There aren’t many stories from the ancient world more famous than that of Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. A canny politician, she had two remarkably famous love-affairs, first with Julius Caesar, and later with Mark Antony. The tale of her (and Mark Antony’s) downfall has been told and retold in a variety of formats. Now we can add “movie musical” to that very long list of adaptations.
“[Director Steven] Soderbergh explained at length how this bizarre sounding project ended up on his plate: ‘I’ve always wanted to do a musical. All the ones that were coming along just weren’t for me. I wanted to do a real rock n roll musical like ‘Tommy.’ During my research it appeared that most were female driven. So I started thinking about female protagonists. I was thinking about Catherine. It doesn’t take too long to think about Catherine and famous female historical figures to get to get to Cleopatra.’”
The (tentative) cast of “Cleo”.
The musical, which is due to start filming in April, will (allegedly) star Hugh Jackman as Mark Antony, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Cleopatra, and Ray “Robin of Sherwood” Winstone as Julius Caesar. Soderbergh says the project will be “a period story all the way” that will (allegedly) feature a soundtrack by Robert “Guided by Voices” Pollard. Oh, and did I mention that it’s going to be filmed in 3D? Because it is.
“With a four-hour Che epic, a top-shelf legal thriller and a porn-star-led comedy all ahead of him, Steven Soderbergh’s next movie had to be big if he wanted to keep up the attention he’s received in recent years. And big it is. The director has tapped Catherine Zeta-Jones, Hugh Jackman and disbanded indie-rock outfit Guided by Voices for Cleo, a 3D rock musical about Cleopatra and her lover Mark Antony.”
Will “Cleo” be the Pagan equivalent of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, or will a project laden with so much pop-culture excess collapse under its own weight? I suppose only time will tell. In the meantime, you can speculate what exactly a rock-opera about Cleopatra would sound like.