Angelina Jolie’s Axed ‘Cleopatra’ Was a Love Affair Epic That Had ‘Elements of a Political Thriller With Assassinations and Sex’: It ‘Was Almost Made’

Angelina Jolie’s scrapped “Cleopatra” movie was part romance epic and part “political thriller with assassinations and sex,” according to the movie’s original screenwriter Brian Helgeland. The Oscar-winning actor was set to play the Egyptian queen in a tentpole for Sony Pictures that once courted director David Fincher to helm. It never got off the ground.

“I was the very first writer on ‘Cleopatra’ when it was being developed for Angelina Jolie to star in, which was almost made,” Helgeland said in an interview with Inverse. “It had elements of a political thriller with assassinations and sex, but it’s an epic that’s divided between her love affairs with Caesar and Marc Antony. Lots of true events surprised me when I was writing it.”

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“For example, the day Caesar was assassinated — the Ides of March and all that stuff — she was in Rome,” he continued. “They were leaving for Egypt, and the reason why they had to kill him at that time was because he was headed out of town with her. That’s historically true and featured in the script. She writes Marc Antony’s speech — ‘friends, Romans, countrymen’ — because he doesn’t know what to say, but she tells him what to say. It’s sort of her way of saying ‘fuck you’ to those guys because she’s smart enough and he’s not.”

Hollywood has long struggled to get a “Cleopatra” movie into production following Elizabeth Taylor’s infamous 1963 epic, which had such an enormous budget that it nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox. “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins was developing a new “Cleopatra” movie for Gal Gadot a few years ago, while “Dune” filmmaker Denis Villeneuve has long wanted to make his own “Cleopatra” movie. The latter project appeared to get a promising development update when reports surfaced earlier this year that “1917” screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns was writing Villeneuve’s movie.

“I don’t have anything to do with the current version unless they call me and want to use my draft,” Helgeland told Inverse. “I have no idea if that script is being used, but I’ll be very happy if it is.”

Back in May 2011, Jolie herself said in an interview with The Telegraph that she was hoping her “Cleopatra” movie would be an accurate portrayal of the historical icon.

“She has been very misunderstood,” Jolie said at the time. “I thought it was all about the glamour, but then I read about her and she was a very strong mother, she spoke five languages and she was a leader.”

“My performance will never be as lovely as Elizabeth’s,” Jolie added. “We are trying to get into a different truth about her as a pharaoh in history and not as a sex symbol, because she really wasn’t … Even this idea of her having many lovers – it was possible that it was only two. She is very interesting, but she wasn’t a great beauty.”

When exactly Villeneuve might go into production on his own “Cleopatra” movie remains to be seen. The filmmaker has several high profile projects currently in development, including a third “Dune” movie with Legendary Entertainment.

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