BENJAMIN BUTTON Scribe Eric Roth in Talks to Write CLEOPATRA Starring Angelina Jolie; David Fincher Circling to Direct

     November 15, 2011

Screenwriter Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) is currently in talks to pen the epic Cleopatra, which focuses on the Egyptian queen. Angelina Jolie is attached to star, David Fincher is circling the pic as a directing vehicle, and uber-producer Scott Rudin (The Social Network, No Country for Old Men) is producing. Needless to say, this is shaping up to be one hell of a prestigious production. Variety reports that while no formal deal is in place, Roth has been approached and is likely to begin writing in the next several weeks. The scribe has a relationship with Fincher, as he penned 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and recently adapted this December’s awards contender Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close for Stephen Daldry. Hit the jump for more, including the likelihood of Fincher actually signing onto the project.

cleopatra-book-coverFincher’s involvement was first reported back in March, and he hasn’t commited to the project just yet. He’s currently busy finishing up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which opens next month, then he’s got a couple of things to consider. Firstly, he’s committed to directing the pilot of the drama series House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey for Netflix. That’s expected to shoot in the spring. Then he’s also committed to directing his 3D remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Additionally, screenwriter Steven Zaillian has already been hard at work on The Girl Who Played with Fire, and should Dragon Tattoo be a hit (which I’m fairly certain it will be), Sony will undoubtedly want to get the sequel moving as quickly as possible.

So, as you can see, the possibility of Fincher directing Cleopatra comes down to scheduling. Both Cleopatra and Dragon Tattoo are with Sony, the studio would most likely be willing to have Fincher do both films. However, if he chooses 20,000 Leagues as his next project and Sony wants to move forward with Cleopatra, he may have to step away. Personally, I’d love to see him take on an historical epic of this scale. With Roth just now working on the script, one presumes that Fincher could fit another film in next year before moving on to Cleopatra.

The previous draft of the film was written by Brian Helgeland, who adapted the story from Stacy Schiff’s bestselling book Cleopatra: A Life. While some find Roth to be a bit too heavy-handed, I’m a fan of his work. Yes, Forrest Gump was kind of schmaltzy, but he also wrote Munich and The Insider. Cleopatra will depict the queen as a master strategist in both politics and war, and Jolie seems like a fine choice for the role. When James Cameron was attached, he planned to shoot in 3D, but it’s unknown if that’s still the plan.

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  • Ella

    This move isn’t very surprising. Eric Roth is good friends with both Pitt and Jolie and is godfather to their son Pax. Roth is also good friends with David Fincher. Plus, Jolie was in Roth’s The Good Shepherd. Jolie trusts Roth so if he’s able to fix the script concerns Jolie has and it gets the movie get made then it’s a good move.

  • Ella

    One other thing – Fincher is BFF’s with Pitt and has been since they made Se7en together in the mid-90s. Ironically Fincher almost cast Jolie as Marla in Fight Club (but Pitt suggested Helena Bonham Carter instead) and 3 years later on Jolie had to turn down Jodie Foster’s role in Panic Room because she’d already committed to Beyond Borders (which Oliver Stone was directing at that time and was later fired from). Fincher and Jolie have been trying to work together for over 10 years, so somehow I think if he likes the script Fincher will manage to work this into his schedule for 2012 or 2013. Jolie recently hired an agent to help her find smaller roles in independent films, so it doesn’t look like she’s in much of hurry to get back in front of the camera full-time.

  • Pi

    but David Fincher’s worst film is written by Roth(i’m not counting Alien 3 as a fincher film since it’s a Fox film, if you know what i mean)

    i mean, the main problem with Ben Button is that the screenplay prevents it from going good to GREAT. Fincher supplied the material with great direction, fantastic visuals, great mood. but a mediocre screenplay will always make a mediocre film. Fincher got a Sorkin script after that and he used his genius to visualize a terrific script. the result, not just a great movie, but a masterpiece, a surefire in the best list of this decade.

    but i have to say, The Insider was bad-ass! tense writing. AMAZING! Munich has some problems with the too much preaching though.

  • jackie diane

    2 things off the cuff:
    1) Angelina Jolie is finally too OLD to play a role – unless we’re talking about the part in the story where Rome mosies on down to Egypt in hopes of reclaiming Marc Antony, sets siege on Alexandria, captures Cleopatra and defames the Jewel of the Nile by leading her through the streets of Rome in chains as the population defames her face further with rotten vegetables. So bow! Bow, if you want, to the Queen of Refuse… Which would, incidentally, most likely lead to an Oscar for the Queen of Putrescence if Fincher takes it as seriously as he did with that other one about Gen X’s answer to Steve Jobs.
    2) Did anyone actually WATCH the original Girl blah blah Tattoo? OMFG, I am filmically AMERICAN, here, folks, and so are you if you are reading this so what in Washington’s dead panties makes you think a slow-paced remake of a boring and stumbling Scooby Doo plot reveal told in Scandanavian epic vocal tradition is going to be a hit?

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  • Grace

    Angelina Jolie is a beautiful woman, but her looks are not close enough to represent a descendent of Greek or Egyptian. And if you choose to keep her as the main actress, please tell her to loose her fake accent because it is really bad!

    Zoe Saldana, Paula Patton, or no name up and coming talent who has a ethnic look but can actually perform well as an actress…

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  • mils

    Paula Patton or Kerry Washington should play Cleopatra instead of Angelina Jolie