For the past 50 years, Cleopatra has remained the gold standard of Hollywood excess. The 1963 epic nearly sank Twentieth Century Fox. It took two-and-a-half years to shoot. It burned through two directors and two regime changes at the studio. Its budget rocketed from $2 million to a then-unthinkable $44 million. And, most famously, it left the marriages of its two stars — Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor — in ashes. Nowadays, in an age when celebrity breakups and affairs are more or less routine happenings dissected and dispatched by the tabloids in the blink of an eye, we aren’t so easily shocked. But the early ’60s were a different time. And the titillating, tawdry gossip coming from the Roman set of Cleopatra was like catnip for the world. Once they’d had a taste of Liz and Dick and ‘Le Scandale,’ celebrity would never be the same again.
Cleopatra was already off to an inauspicious start by the time the production got to Rome’s Cinecitta studios in 1961. READ FULL STORY