It seems that everybody is getting their turn at historical epics these days, and now Will Smith is going to have his chance with The Last Pharaoh. Working with a script by Braveheart screenwriter Randall Wallace, Smith is set to play the Nubian pharaoh Taharqa—who is most famous for defending ancient Egypt against invasions by the Assyrian king Esarhaddon. The film will apparently focus on this conflict.
The Last Pharaoh was initially announced back in March with a script by Carl Franklin (Out of Time, Devil in a Blue Dress), but obviously things went awry. Franklin’s screenwriting history is fairly thin, and the closest he’s come to an epic film is directing an episode of Rome, so the film is probably better off in the hands of Wallace.
While inconsistent (Wallace also wrote The Man in the Iron Mask, and Pearl Harbor), he has at least proven he knows what makes a good epic screenplay. As for Smith, I can’t quite picture him in a massive historical epic—but then again maybe that’s just because he’s not Orlando Bloom.
My excitement for this film will rest primarily on who they choose to direct. Honestly, I’m a bit burned out on the genre—and I fear general audiences may be as well—after the recent failures of Troy and Alexander. I loved the Kingdom of Heaven director’s cut, but the version most audiences saw in theaters was still somewhat weak. 300 sort of brought audiences back to the genre, but obviously it can’t justifiably be compared to realistic epics. I just hope whoever they choose to direct this film can do something beyond more of the same.
Discuss: Do you think Will Smith is due for his own historical epic? Are you still excited for the genre?