Last month, we told you about Cleo, Steven Soderbergh’s musical about the life of Cleopatra that will supposedly star Catherine Zeta-Jones, Hugh Jackman, and the songs of Guided By Voices. (Also it’s in 3-D.) Today, a new castmember was announced for the flick: Ray Winstone, whose musical-acting chops can be seen in the above scene from Ladies And Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains. He’ll play Julius Caesar in the film, which is bringing together ’70s rock operas, former Spin writers, the music of Robert Pollard, and backlots trussed up to look like ancient Egypt in ways that I don’t think any of us have ever seen, except maybe during Theraflu hazes.
The director also refured reports that the film is set in the 1920s, saying it’s a period story all the way. So does that mean a trip to Egypt is in order? Nope, it’s all going to be done on backlots, he told me.
Soderbergh explained at length how this bizarre sounding project ended up on his plate: “I’ve always wanted to do a musical. All the ones that were coming along just weren’t for me. I wanted to do a real rock n roll musical like ‘Tommy.’ During my research it appeared that most were female driven. So I started thinking about female protagonists. I was thinking about Catherine. It doesn’t take too long to think about Catherine and famous female historical figures to get to get to Cleopatra.”
That’s all well and good, but how does the influential indie band Guided by Voices figure into all of this? Soderbergh said he’d been thinking about using frontman Robert Pollard’s music for his long-gestating musical, when a conversation with former GBV member James Greer led to Greer writing the script in just six weeks. “He went away for like six weeks and wrote this great script! It’s like an Elvis musical in a way. It’s not serious. I mean it’s historically pretty accurate but its sort of like ‘Viva Las Vegas’ meets ‘Tommy.’”
Soderbergh added that it’s the very next film on his docket. He’s set to begin shooting in APril, he said. “I’m totally psyched,” he gushed.
Viva Las Vegas meets Tommy? In 3-D? Why not just cut to the chase and remake The Apple?