Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: What has happened with Sony Pictures’ plans to mount an exciting new biopic of Cleopatra, with Angelina Jolie attached as the Egyptian queen, based on Stacy Schiff’s bestselling book Cleopatra: A Life? I’m told the director conversation right now is with David Fincher, who just got a Best Director Oscar nomination working with Cleopatra producer Scott Rudin, and who is working with Rudin on the Stieg Larsson novel adaptation The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, also at Sony Pictures.

You’ll recall last October that Deadline revealed James Cameron’s keen interest in directing a PG-13 3D version of the movie with a Brian Helgeland script, until 20th Century Fox stepped up and got him to commit instead to two Avatar sequels. After that, speculation centered around Paul Greengrass, who wound up instead directing his own script, Memphis, about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., for Universal, also with Rudin producing.

It’s not surprising that the top directors in town are after this gig. As Rudin has described it, this is the first telling of the Cleopatra story from a woman’s perspective. Instead of simply being a seductress, as she was portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 Joseph L. Mankiewicz-directed film, Cleopatra is also a shrewd politician, strategist and warrior, with sexual charisma to spare. The feeling is the role is a perfect fit for Jolie, who might be the only actress right now with the box office might to get such a large film financed. Jolie is very particular about the directors she works with. This would be her first film with Fincher.

I’m told that the Fincher conversation might come down to timing. Sony Pictures wants to get this film under way soon. There are three bestsellers in Larsson’s The Millennium Trilogy, and Dragon Tattoo scribe Steve Zaillian is already scripting the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire. Fincher is expected to return. He is also attached to Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo. There are a lot of conversations going on about this film, including setting a new writer, and whether Cleopatra will be in 3D without Cameron. The studio would not comment on the Fincher conversations, but I’m persuaded it is more likely than not to happen.