By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist January 5, 2011 at 4:11AM
Producer Scott Rudin Always Figured Fox Would Lock In James Cameron For 'Avatar' Sequels
Early last fall, talk began heating up around a potential, mega-blockbuster "Cleopatra" with preliminary word putting James Cameron in the director's chair and Angelina Jolie in the titular role (she has long been eyed for it). Of course, as we all know, while Cameron thought the idea of directing Jolie would be "hot," he's since signed on for "Avatar 2" and "Avatar 3." But to hear it from producer Scott Rudin, he always sort of figured that might happen. Speaking to Deadline about "Cleopatra" he says, "I’ve been a good friend of Jim Cameron’s since I was the executive on 'Aliens.' I got promoted because of my relationship with Jim Cameron and the guy’s been a seminal figure in my career. I never for one second thought we were being leveraged. I fully expected Fox to make the play they did, to make sure he didn’t do Cleopatra. I wasn’t surprised when they did." But it looks like another very exciting name is circling the project.
While nothing is official, and Scott Rudin and co. won't say much more than they "like the idea," Paul Greengrass is apparently a name being tossed around to helm the picture. And while Rudin believes "we're pretty close" to pinning down a director, it should be noted that Jolie has not yet been informed of any potential participation by Greengrass (though by tomorrow morning, we figure that will no longer be the case).
Greengrass has been considerably quiet ever since "Bourne 4" fell apart. He was briefly linked to "Fantastic Voyage" before switching gears and signing on to "Treasure Island." But that project, set up at Warner Bros., seems to be stalled and WB even had Greengrass among the early contenders for their hot project, "Tales of the Gangster Squad" (which is now being headed up by Ruben Fleischer).
"Cleopatra," set up at Sony, is a very hot project for the studio. Based on Stacy Schiff's "Cleopatra: A Life," the script by Brian Helgeland is being described as a "brilliant script deserving of epic treatment," with a PG-13 3D film being planned. Amy Pascal is calling this her "Gone with the Wind," and the film is fully expected to be carrying a massive budget. Which brings us back to Greengrass. While his 'Bourne' films for Universal were very, very successful, his budget and schedule overruns were a huge sore spot with the studio, who could only overlook those issues because the resulting films were so lucrative. However, we've seen what happens when a movie doesn't find an audience, such as the expensive flop "Green Zone." For us however, we think this is exactly the shake-up Greengrass needs, a really nice change of pace and we think he could bring an energy to "Cleopatra" that would lift the fussier, mustier elements of the story into something exciting. It's also somewhat interesting that "Cleopatra" continues to push on despite "The Tourist" thoroughly fizzling and "Salt" -- well, we won't say it was a bomb, but it was not the female 'Bourne' franchise starter that Sony was hoping for either (notice how sequel talk has pretty much died out?).
"It is a completely revisionist Cleopatra, a much more grown-up sophisticated version," Rudin said. "She’s not a sex kitten, she’s a politician, strategist, warrior. In the Joseph Mankiewicz movie, Elizabeth Taylor is a seductress, but the histories of Cleopatra have been written by men. This is the first to be written by a woman. It felt like such a blow-the-doors-off-the-hinges idea of how to tell it, impossible to resist. We’re pretty close. A lot of directors want to do it, but there is only a handful we’ll make it with." That alone speaks to what is making this such an exciting project at Sony. It definitely appears to be a top shelf project and it seems like we won't have to wait long for some official word on who will bring it to the big screen.