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Cleopatra and the Actresses Who Have Played Her


Depictions of The Egyptian Queen

Cleopatra has captured the imagination of many artists, musicians, authors and film markers for centuries.

She is the source of much drama, romance and tragedy that few can resist imagining what she was really like and in doing so they put their own spin on her story and her legend.

This page is dedicated to those actresses who over the years have brought her to life in films and one miniseries based on a book.


Sarah Bernhardt

Bernhardt played Cleopatra in 1891.

It was a hugely successful melodrama written by Sardou and Émile Moreau. This version was a stage show but it did allow for elaborate costumes and in the very memorable death scene two live garter snakes were used to play the deadly asp.

Theda Bara as Ceopatra

Theda Bara as Ceopatra

Theda Bara


One of the earliest film depiction of Cleopatra was made in 1917 and starred Theda Bara as Cleopatra. It also started Fritz Leiber, Sr as Caesar and Thurston Hall as Mark Antony. It was directed by J. Gordon Edwards.

It was based off a combination of H. Rider Haggard's novel, the plays Cleopatre by Emile Moreau and Victorien Sardou (the Bernhardt version) and on William Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra.

At the time this film was made it was the most expensive film to be made. It cost the studio $500,000 (approximately $8.3 million in 2009). This was due to the films opulent sets and costumes. However dues to some of the costumes the Hay Movie Codes deemed the film risque.

The film is partially lost as the last known prints were burnt by a fire that happened at Fox Studios and Museum of Modern Art in New York. However a few fragments of the film survived.

Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra

Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra

Claudette Colbert


The next major film version of Cleopatra was made in 1934 by Cecil B. DeMille. It starred Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra, Warren William as Julius Caesar and Henry Wilcoxon as Marc Antony. Colbert's Cleopatra uses both her smarts and her sultry methods to get what she needs.

The film has a very Art Deco feel to it, as evident by the costumes and sets. Because the Hay Movie Codes were put into to practice just as this film was coming out, DeMille managed to get away with more provocative costumes. The film was nominated for several academy awards including best picture and it won Best Cinematography

Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra

Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra

Vivien Leigh


The 1945 film directed by Gabriel Pascal based on the 1901 play by George Bernard Shaw. It starred Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra and Claude Rains as Caesar. This is the first colorized film of Cleopatra. Unlike most other versions of Cleopatra, this version is a romantic comedy that wasn't meant to be historically accurate in anyway. Leigh's Cleopatra is girlish and coquettish. This version is the only version to have a coming of age aspect to it.

This version didn't do well at the Box office and ended Gabriel Pascal's career. Although the film did poorly it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction.

Leigh's Cleopatra

Sophia Loren as Cleopatra

Sophia Loren as Cleopatra

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Sophia Loren


In 1953 Italian movie, Two Nights with Cleopatra starred Sophia Loren in a double role. One was Cleopatra and the other was a slave girl named Nisca.

In this comedy version Nisca takes the place of Cleopatra and wooed by a guard who thinks Nisca is Cleopatra. Loren's Cleopatra is seductive which Nisca foils. The film is regarded as fun and one of the great versions of Cleopatra.

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra

Elizabeth Taylor


The 1963 version of Cleopatra is very highly regarded and is the most popular version of the Egyptian Queen's life. It starred Elizabeth Taylor is her greatest role as Cleopatra. It also stared Rex Harrison as Caesar and Richard Burton as Marc Antony. Taylor's Cleopatra was sophisticated and cool as well as sultry.

This nearly bankrupted Fox studios as it cost $44 million (in 2010 this would be $320 million). It remains the third most costly movie ever produces. The film for all its lavishness was not received by critics and it was the affair between Taylor and Burton that helped this movie.

At one point the film held the record for most costume changes for a film. Taylor had 65 costume changes in this movie. This record was broken in the 1968 movie Star where Julie Andrews had over 125 costume changes. It also won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume and Best Visual Effects and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score and Best Sound Mixing.

Leonor Varela as Cleopatra

Leonor Varela as Cleopatra

Leonor Varela


The 1999 TV Mini series is based on the book Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George. It starred Leonor Varela as Cleopatra as well as Timothy Dalton as Caesar and Billy Zane as Marc Antony. It was directed by Frank Roddan

Varela's Cleopatra is fiery, ambitious and sometimes vulnerable. She has great chemistry with Dalton and Zane. Zane and Varela were also engaged for a while after the fell in love of this project.

Trevor Jones' score for the version is very well done as well as the sets and costumes.

Overall it's a very enjoyable telling of Cleopatra.

Leonor Varela's Cleopatra

Monica Bellucci as Cleopatra

Monica Bellucci as Cleopatra

Monica Bellucci


In the 2002 French movie Asterix and Obelix Meet Cleopatra, Cleopatra is played by Monica Bellucci and the film was directed by Alain Chabat.

This movie takes a different approach to the Queen of the Nile. For one this it’s an action/adventure comedy that is fun for all ages. This movie was based on the comic book Asterix et Cleopatre by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo and it was a sequel for the 1999 movie Asterix & Obelix Take On Caesar.

The film is about Cleopatra wanting to build a great palace for Caesar and none of her architects will do it. Getafix from Gaul, a druid, goes to Egypt to help his friend who has been made to build the palace. Asterix and Obelix goes with Getafix on his Journey to Egypt.

The movie is both funny is an intelligent and modern way though it loses something in translation.

Monica Bellucci's Cleopatra

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie (?)

Angelina Jolie has been rumored to play Cleopatra in an upcoming movie about Cleopatra for over a decade. So far no word on any other casting or crew of any kind, though Ang Lee wants to direct however this is unlikely at this point. The only thing that is attached to this project is Jolie and even that is questionable.

Jolie playing the Egyptian Queen is very polarizing for people. Stacy Schiff author of Cleopatra: A Life thinks she is a great choice. Other people think a Women of color should play her while others think that Jolie does not have the Grecian looks that Cleopatra would have had being of Macedonian decent. And there are other people who feel Jolie is too old for the role, as Cleopatra was 18 when she took the throne and 38 when she died.

There have been many rumors floating around about this project for years. One rumor is that in 2019 that Lady Gaga might replace Jolie or be a rival for the role. And in 2017 that Dune director Denis Villeneuve would direct.

The real question is will this movie ever get made? Or will the upcoming Gadot version replace it?

Gal Gadot

Gal Gadot

Upcoming Version

Gal Gadot

In 2020 in was announced that Gal Gadot was going to play Cleopatra. Gadot is also credited with a writing credit on this project.

This casting has caused controversy due white washing casting. This subject is one that deserved more attention as there is some mystery in Cleopatra's lineage through her mother and Grandmothers. Traditionally her father's family is Macedonian.

Kari Skogland will direct.

A Poll for the Queen of Egypt

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra

Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra

Are You a Fan of Cleopatra Movies?

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on February 19, 2020:

In the 1967 stage version of Antony and Cleopatra, Australian actress Zoe Caldwell performed the role regally opposite Christopher Plummer.

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on November 04, 2019:

In the 1972 Shakespearian production of Anthony and Cleopatra, twas Hildegard Neil who performed the role of the Leading Lady.

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on October 28, 2019:

The beguiling English actress Joan Collins was considered for the 1963 Cleopatra role but had to wait another 10 years to portray that role.

Gadfly from Olde London Towne on October 26, 2019:

Al must bow down before the Queen.

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on September 28, 2019:

SOPHIA LOREN; exquisite Lady.

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on September 18, 2019:

In the Sophia Loen double role as both Cleopatra and Nisca her slave. Mark Antony commented on Nisca's beauty. Cleo replied "I am spring water she is sewer water !"

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on April 12, 2019:

Previous to the 1960's production of Cleopatra, Liz starred in a movie in the role of a Manhattan prostitute Gloria Wondrous. Ambitious eh !

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on March 11, 2019:

Linda Cristal starred in a 1950's era version of Cleopatra titled Legions of the Nile,

Gadfly from Olde London Towne on December 12, 2018:

Rhonda Fleming was another of the Hollywood starlets to join the list of the silver screen CLEO's.

Kato the slave. on September 15, 2018:

The 1963 extravaganza featuring Cleo's triumphal entry to Rome. Though not a victory on the battle field but a spectacle the Roman mob craved. Liz showed em how !

Limpet. on September 14, 2018:

Dame Flora Robson appeared in the 1945 Caesar and Cleopatra with Dame Vivian Leigh as Cleopatra. A youthful Roger Moore debuded as a Centurion.

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on September 13, 2018:

A good actress can portray Cleopatra regardless of her nationality or age.

Flora Robson who often played Queens and even a slave girl acted in both older and younger roles.

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on September 12, 2018:

Can't help thinking that the Angelina Jolie photo still on actresses who have portrayed Cleopatra, to me comes across as the classical Grecian Goddess. As i've only seen four actresses portray Cleopatra all aquiting themselves with a regal aura and 'the femme fatale' disposition.

Kato the slave. on September 12, 2018:

Hollywood does not offer justification for their 'far fetched' ideas in production. Just look at all 'bloopers' and factual errors. Regarding Cleopatra though, all seem to reflect in some way the era in which filmed.

Claborn on September 11, 2018:

This woman had a very strong personality! Her character was unusual and the actresses who acted out her roll were also very strong. I heard that every roll leaves the footprint on the human's soul that's why all connect Cleopatra with some mystery. I'm interested to know the actresses who played in as this character isn't easy too. This young girl is very strong as her life prepared many unexpected surprises

Gadfly on March 10, 2018:

Chilean born Leonor Varala quite convincingly portrayed Cleopatra in the 1999 television film of the same name.

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on March 09, 2018:

Further to my recent comment on those who have played Cleopatra, Debra Paget did not portray the Egyptian Queen in Serpent of the Nile but rather she was the daughter of Cleopatra albeit worthy of viewing.

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on February 28, 2018:

Conceivable that any accomplished actress could portray convincingly the role of Cleopatra. This could be regardless of her nationality as we have over the years seen Continental actresses make 'their mark' in Hollywood and Hollywood actors the same as Oriental characters in movies. None the less a regal bearing and an astute intuition would be prime considerations for the role.

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on February 21, 2018:

The alluring Hollywood starlet Debra Paget portrayed a quite convincing Egyptian Queen in a 1950's production titled Serpent of the Nile.

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on December 16, 2017:

Just to avoid any confusion, Anthony and Cleopatra was the play penned by William Shakespeare whilst Caesar and Cleopatra was a work of George Bernard Shaw.

Limpet on November 25, 2017:

Whilst the myriad of actresses who've appeared as Cleopatra 'Serpent of the Nile' in numerous portrayals. It will be those who starred in major productions who will 'live on' for time immemorial.

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on October 02, 2017:

Heidi Klum and Ann Hathaway have also posed in Cleopatra costumery and and appear quite convincingly as well.

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on September 30, 2017:

Not sure on the Shakespearian conotation there.

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on September 30, 2017:

ERROR; Dame Vivian Leigh appeared in the 1945 production however titled Ceasar and Cleopatra.

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on September 29, 2017:

Renown English actress Sian Phillips convincingly portrayed Cleopatra in the 1976 production of Shakespear's Cleopatra and Marc Antony thus emulating Dame Vivian Leigh's pre3vious portrayal of the same play.

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on September 27, 2017:

There is no doubt that Theda Bara 'fitted the bill' for her role as Cleopatra in one of the earlier versions on the silver screen. I'd go so far as to describe Theda Bara as the ultimate when it comes to the Femme Fatale genre.

amahsnsnmskjsvs on January 07, 2017:

Cleopatra should have always been played by a black woman. A white Egyptian? Or white ethiopian? What an oxymoron!

Ian Stuart Robertson from London England on September 20, 2016:

Many of the silent movie era filmstock has been destroyed or lost. We can only hope that some of it emerges again.

SophieMac10 on September 07, 2015:

All the great actresses have played an egyptian woman at some point, yet they were all white. It is a slap in the face when you pay to see a biopic and find that a Hispanic woman is being portrayed by a white woman such as in the movie A Beautiful Mind. It's one thing to not be historically accurate in a story line, it is another thing when casting is ignorantly color blind.

Blonde Blythe from U.S.A. on May 21, 2012:

I love Cleopatra movies. How unfortunate that the 1917 version with Theda Bara was destroyed. I would love to see it.

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