According to The Daily Beast, more unearthed Sony emails reveal an exchange between Amy Pascal and Brian Helgeland (who wrote the first draft script for Cleopatra), wherein Pascal suggested he replace Angelina with Jennifer Lawrence. There is no info on when this exchange took place and in their emails early this year, neither Pascal nor Scott Rudin mentioned Helgeland or Lawrence while discussing Cleopatra so it likely took place much earlier -- probably long before Eric Roth took over. After Serena, the drive to put Lawrence in another period piece playing a complex character has likely cooled.
Pascal did not say anything negative against Angelina in the emails with Rudin but I'm guessing the most damaging revelation is that for two years she had blocked David Fincher from directing Cleopatra, foiling Angelina's ardent efforts behind her back. Scott Rudin is notorious for being intemperate and I think Angelina will have an easier time dismissing his diss than Pascal's apparent duplicity. Angelina always makes strong eye contact and in the photo below, her expression is inscrutable but she is giving Pascal a hard look. There is no sign of a warm welcoming greeting in her eyes. THR as the host is probably sitting on more photos and more info about the encounter but is so far keeping mum.
To-date, Maleficent is still the 3rd highest-grossing film worldwide with The Hobbit, the year's last remaining blockbuster, opening next week. Maleficent's success would fuel a feeling of urgency on the part of Pascal and Rudin to try and make this up to Angelina especially since Cleopatra is a similarly complex character who can be seen as both a hero and a villain.
Cleopatra has obviously been a tough nut to crack to make it exciting and relevant for today's young audience but there is a large market for historical drama and with the right script and direction, I think it can be a huge hit. Fincher is not an obvious match for a sword and sandal epic but his attachment would certainly ramp up interest among movie bloggers. But my pick would still be Alfonso Cuaron who can handle both the drama and the spectacle.
During a radio interview with the BBC while promoting Maleficent Angelina was asked about Cleopatra and she said it was proving to be such a difficult project to get off the ground that it could be one where she may simply have to walk away saying it was just too hard -- although she added that they were getting close. The Maleficent promo took place 3 months after the Pascal - Rudin emails. But 2 months ago she committed herself to directing Africa from a script by Eric Roth. It sounds like another big project that will keep her engaged for another 12 to 18 months, so it seems Cleopatra still wasn't close to being ready.
Now it looks like there is a greater possibility that she may simply walk away.
Cleopatra has been her passion project for for several years and she once thought it could be her swan song, but is her desire to tell Cleopatra's story strong enough to withstand the feeling of betrayal and loss of trust? Can Rudin still function as the film's producer when his words knocking both Angelina and Cleopatra have been widely circulated?
Perhaps the bigger question is: will she and Brad ever be willing to work again with Pascal and Rudin? Hollywood observers like Anne Thompson and Jeff Wells seem to believe the revelations are damaging enough to put that in doubt. Angelina and Brad have both scaled back their acting commitments and Angelina of course has said repeatedly that she is looking forward to eventually retiring. She has not worked with Sony as a director / producer. So at this point, Pascal and Rudin need Angelina and Brad, but Angelina and Brad can do without Pascal and Rudin.
Interestingly, Angelina said in the interview posted above: “I don’t forgive easily. It’s very hard for me. ...I wanted to understand how Louis did come to forgive and why he felt it wasn’t only important, spiritually, but also as a tool of survival..."
In keeping with the message of Unbroken, she will probably work hard at forgiving Pascal and Rudin, but much like her relationship with her father, she will no longer trust them as she did before.
If she decides to abandon Cleopatra, there will almost certainly be a scramble among other studios to get her to sign-on to their big-budget films as there could now be an opening that didn't exist before. Disney, for one, may now feel that Maleficent 2 could yet become reality.