Will Paul Greengrass Direct ‘Cleopatra’?

We first started to hear about producer Scott Rudin’s new 3D Cleopatra last year when James Cameron looked like a potential director and Angelina Jolie was talked up as the star. Mr. Cameron moved on to his Avatar sequels, but Angelina Jolie remains attached to the film that will be based on Stacy Schiff’s biography Cleopatra: A Life.

Now Scott Rudin says he’s “pretty close” to signing a director for the film. One name prominently mentioned is Paul Greengrass.

Here are Scott Rudin’s core statement to Deadline:

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.

That “the first to be written by a woman” is a bit disingenuous because the script that powers this fast-track development is by Brian Helgeland, who was still a man last we heard, and the film is likely to be directed by a man, too. In this case the man might be Paul Greengrass, who has been without a next project since Green Zone was released. (He flirted with Fantastic Voyage, and has been attached to Treasure Island, though there’s been no word on the latter in some time.)

But don’t tie Mr. Greengrass to this one just yet. He’s not attached, and reportedly he hasn’t even been mentioned as a possibility to Angelina Jolie, who presumably has veto power. She’s busy making her own film right now, and Deadline’s article almost reads like a roundabout memo to the actress.

Deadline also notes that this will be a staggeringly expensive film, relating that Sony chief Amy Pascal calls it “her Gone With the Wind epic.” Given that factor, and looking at the way that Green Zone ran over budget and schedule, I’m very interested to see how the Paul Greengrass discussion turns out. I love the man as a creative force, but after Green Zone I expect the beancounters might be cautious about giving him what could be the studio’s most expensive film. Though with Angelina Jolie in a strong central role, and the appeal of a 3D film that isn’t CG-driven, Cleopatra might find the audience that eluded Green Zone.

And if you’re still wondering how all these factors might fit together, check out Deadline’s full, excellent interview with Mr. Rudin and put some of that info together with how this movie might get made. Suffice to say, I think there are few producers out there that could lend this project more chance of success than Rudin will. So that’s something.

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