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Ancient History Movie Trivia & Facts: “Cleopatra” (1963) Part III

The author of the book used to formulate the screenplay for the movie “Cleopatra” turned towards histories written by ancient sources (like Plutarch, Suetonius, and Appian) to formulate  “The Life and Times of Cleopatra.” In this article, you will also learn intriguing details regarding the director Joseph Mankiewicz, as well as who could have taken on the role of Mark Antony.

The smart businesswoman in Taylor reaped more money because she demanded the film be shot in the large format Todd-AO system. This was actually a system that she owned the rights to as the widow of Michael Todd.

It is estimated that the final take that Taylor earned for the movie was $7 , thanks to a great contract that she would later fight in court.

Martin Landau was first cast to play Euphranor, but when no one was found to take on the role of Ruffo , he was recast. During his time with the film, Landau learned Italian.

The director, Joseph Mankiewicz was actually fired during the editing and post-production phase of the movie, but since the film lacked an actual shooting script , 20th Century Fox had to rehire him, as he was the only person who know how the story fit together. All along, Mankiewicz was writing the script as he went along with his shooting of the film.

“Cleopatra” marked the start of the tumultuous relationship that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton would share , right up until his death.

Elizabeth Taylor underwent a tracheotomy during the filming of “Cleopatra,” where you can spot the scar from the procedure in several shots of the movie.

Taylor’s contract also gave her director approval and when Rouben Mamoulian resigned from the project, she would only allow two other men to come aboard: George Stevens and Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Since Stevens was already working on The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), the gig went to Mankiewicz.

Sadly, for producer Walter Wanger , when he was removed from production , this became the end of his career within the movie industry.

During production, there were a group of female extras who played the servants and slave girls of Cleopatra. They actually went on strike for a bit because they desired extra protection from the Italian locals who became a little too “friendly.” The studio relented and hired a guard to watch over the extras.

The original list for actor choices to fill the shows of Mark Antony was extensive. Production was weighing the pros and cons of Stephen Boyd, Richard Johnson, Michael David, Peter O’Toole, Peter Finch and Laurence Harvey. In the end, Boyd was given the part of Antony, while Finch was cast as Julius Caesar. But, when the lengthy delays of production lingered on (due to Taylor’s illness), both had to leave.

The original plan for the movie “Cleopatra” was to spend $2,000,000 for the project and cast Joan Collins as the Egyptian Queen, but once Elizabeth Taylor was given the role , the film completely did a 360 and became the great epic we know now.