Ang Lee to Direct Angelina Jolie in Cleopatra Epic

With his second best-director Oscar in hand, Ang Lee is reviewing the script for an epic based on the life of Cleopatra to which Angelina Jolie has been attached since the project’s inception in 2010.

“Sony has asked me to shoot the movie and Angelina Jolie wrote to me to express her wishes to collaborate,” Lee told reporters in Taiwan during the runup to the Academy Awards. “We admire each other. The project looks very attractive.”

“It’s a big-budget movie so I am carefully evaluating it,” Lee said a few days later. “This is a rare opportunity and I will probably take it.”

“I’m about to read the script,” he told the Hollywood Reporter a few days before the Oscars.

Lee is the fourth director to be linked to the project since 2010. His predecessors have included James Cameron, Paul Greengrass and David Fincher who dropped out about six months ago.

Lee himself hasn’t been reticent about expressing his enthusiasm for the project.

“It just feels right to me after all the other types of films I’ve done,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “What does it have in common with any of them? They’re all totally different! That’s what makes this perfect.”

Lee was reported to be ready to begin pre-production as soon as Academy Awards season wrapped earlier this week.

The new Cleopatra script is based on the 2010 biography Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff which brought a new perspective to the life of the Egyptian Queen. That perspective intrigued Jolie who had expressed interest in the role when the project was first conceived due to a lifelong fascination with Cleopatra.

“I haven’t done a historical epic of that nature and she’s always been fascinating to me because I feel like, as much of her story has been done big, it’s never been done accurately,” she told reporters in 2010. “Not that any movie can get history perfectly well. There is no universal truth to history in some films, but you can get closer and I feel there’s a lot that has been unexplord about her. But there’s a lot that would have to come together for that to work.”

In particular, Jolie said she was intrigued by the fact that Cleopatra was an intellectual who spoke five languages, and a devoted mother who, contrary to her oversexualized image, had only had two relationships, both with men with whom she had children.

The script is written by Brian Helgeland who rewrote the script for the spy thriller Salt (2010) to allow Angelina Jolie to replace Tom Cruise as the main character.

No memorable movie based on Cleopatra’s life has been made since the 1963 version starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Until recently, its $44-million budget held the record for the most expensive film ever made — an estimated $360 million in today’s dollars.

The most recent Jolie project, set for release in March 2014, is the Sleeping Beauty remake Maleficent in which she plays the evil sorceress.