Hollywood has been trying to make a new Cleopatra movie for years. Angelina Jolie has famously been attached for a long while, courting David Fincher to potentially direct a new take on the reign of the Ptolemaic Kingdom ruler. Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) worked for a long while on the script, but nothing ever came to fruition. Now, however, it seems as though Cleopatra may finally have new blood, as Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve is in talks to direct Cleopatra with a fresh new take.
That new take comes courtesy of screenwriter David Scarpa, with whom Collider’s own Steve Weintraub recently spoke at the press day for the Ridley Scott thriller All the Money in the World. During the course of their conversation, Scarpa tease his political thriller take on Cleopatra:
“Everybody I think who had ever tried to do Cleopatra prior had done it as this prestige-y picture, which is like three hours long and people speaking in English accents and fans blowing and big sets and all that. Very glossy and important and dull, and my attitude was well let’s take that prestige picture and just blow it up. I really got into what that world was like at the time, which was dirty and grungy. I came in and said, ‘Let’s do this as Costa-Gavras’ Z. Let’s do it as a political thriller.’ A lot of Cleopatra’s life revolved around the fall of the Roman republic, which revolved around the assassination of Caesar and the aftermath of that and how the entire world kind of fell apart and came back together again. And she was really central to that.”
But Scarpa hit upon another interesting idea: acknowledging the fact that history was written by men, and thus what we know about Cleopatra’s reign is skewed:
“So the idea is we’re not making the big bloated 3-hour movie, we’re making the tight, dirty, fast 2-hour movie, that was very sort of visceral. And also what was really interesting was there have been so many narratives of Cleopatra that have all been framed through the eyes of men. The entire history of that period is framed through the eyes of men, specifically Roman men. And the idea was we’re gonna approach it through her point of view. We’re going to assume that the narratives that have been created by the Roman writers of the time were slanted, and we’re going to unskew them. So it gave us an opportunity to approach history in a radical way as well.”
That’s a smart and interesting take on this historical figure, though one imagines it may be important to get a female voice in the crafting of this new film somewhere. Indeed, while Scarpa has written this take, it’s very early days and he admits he hasn’t spoken much about it with Villeneuve, who’s been busy with Blade Runner 2049:
“Basically Denis Villeneuve has expressed an interest in directing the movie. I haven’t talked a lot to him—he was off doing Blade Runner and press for Blade Runner—so I have honestly very little knowledge into what his point of view on the movie is, and I’m sure he’s got one. But I’m interested to see what happens.”