Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra remains one of the most lavish productions in Hollywood history, one that went so massively over budget that it almost bankrupt 20th Century Fox. The most expensive movie ever made at the time, the historical epic’s mammoth budget of $31 million is equivalent to over $260 million when adjusted for inflation.
You can’t deny that every penny was up there on the screen, though, and it remains an ode to the excesses of Hollywood’s Golden Age, one that luckily turned out to be a major critical and commercial success for a studio that put themselves in serious jeopardy trying to get it across the finish line. And because nothing is sacred in Tinseltown, a new version of the story has been floating around development hell for close to a decade now with Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga both linked to the title role.
However, the project is finally picking up steam, with Wonder Woman duo Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins set to tackle the story, but as soon as the news was announced, the inevitable backlash began over the Egyptian ruler’s ethnicity. In a recent interview, Gadot was asked about the accusations of whitewashing and it sounds as though she isn’t paying any attention to the detractors.
“First of all, if you want to be true to the facts then Cleopatra was Macedonian. We were looking for a Macedonian actress that could fit Cleopatra. She wasn’t there, and I was very passionate about Cleopatra. I have friends from across the globe, whether they’re Muslims or Christian or Catholic or atheist or Buddhist, or Jewish of course. People are people, and with me I want to celebrate the legacy of Cleopatra and honor this amazing historic icon that I admire so much. You know, anybody can make this movie and anybody can go ahead and do it. I’m very passionate that I’m going to do my own too.”
Even historians aren’t 100% sure about Cleopatra‘s lineage, although many of them seem to agree that she was of Greek and Macedonian descent on her father’s side, and possibly even Persian or Syrian on her mother’s. Of course, the backlash is largely based on the fact the last ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt will be played by a non-African or Middle Eastern actress, but Israeli-born Gadot certainly possesses the star power and charisma to inhabit the role as the debate rages on in the background.