Gal Gadot will play the former queen of Egypt Cleopatra in an upcoming biopic and shares new details about how the movie will differ from previous versions. After several failed attempts to produce a new Cleopatra project, including an effort by Sony Pictures with Denis Villeneuve in talks to direct, Paramount Pictures won the opportunity in a bidding war. The Wonder Woman star takes over Angelina Jolie as the historical figure, who was attached to Sony’s production for over a decade while it remained in development.
Cleopatra will be the first significant movie about the famous queen since 1963’s production of the same name, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s version dominated the 36th Academy Awards, being nominated for the second-most awards and tied for the most won. Other versions have been released internationally since then, but Gadot’s will emerge into a Hollywood movie scene that is vastly different than Taylor’s. It will also be the first Cleopatra film directed by a woman; Patti Jenkins originally signed on to direct but was replaced by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s Kari Skogland.
In an interview with InStyle, Gadot describes the approach to this new version of Cleopatra. While she could not share a lot of information, the star of the upcoming Death on the Nile adaptation states that Cleopatra will not only be “sexy and appealing” but also “strategic and smart.” Gadot also claims that the movie will be “telling the story the world needs to hear now” but does not expand on what that means. Read the full quote below:
I can’t reveal a lot, but I can tell you that we’re going to celebrate the Cleopatra story. We’re going to show not just how sexy and appealing she was, but how strategic and smart, and how much impact she had and still has on the world we’re living in today. I’ve watched all the Cleopatra movies throughout history, but I feel like we’re telling the story the world needs to hear now.
Gadot could be referring to the trend in cinema of female-led movies that highlight powerful women and gender-specific themes in new ways. Other historically-accurate movies about famous women, including Cleopatra, have accomplished this to some degree. Queen Cleopatra was the ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt for 21 years, contending with men on the battlefield and in the political arena, so Gadot and Skogland have a lot of historical material to utilize in their attempt to tell a modern tale about the figure that will be relatable and dynamic.
Given what little information she shared, Gadot’s portrayal of Cleopatra should not sound too revolutionary to fans of the 1963 adaptation or anybody with a passing interest in her history. The former queen is well-known for her beauty and wits, famously rivaling and later engaging in an affair with Julius Caesar. In their attempt to tell a relevant contemporary story, the team behind Paramount’s biopic could meet the most resistance in backlash about Gadot’s perceived whitewashed casting. The Israeli actress seems passionate about the endeavor, though, so Cleopatra could overcome those concerns when it releases sometime in 2023 or 2024.