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Denis Villeneuve Might Direct Angelina Jolie’s Cleopatra Movie

From 2049 to Ancient Egypt? It could happen.
By  · Published on September 28th, 2017

From 2049 to Ancient Egypt? It could happen.

Does Denis Villeneuve ever take breaks? Does he need some time off at all? His career has skyrocketed since the release of his first English-language film, Prisoners, and it’s staying in the clouds for a bit. Villeneuve is now in talks to direct a Cleopatra film for Sony. This news of a possible fresh venture nicely follows up the positive buzz his latest studio film, Blade Runner 2049, has been getting a week before release.

The Cleopatra film has a screenplay by David Scarpa, adapted from Stacy Schiff’s best-selling book “Cleopatra: A Life,” and will hopefully hold true to the book’s depiction of the iconic ruler of Ancient Egypt a shrewd, formidable and authoritative.

Women lead the narratives of a few of Villeneuve’s features. It’s a little finicky with a film like Sicario, which received a polarized response to its portrayal of protagonist Kate Macer (Emily Blunt). The soundbite that caught everyone’s attention revealed that producers tried to have her rewritten as a man.

There are obviously glowing reviews out there — FSR’s stance being mostly positive, too. But that polarity regarding Kate’s characterization has merit: is she a force of reason and the audience surrogate — someone who is simply up against bull-headed forces of male violence? Or is her inaction a result of a perceived lack of strength in the character? It’s hard to see Kate as being the protagonist anyway when the sequel won’t even feature her.

Arrival exists in beautiful contrast to the nihilistic suffocation of Sicario. A far more straightforward piece in that regard, we can easily root for Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams). Where Sicario is all doom-and-gloom, Arrival is much-needed hope and optimism. It’s a loving portrait against the violence of men as opposed to any kind of glorification of it, and it truly is Louise’s role to save the day.

“Kinetic, awe-inspiring, and intimate,” Arrival speaks volumes of a kind of acumen the film displays. It is a love letter to humanity without sugarcoating people’s perceived realities when they come face-to-face with something they don’t understand. The film takes audiences through its narrative as slowly and lavishly as possible, because learning a new language and learning to understand a new culture requires that patience.

If Villeneuve is to tackle a Cleopatra film, it needs to be more Arrival than Sicario. It’s great that Villeneuve at least knows how to handle both from a technical viewpoint. However, this film has been gestating at Sony for a long time — going through directors like Ang Lee, David Fincher, and James Cameron.

The studio would want to bank on the market for films featuring “strong women” (alas forever bound by quotation marks due to varying interpretations of the phrase). Sony has so much riding on this being an adaptation of an iconic historical figure, and it’s easy to be a skeptic.

There are also other concerns to level at the production, which of course hasn’t yet secured Villeneuve as director. Will they cast appropriately with so much money riding on the project (Angelina Jolie says she’s still a possibility)? Despite constant pressure to do so, Hollywood execs have proven time and time again that they simply aren’t interested most of the time.

Apparently, it’s up to actors to step up and do the work instead. For once, it’d be great if the industry preempted everyone’s disdain for whitewashing and you know, listened to us.

Also… female director? Did anyone think of that?

Either way, Villeneuve has his hands full with two other adaptations as it is. He’s helming a film based on Jo Nesbø’s crime novel, The Son, as well as another sci-fi movie, Dune. A Cleopatra film would be an excellent addition to his resume, but as it stands, he has enough on his plate to keep him busy.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)