The very busy David Fincher now has one less project on his plate. For over a year now, he’s been in the running to direct Cleopatra, starring Anglina Jolie. However, a new report indicates that talks have broken off.

It’s not the end of the line for the film, though, as Sony is now on the lookout for someone else to take over at the helm. Even with Fincher off, they’ve clearly got their hearts set on locking down a prestige filmmaker: Ang Lee is said to be among their candidates. More details after the jump.

The project’s history goes back a few years. Star producer Scott Rudin optioned Stacy Schiff‘s biography Cleopatra: A Life before it was even published, and in June 2010 he announced that he was teaming up with Jolie to develop the book into a movie. James Cameron was an early possibility to direct, as was Paul Greengrass. Fincher entered the picture in March 2011, as he was finishing up The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Progress on Cleopatra hasn’t been lightning fast, but it definitely seemed to be moving. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button writer Eric Roth was tapped for rewrites in November. As of December, Fincher’s involvement still wasn’t set in stone, but he was telling press he’d “love” to do the movie and talking up his ideas. It’s not clear what’s changed over the past several months, or why Fincher has now decided not to do the film.

One possibility is his murky relationship with the studio. Although The Social Network was a hit, Dragon Tattoo was a box-office disappointment for Sony. Or Fincher may just be too busy, what with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Goon, and his Netflix series House of Cards also among the projects fighting for his attention. Then again, maybe we’re overthinking this and he just plain didn’t feel like doing it anymore.

Whatever Fincher’s reason, the studio’s still determined to press on and has begun eyeing some other big names. Vulture reports that Lee is one of possibilities, though at this point he’s neither received an offer nor begun negotiations. The Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain director stumbled with 2009′s Taking Woodstock, but his upcoming Life of Pi has drawn very strong early buzz.

Here’s how Rudin has previously described this Cleopatra; let us know which filmmakers you think would be a good fit:

It is a completely revisionist Cleopatra, a much more grown-up sophisticated version… She’s not a sex kitten, she’s a politician, strategist, warrior. In the Joseph Mankiewicz movie, Elizabeth Taylor is a seductress, but the histories of Cleopatra have been written by men. This is the first to be written by a woman. It felt like such a blow-the-doors-off-the-hinges idea of how to tell it, impossible to resist. We’re pretty close. A lot of directors want to do it, but there is only a handful we’ll make it with.

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