It’s no secret in Hollywood that actress, Angelina Jolie, is to play Cleopatra, Egyptian queen of the Nile, in a new film, directed by “Life of Pi” director, Ang Lee. Jolie will be tackling a role that has seen many incarnations and many interpretations: from Shakespeare’s classic “Anthony and Cleopatra” to Elizabeth Taylor’s immortalisation of the role in the 1963 film. Cleopatra is a huge icon to many people and to many sectors of modern life; her influence can be seen in our monarchy today, architecture, fashion, art, music, medicine – to mention but a few. So we have decided to look at Cleopatra as a wedding influence and a theme. Here’s how we would do it, on our day…
For a Cleopatra bridal feel, you need to go for a dress with detailing; particularly detailing around the neckline. Keep the shape and style of the dress relatively loose-fitting and floaty and you can embellish in your neckline details. This style is perfect for destination weddings, pregnant brides or if you just want to be glam but comfortable! Stick to the colour palette of white/blue/gold.
Team your gorgeous dress (we particularly like Jenny Packham’s ‘Cleopatra’) with a pair of strappy sandals (preferably flat-heeled) and you’re on a roll.
If you’re having a winter wedding, be sure to include a cosy wool shrug or wrap and swap the sandals for warmer pumps!
In almost every interpretation we know of, Cleopatra is depicted as a woman of outstanding natural beauty, of charm and of elegance; she is invariably shown as an elaborate follower of Egyptian fashion and her outfits and make-up reflect the eccentric style of the time. So, long story short: accessorise!
Egyptian make-up of the time was made from forms of henna and clay, so it was actually quite a thick paste, not a look to go for nowadays, but we can certainly draw from it. By picking a shimmer eye-shadow in a azure blue colour, you can emulate the style without going drag! Spread the shadow over your top lip and team with a thick line of liquid kohl eyeliner; use an eyebrow defining pencil to extend the line of your brows and, finally, unless you’ve got very thick eyelashes, add a set of falsies to finish the look. Keep everything else to a natural minimum; let your eye make-up do the work.
Cleopatra has been played by so many women (and men!) over the years that she is a really versatile inspiration; for all shapes, sizes, colours, creeds and types. Here are just a few of the people who have helped shape our view of who Cleopatra might have been and who might help inspire you and your wedding:
In 1917 she was played by Theda Bara. This film version is sadly lost but we do know that at the time it was one of the most elaborate productions ever made, with lavish sets and highly detailed costumes. According to the studio it cost $500,000 (approximately $8.3 million) to make.
The film was loosely based on the plot of William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra and was a huge success at the time; however, the Hays Movie Code deemed the film too risqué to be shown due some of Bara’s costumes.
Unfortunately the last two known prints were burnt in the fire at The Museum of Modern Art in New York and only a few fragments survive today.
Claudette Colbert played Cleopatra in the 1934 Cecil B DeMille film version; unlike the 1917 version, DeMille got away with using more risqué imagery and the film is characterised by its Art Deco look to the extravagant sets and beautiful costumes.
The film won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, and was nominated Best Picture, Best Assistant Director, Best Film Editing and Best Sound Recording.
Vivien Leigh played Cleopatra in the 1945 British Technicolour version based on the 1901 play by George Bernard Shaw, “Caesar and Cleopatra”.
The film was directed by Gabriel Pascal and was marketed as a romantic comedy. It also started Claude Rains as Caesar.
It is by no means meant to be a historically accurate version, but more of a coming of age story.
In 1953, Sophia Loren was cast as Cleopatra in the Italian film “Two Nights with Cleopatra”.
The film is a comedy, in which Loren plays both Cleopatra and Nisca, a slave-girl. Nisca takes Cleopatra’s place and is wooed by a bodyguard who mistakenly thinks that she is the Queen.
In this raunchy comic film, Cleopatra is depicted as a man-eating sexual predator who walks all over the men in her life!
In 1959, actress Piper Laurie took on the mantle of Cleopatra for the General Electric Theater series, an American anthology series, famous for giving soon-to-be-stars their first big breaks.
The programme was hosted by then-actor, Ronald Reagan, who Piper had starred alongside in the 1949 film “Louisa”.
This particular production was called ”Caesar and Cleopatra” and was televised on CBS and aired on the CBS radio.
MILLION DOLLAR CLEO
Elizabeth Taylor played Cleopatra in the 1963 film version, which is perhaps the most popular version of any Cleopatra film. It was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and starred Rex Harrison and Richard Burton as Caesar and Marc Antony respectfully.
The film cost $44 million ($320 million now) and nearly bankrupted Fox Studios. It’s the third-most costly movie ever produced worldwide.
It won Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume and Best Visual Effects. It was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score and Best Sound Mixing.
It also the film earned Elizabeth Taylor a Guinness World Record title for “Most costume changes in a film”; Taylor made 65 costume changes. That record lasted until Evita (1996) which had 85 costume changes for Madonna.
CARRY ON CLEO
A year after the Taylor ‘Cleopatra’ was made, the slap-stick spoof ”Carry On Cleo”, the tenth film in the ‘Carry On…’ series was released. This 1964 comedy satire starred Amanda Barrie in the title role alongside regulars Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey et al.
The production has a remarkably lavish feel to it, unlike some of the other Carry On… films, this is because they were able to use costumes and sets originally intended for the ’63 Taylor ’Cleopatra’ film before that production had decided to shift filming over to Rome, re-building sets there.
In 1972, Janet Suzman played the role in Trevor Nunn’s production of Shakespeare’s “Anthony and Cleopatra” for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford and in London.
The theatre critics raved about the production and it then went on to be captured on film in 1974 and is now viewed by some scholars as the definitive portrayal of Cleopatra: magisterial, ardent and seductive.
Leonor Varela played Cleopatra in the 1999 TV Mini Series. It starred Timothy Dalton and Billy Zane as Caesar and Marc Antony respectfully. It was directed by Frank Roddan.
Varela’s Cleopatra is very ambitious and politically minded. This version was loosely based on “Memories of Cleopatra” by Margaret George. It is said to be one of the most historically accurate interpretations.
Monica Bellucci played Cleopatra in “Asterix and Obelix Meet Cleopatra” in 2004. It was directed by Alain Chabat.
The film is about Astérix and Obélix who go to Egypt to help architect Numérobis who is building a palace for Cleopatra. It also stars Gérard Depardieu. It’s a fun, action/adventure, comedy, that’s great for kids, though it does have a PG rating for language, sensuality and mild violence.
In 2005, Lyndsey Marshall accepted the role of Cleopatra in HBO’s network drama “Rome”.
“Rome” is a British-American historical drama television series created by Bruno Heller, John Milius and William J. MacDonald. The show’s two seasons premiered in 2005 and 2007, and were later released on DVD. The series is set in the 1st century BC, and the series begins with Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, and the first season concludes with the assassination of Caesar followed by the rise of the first Emperor Augustus.
CLEO IN THE CITY
In 2012, Kim Cattrall took to the stage at the Chichester Festival Theatre to play the title role in Shakespeare’s “Anthony and Cleopatra”.
In 1973 Janet Suzman gave an interpretation of Shakespeare’s Cleopatra so infamously stirring that it still lives in many theatre-lovers today. In 2010 Suzman made her return to the play, this time not acting, but directing the production for the Liverpool Playhouse, casting Kim Cattrall, the voracious siren of Sex and the City, as Cleopatra. The production then went on to headline at Chichester in 2012.
Cattrall played Cleopatra blonde, but certainly not dumb!
Other people to play Cleopatra include:
Nikki M. James, Claire Bloom, Genevieve Bujold, Gertrude Elliot, Helen Hayes, Elizabeth Ashley, Aliki Vougiouklaki, Katherine Cornell, Peggy Ashcroft, Carmen Du Sautoy, Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith, Kate Mulgrew, Juliet Stevenson, Kathryn Hunter, Hildegarde Neil, Jane Lapotaire, Lynn Redgrave, Lindsay Lohan, Danielle De Niese, Gina Torres, Heidi Klum, Judi Dench, Pascale Petit, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Thandie Newton, Zerrin Tekindor, Helen Mirren, Susan Strasberg, Cate Blanchett.