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Maybe It's Time to Forget About Cleopatra

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Aug 15, 2012 | 5:17am EDT

Cleopatra MovieWhenever you're forced to read biographies in sixth grade (and then dress up as the person who you read about for class), someone in the class always picks Cleopatra. And why not? The Egyptian queen has an amazing story and an even better outfit. That makes everyone think she'd be perfect for the screen, right? Wrong! Cleopatra is always a dud, so maybe it's time to find another historical figure to fixate on.

NBC, that bastian of quality programming that brought you a rebooted Knight Rider and refuses to cancel Whitney is working on a new historical drama series about Cleopatra, according to Deadline. And let us not forget that Angelina Jolie is planning on playing her in a movie that has had both Paul Greengrass and David Fincher attached. And because three is a trend, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Stephen Soderberg are shopping an idea for a Cleopatra rock musical.

Guys, I don't know if any of those are good ideas. Doesn't everyone remember that Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra is one of the most notorious bombs of all time. Even Shakespeare's Antony & Cleopatra is rarely produced and relegated to the likes of Cybelene and Troilus & Cressida when it comes to studying his work. It just seems like no one can really do the queen justice.

Maybe it's because we all know her story so well. She was a girl who fought her way to become queen, bedded Julius Caesar and Marc Antony after him and tried to make herself the queen of all of Rome. She even started a Civil War before losing and killing herself with a snake. Yes, even her end was dramatic. But with all those great scenes and rewriting her as a powerful woman and pre-feminist icon, it seems impossible to capture her in a movie. Everyone is reading into her what they think she should be, so no matter what happens with the movie (or TV show) there will be people who don't like it. Because she's something different to each person, she can't be the same thing to the populace.

As for the TV show, it just seems like there isn't enough material. The story can fit into a movie and it's not like they can really tease out or change the central love triangle in a way that wouldn't piss off the history departments at most major universities (and every fifth grader who dressed as her for the biography assignment). What about focusing on someone we know a little bit less about, but who has equally amazing costumes. Mary Queen of Scots? Pocahontas? Eleanor Roosevelt? Oh, never mind, her costumes are awful. So, yes, Cleo may seem like a grand slam, but, just like those mummies in movies of old, trying to disturb her slumber is going to cause a curse to fall down on your house.

Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan

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