no stranger, what could possibly pique the audiences interest enough to flock to view this retelling in droves? “Cleopatra’s” producer, Scott Rudin, told Deadline Hollywood that this version “is a completely revisionist Cleopatra, a much more grown-up sophisticated version. She’s not a sex kitten, she’s a politician, strategist, warrior.”
Not a sex kitten, he says? Right off the bat, the casting choice is wrong. If Rudin truly wanted an actress who could convey the aforementioned qualities without vamping it up, he should seek someone like Lyndsey Marshal who was an exceptional Cleopatra in HBO’s award winning mini-series, “Rome.” As for Jolie, she is sex. She can’t help it, she was made that way.
Remember “Alexander”? That’s how Jolie plays regal. Campy. I won’t chastise her too much for the dreadful Transylvanian accent, since most of the blame falls on Oliver Stone for not reining her in. Honestly, I’m preaching to the choir when I say that entire film was a train wreck, but I’m getting off track here.
A Cleopatra film with Angelina Jolie as the queen of the Nile will not fare well. Will the costumes be fantastic? Yes. The score brilliant? I’m sure. Cinematography, award winning? Perhaps. But will Jolie and Pascal’s vanity project clear $600 million? Doubtful. Of course, all I’ve written is nothing more than informed speculation. I hold no crystal ball in my hand. But given the current trend, which I detailed in the second paragraph, Pascal may have some explaining to do should this venture fail. Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra nearly bankrupted a studio. History may repeat itself here.
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