Inside Move: WB opens Pharoah faucet

'Kleopatra' barges into life

HOLLYWOOD — When you’ve murdered your brother, married your half-brother and witnessed the beheading of your sister, you’re probably more than ready for Hollywood.

But is Hollywood ready for another Cleopatra?

Despite the lessons of history, Warner Bros. is betting big on the Egyptian queen, last week hiring A-list screenwriting team Chris Wilkinson and Steve Rivele to adapt the Karen Essex book “Kleopatra” for the princely sum of $1.2 million against $1.5 million.

True, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1963 “Cleopatra” very nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox, resulting in the forced sale of its backlot to create today’s Century City.

Its $44 million budget was epic for the times, and costs ballooned when original director Rouben Mamoulian was fired and replaced by Mankiewicz, expensive sets were destroyed in an accident, and Taylor was sidelined during shooting with an illness. The budget for Taylor’s 65 costumes alone was $194,800.

But that’s all in the past, say the scribes, who’ve also tackled such historical heavyweights as Richard Nixon (for Oliver Stone) and Muhammad Ali (for Michael Mann.)

“Mankiewicz always intended to make two movies out of her, so it’s unfair to judge ‘Cleopatra’ too harshly,” says Wilkinson.

Their updated ‘Kleopatra’ — spelled thusly as an acknowledgement of the Greek influence on the queen, who was born a Macedonian but ruled Egypt from 51 to 30 B.C. — will focus on her relationships as a girl, woman, wife, mother, queen and later, reincarnated goddess.

These relationships, says Rivele, are more compelling than focusing solely on the political context, which marked the end of Egypt’s autonomy and the shift of Rome from a republic to an empire. Producer Adam Schroeder hasn’t figured out his cast, but as Mankiewicz’s epic featured a Elizabeth Taylor– Richard Burton romance during an actual Taylor-and-Burton romance, perhaps he’ll want to look to modern-day couples based at Warners.

Schroeder has two of them just a golf cart’s glide across the lot: Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston‘s shingle is based at Warners, as is Michael Douglas‘ Furthur Films.

Queen Zeta-Jones? Pharoah Brad?

More Film

  • Andy Muschietti

    'It' Director Andy Muschietti Eyed for 'Electric State' From Russo Brothers

    HOLLYWOOD — When you’ve murdered your brother, married your half-brother and witnessed the beheading of your sister, you’re probably more than ready for Hollywood. But is Hollywood ready for another Cleopatra? Despite the lessons of history, Warner Bros. is betting big on the Egyptian queen, last week hiring A-list screenwriting team Chris Wilkinson and Steve […]

  • Could Fox Acquisition Finally Make Disney

    Could Fox Acquisition Finally Make Disney an Awards Power Player?

    HOLLYWOOD — When you’ve murdered your brother, married your half-brother and witnessed the beheading of your sister, you’re probably more than ready for Hollywood. But is Hollywood ready for another Cleopatra? Despite the lessons of history, Warner Bros. is betting big on the Egyptian queen, last week hiring A-list screenwriting team Chris Wilkinson and Steve […]

  • 'Beyond Skyline' Review

    Film Review: 'Beyond Skyline'

    HOLLYWOOD — When you’ve murdered your brother, married your half-brother and witnessed the beheading of your sister, you’re probably more than ready for Hollywood. But is Hollywood ready for another Cleopatra? Despite the lessons of history, Warner Bros. is betting big on the Egyptian queen, last week hiring A-list screenwriting team Chris Wilkinson and Steve […]

  • Kiernan Shipka

    Kiernan Shipka's Horror Movie 'The Silence' Sells to Global Road for U.S.

    HOLLYWOOD — When you’ve murdered your brother, married your half-brother and witnessed the beheading of your sister, you’re probably more than ready for Hollywood. But is Hollywood ready for another Cleopatra? Despite the lessons of history, Warner Bros. is betting big on the Egyptian queen, last week hiring A-list screenwriting team Chris Wilkinson and Steve […]

  • Verve

    Verve Continues to Show Dominance in Spec Market Following Blacklist, Hitlist Unveilings

    HOLLYWOOD — When you’ve murdered your brother, married your half-brother and witnessed the beheading of your sister, you’re probably more than ready for Hollywood. But is Hollywood ready for another Cleopatra? Despite the lessons of history, Warner Bros. is betting big on the Egyptian queen, last week hiring A-list screenwriting team Chris Wilkinson and Steve […]

  • Sony's Tony Vinciquerra: Disney-Fox 'Creates Opportunities'

    Sony's Tony Vinciquerra: Disney-Fox 'Creates Opportunities'

    HOLLYWOOD — When you’ve murdered your brother, married your half-brother and witnessed the beheading of your sister, you’re probably more than ready for Hollywood. But is Hollywood ready for another Cleopatra? Despite the lessons of history, Warner Bros. is betting big on the Egyptian queen, last week hiring A-list screenwriting team Chris Wilkinson and Steve […]

  • The Disney, Fox Deal Just Set

    The Disney, Fox Deal Just Set Off a Studio Arms Race

    HOLLYWOOD — When you’ve murdered your brother, married your half-brother and witnessed the beheading of your sister, you’re probably more than ready for Hollywood. But is Hollywood ready for another Cleopatra? Despite the lessons of history, Warner Bros. is betting big on the Egyptian queen, last week hiring A-list screenwriting team Chris Wilkinson and Steve […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content