By Charlie Schmidlin | The Playlist June 18, 2012 at 10:39AM
With a $30 million budget, a high-profile cast including Hugh Jackman and Ray Winstone, and music written by Guided By Voices' frontman Robert Pollard, Steven Soderbergh's 3D musical “Cleo” never faced an easy road to the big screen. The film was scheduled to shoot in spring of '09, but following Jackman's speedy departure, and then Soderbergh's own directorial issues with “Moneyball,” the project fall apart with faint hope of it being revived. The role of Cleopatra was always Catherine Zeta-Jones' though, and following our interview with Soderbergh about his musical's possible future onstage, the actress has recently echoed that intriguing possibility.
While promoting “Rock of Ages” on “The View” this past week, even amongst the inane babble surrounding her, Jones revealed her interest in Soderbergh's vision. "I just finished a movie with him ['The Bitter Pill' with Rooney Mara] and we have an idea -- actually it was for a movie -- to play Cleopatra," she said. "It's a rock and roll musical movie, but we think it would just be fantastic on Broadway." Jones would come to Broadway not as an amateur though, as she made her debut in 2009 with the revival of “A Little Night Music,” for which she took home a Best Actress Tony award.
Soderbergh has been tossing this idea around for a while now, telling us last year, "You know I really loved that script [by Guided By Voices member Jim Greer] and I have thought about taking that to the stage. It could still live somewhere like that." And it seems the idea is one that is still appealing to the filmmaker.
After “The Bitter Pill,” Soderbergh will finally go into production on his other long-gestating biopic, “Behind the Candleabra,” starring Michael Douglas as Liberace, along with Matt Damon, Rob Lowe, Cheyenne Jackson, Dan Aykroyd and Debbie Reynolds. After that, the direct will begin his self-imposed hiatus from filmmaking, but his involvement with “Cleo” seems invested enough to make some version happen, as difficult as it is. As time marches on, it seems more a sheer miracle than the 1963 Joseph Mankiewicz “Cleopatra” ever saw the light of day, since even with such power players as Angelina Jolie and James Cameron fronting a potential adaptation, nothing ever came of it.
The theatre represents a mostly untapped source for Soderbergh though (he did direct "Tot-Mom" on stage in Australia a few years back), so the idea of him bringing his sensibilities to the format -- such as Danny Boyle with “Frankenstein” -- sounds like a suitable second life for his delayed musical, and a unique role for its talented lead. [Digital Spy]