The 1963 epic Cleopatra, starring Elizabeth Taylor in the title role, is often mistaken for being a financial flop. But it was actually one of the highest grossing pictures of its year. It couldn't turn a profit right away because its cost was just too high and so it may have seemed like a disaster originally, but after so many years it eventually made money. If the film were made today for an equivalent cost, it might not be as successful. Its budget would be close to $300 million. Judging from the grosses of other recent epics of this kind, it probably wouldn't come close -- even with international box office -- to making its money back, let alone the original's inflation-adjusted earnings of $442 million.

So, producer Scott Rudin will have to be tighter with the cash when he goes into production on a new Cleopatra film, which will be based on a book by Pulitzer-Prize winner Stacy Schiff due in 2009. Columbia Pictures bought the rights to this unfinished book based on a 10-page proposal for a reported seven figures (that's at least a million bucks, so already the budget is rising). It is expected to spotlight the Egyptian queen's strengths as a ruler as opposed to her reputation as a lover. Hopefully she will be played by someone closer in appearance than Taylor, though I would like to see Taylor have some sort of cameo.



The new film, which may also be titled Cleopatra, isn't exactly a remake, but Rudin has had some experience in reworking classics, having produced the newer versions of The Manchurian Candidate, Sabrina, The Stepford Wives and Shaft. None of these were hugely successful, nor were any of them close to as good as their respective originals, but Rudin is currently producing another remake, which should have an easier chance at making money and pleasing fans. The IMDb lists another remake of The Blob with Rudin attached; since the first version wasn't more than a decent B-Movie guilty pleasure anyway, it will be hard to do worse (see the underrated and under-performing 1988 remake for how easily the premise works as a repeat). And if it can promise some disgusting visuals, it should do well with the horror crowd, which has never been hungrier.