Monday, December 7, 2015

Is Angelina Jolie's 'Cleopatra' A Good Idea?

Angelina Jolie
For years now, we've been hearing rumors of a film to be titled Cleopatra, produced by and starring Angelina Jolie. It's always seemed like a perfect role for Jolie given that her exotic beauty and natural cat eyes seem to fit right into our semi-contrived vision of an ancient Egyptian queen. Although, the actress already made use of that natural fit during her bizarre turn as Alexander the Great's mother in Alexander (300 years and the Mediterranean Sea separate Alexander from Cleopatra, but there's likely very little difference between the two settings and eras through a Hollywood lens).

Regardless of the seemingly natural fit, Jolie's Cleopatra has gone through a lot of turmoil in its early development. It was a victim of the infamous Sony hack, ran into various conflicts regarding the script and a potential director, and possibly fell victim to a lack of public interest. And with no firm confirmation on when, or even if, the project will still be made, it's now fair to wonder if it's even a good idea.

Can Jolie Get Over The Sony Hack?

The so-called "Sony hack" that leaked countless studio emails and damaged the reputations of half the people in Hollywood produced a lot of dirt regarding Jolie's back-and-forths with studio executives regarding the production of Cleopatra. The worst of it was that one email described Jolie as a "minimally talented spoiled brat," but the overall impression was that Amy Pascal (then the co-chairman of Sony Pictures) and producer Scott Rudin were having a hard time prioritizing the project the way Jolie wanted them to. In particular, there was a great deal of conflict over Jolie's insistence on David Fincher as the director (though judging by Gawker's account of the leaks she also offered to "get on a plane and beg" Martin Scorsese to do it).

Just last month, a report at Guelph Mercury indicated that Jolie is over the Sony hack, and it appears that her relationship with Pascal hasn't been damaged. Jolie and Pascal have both implied that they're too used to scrutiny and criticism to be bothered by email leaks, and Jolie claims her first instinct upon news of said leaks was to make sure Pascal was okay. All of that seems to bode well for a renewed effort to get Cleopatra made. But that may not be the whole story.

Do People Care About The Subject Matter?

Cleopatra sounds like a box-office draw because a lot of historical epics have made a lot of money and Jolie is a big name, but one has to wonder if ancient Egypt is in the midst of losing some of its allure. Just last year Exodus: Gods and Kings had a humiliating release despite the star power of Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton. And next year's Gods Of Egypt with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gerard Butler is already the subject of "whitewashing" criticism and mockery over a goofy preview.

Then again, the actual figure of Cleopatra still seems to inspire interest as one of history's most fascinating queens. Only a few years ago Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff produced a book called Cleopatra: A Life, which The New York Times praised as a more accurate and less mythological look at the character. And online, the Egyptian queen has turned into a popular subject for casino and arcade games. At Gala Bingo, alongside a number of different deposit promotions that attract new users, the games themselves succeed by way of interesting themes. The presence of titles like Cleopatra and Cleopatra's Chest indicates the queen still serves as a popular theme, if in a fictionalized manner.

Has Angelina's Box Office Clout Subsided?

Angelina Jolie is still one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, and we almost take it for granted that her name on a poster can sell a film. That said, it seems as if she's cooled off a little bit in recent years. So what do the ticket sales say?

Judging by Box Office Mojo's records, Jolie's most recent film—By The Sea, which she wrote and directed, and starred in alongside husband Brad Pitt—was a pretty huge flop. Working with a $10 million production budget, it was more of an artistic project than an intended money maker, but with a worldwide gross just under $2 million, it would be understandable if studios were a little hesitant to work with Jolie. Then again, 2014's Maleficent earned over $750 million with a $180 million budget, and 2010's Salt made about $180 million despite mediocre reviews. It's worth noting that both films are expected to have sequels. Overall, it's a little dramatic to suggest Jolie doesn't still attract an audience, though she may not be quite the sure thing her reputation suggests.

All things considered, it seems there's still pretty good potential for this project to be made. We don't know who will direct or when it might be made, but Jolie still has a relationship with Sony, Cleopatra still interests people, and the box-office potential is there.