The on-screen history of Cleopatra
Denial’s not just a river in Egypt. It’s also what Hollywood goes into whenever it depicts Cleopatra as a Hellenistic hottie. HBO plans to buck the trend Oct. 16 when it debuts its version of the teenage royal in Rome. ”Cleopatra had a long neck and a great big hooter of a nose,” insists Rome historian Jonathan Stamp. ”She was not by any means a conventional beauty.” Nor was she Egyptian — she was Macedonian Greek! But let’s not split ancient hairs.
THEDA BARA CLEOPATRA 1917 She didn’t say anything — nobody in the movies did back then — but Bara was the first leading lady to play Cleopatra as a heavily made-up bombshell.
CLAUDETTE COLBERT CLEOPATRA 1934 It happened one night — circa 48 B.C.: Colbert’s Cleo wooed Warren William’s Julius Caesar in Cecil B. DeMille’s Oscar-nominated epic.
VIVIEN LEIGH CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA 1946 After playing Scarlett in Gone With the Wind, Leigh went from drama queen to African queen in yet another glam interpretation.
ELIZABETH TAYLOR CLEOPATRA 1963 The $1 million role made Taylor a queen (and started her affair with costar Richard Burton), but the movie nearly ruined 20th Century Fox.
LYNDSEY MARSHAL ROME 2005 Marshal’s portrayal of the queen of the Nile as a plain, druggy waif in the HBO series is Hollywood’s first rooted-in- reality offering.