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David Fincher Exits Angelina Jolie’s ‘Cleopatra’

Director David Fincher
Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images

David Fincher has his pick of projects and has been attached to a number of different films over the past few years. But it appears that the director has now exited what might have been the highest-profile one of them all.

Vulture reports that “talks have broken off” between Fincher and Sony for a new version of ‘Cleopatra.’ The film is set to star Angelina Jolie, which automatically makes it a super-A-list project, and has been in development since June 2010. There’s no word yet on why Fincher left, but the studio has now thrown the door open to other prospective directors. The favorite as of five minutes ago? Ang Lee, whose ‘Life of Pi’ opens this fall (nothing has been formally offered to Lee yet, however).

‘Cleopatra,’ of course, was also the name of the infamous 1963 mega-bomb starring Elizabeth Taylor as the Egyptian queen, which nearly ruined 20th Century Fox. Perhaps Fincher was thinking about that film when he told MTV News late last year that he did not want to make a “giant sword-and-sandal epic,” but wanted to explore what made Cleopatra “relatable to today.”

And what exactly is that? We have no idea, to be honest, and think the whole project sounds kind of iffy. Ancient history epics have been hit and miss at the box office in recent years — for every ‘Gladiator’ or ’300′ that succeeds, there’s an ‘Immortals’ or ‘Troy’ that either underperforms or flat-out stinks up the box office. When we overhear entertainment journalists at a recent junket saying they have no idea what CBGB was (true story), we have to wonder why a studio thinks anyone would remember the story of the last pharaoh of Egypt.

Anyway, back to Fincher. After delivering a solid hit for Sony in the form of ‘The Social Network’ and a more moderate one with ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,’ it’s not clear if the director will stick around the studio or head elsewhere. Although the subject of ‘The Girl Who Played with Fire’ has been raised, it’s not currently on the studio’s schedule, and it was left unclear whether Fincher would return if it got the green light.

Meanwhile, Fincher has also been attached to a remake of ’20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,’ a re-imagining of ‘The Reincarnation of Peter Proud’ and a new exploration of the ‘Heavy Metal’ universe in recent years, and it’s hard to say whether any of those are near any kind of shape to go into production. But wherever Fincher heads next, we know it won’t be ancient Egypt.

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