Kirstyn Tracey

Written by Kirstyn Tracey

Modified & Updated: 05 Mar 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith


When it comes to historical epics, few movies can rival the grandeur and spectacle of “Cleopatra.” Released in 1963, it remains one of the most iconic films of all time, thanks to its lavish production, captivating performances, and historical significance. Starring Elizabeth Taylor as the legendary Egyptian queen, Cleopatra tells the epic tale of her life, love affairs, and reign during one of the most tumultuous periods in ancient history. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the film broke multiple records and is remembered not only for its opulence but also for the off-screen drama surrounding its production. From the monumental budget to the star-studded cast, “Cleopatra” has left an indelible mark on Hollywood and continues to fascinate audiences to this day. In this article, we’ll delve into 31 fascinating facts about the making of this epic masterpiece.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cleopatra, released in 1963, was a lavish and expensive film starring Elizabeth Taylor. It faced challenges but won awards, influenced fashion, and became a cult classic.
  • The movie’s production was filled with drama, including Elizabeth Taylor’s record-breaking salary, her romance with Richard Burton, and the film’s extensive marketing campaign.
Table of Contents

The movie Cleopatra was released in 1963.

Cleopatra, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, is an epic historical drama film that was released in It stars Elizabeth Taylor in the titular role of Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt.

The movie was one of the most expensive films ever made.

Cleopatra was known for its extravagant production and was one of the most expensive films ever made, with a budget of $44 million (equivalent to over $340 million today).

Elizabeth Taylor was awarded a record-breaking salary for her role.

Elizabeth Taylor received a salary of $1 million for her portrayal of Cleopatra, making her the first actress to be paid such a high amount for a single film.

Cleopatra’s production was plagued with numerous challenges.

The production of Cleopatra faced multiple challenges, including script rewrites, director changes, and on-set conflicts. The film’s production was initially intended to be completed in a few months but ended up taking several years.

The movie features lavish sets and costumes.

Cleopatra is known for its grandiose sets and elaborate costumes, capturing the opulence and splendor of ancient Egypt. The film’s production design and costumes were highly praised.

Cleopatra won four Academy Awards.

Despite its troubled production, Cleopatra was successful at the 36th Academy Awards, winning four awards for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Visual Effects.

The film’s runtime is one of the longest in Hollywood history.

Cleopatra has a runtime of approximately 4 hours and 11 minutes, making it one of the longest films ever produced in Hollywood.

Cleopatra’s success helped popularize historical epics.

The success of Cleopatra paved the way for the popularity of historical epics in Hollywood during the 1960s, including films like “Ben-Hur” and “Lawrence of Arabia.”

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s love story blossomed on the set.

During the filming of Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor and her co-star Richard Burton began a highly publicized affair, which eventually led to their marriage. Their relationship attracted immense media attention.

Cleopatra’s box office performance was a mixed bag.

Despite its high production costs, Cleopatra managed to earn $57 million at the global box office. However, the film’s high budget meant that it did not achieve the financial success that was initially anticipated.

The movie’s historical accuracy has been widely debated.

Cleopatra’s historical accuracy has been a topic of debate among historians and scholars. While the film took inspiration from historical events, it also took creative liberties to create a more gripping narrative.

Cleopatra’s makeup was a signature element of the film.

Elizabeth Taylor’s striking makeup in Cleopatra became iconic and set new beauty trends. Her bold eyeliner, glittering gold accents, and vibrant eyeshadows became synonymous with the portrayal of Cleopatra.

Cleopatra’s soundtrack was composed by Alex North.

Alex North composed the soundtrack for Cleopatra, adding depth and emotion to the film. The soundtrack received critical acclaim and is considered one of North’s finest works.

Cleopatra’s production design team recreated ancient Alexandria.

The production design team meticulously recreated ancient Alexandria, the capital of Egypt during Cleopatra’s reign. Detailed sets and props were used to transport viewers to this historical setting.

The movie faced censorship challenges.

Cleopatra faced censorship challenges due to its suggestive content and explicit scenes. The film had to undergo significant edits and cuts to comply with the regulations of the time.

Cleopatra’s marketing campaign was extensive.

The marketing campaign for Cleopatra was one of the most extensive in Hollywood history. The film’s success was greatly influenced by the magazine covers, interviews, and promotional events featuring the cast and crew.

Cleopatra inspired a wave of fashion trends.

Elizabeth Taylor’s glamorous costumes in Cleopatra sparked a new wave of fashion trends, characterized by flowing robes, intricate jewelry, and bold accessories.

Cleopatra’s script went through numerous revisions.

The script of Cleopatra underwent extensive revisions before reaching its final version. The screenplay was refined to capture the complexities of Cleopatra’s character and her relationships.

Cleopatra marked a turning point in Elizabeth Taylor’s career.

Cleopatra marked a significant turning point in Elizabeth Taylor’s career, establishing her as one of Hollywood’s most iconic actresses. Her performance garnered critical acclaim and solidified her status as a leading lady.

Cleopatra’s cast included renowned actors.

In addition to Elizabeth Taylor, Cleopatra’s cast boasted an ensemble of talented actors, including Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, and Roddy McDowall.

The film’s set was a hotbed of gossip and drama.

The set of Cleopatra was filled with gossip, drama, and controversies, primarily due to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s relationship. The media closely followed their every move, adding to the film’s overall intrigue.

Cleopatra showcased ancient Egyptian culture.

Cleopatra offered viewers a glimpse into ancient Egyptian culture, showcasing architectural marvels, decorative arts, and the rich visual tapestry of the era.

Cleopatra’s reception was mixed among critics.

Critical reception of Cleopatra was mixed, with some praising aspects like the performances and production design, while others criticized its length and historical inaccuracies.

Cleopatra’s costumes were designed by Irene Sharaff.

Irene Sharaff designed the intricate and elaborate costumes for Cleopatra, each carefully crafted to reflect the opulence and style of ancient Egypt.

Cleopatra underwent a restoration process.

In 2013, Cleopatra underwent a restoration process, ensuring the preservation of the film’s original quality. The restoration aimed to bring the film back to its former glory for future audiences to enjoy.

Cleopatra’s box office performance was influenced by competition.

Cleopatra faced tough competition at the box office upon its release, as it was releasing alongside other highly anticipated films. This impacted its financial success in the long run.

The movie’s extravagant costumes weighed several pounds.

Some of the costumes worn by the actors in Cleopatra weighed several pounds, making movement challenging for the performers.

Cleopatra’s production was halted due to illness.

During the filming of Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor fell seriously ill and had to undergo an emergency tracheotomy. This caused a temporary halt in production.

Cleopatra utilized elaborate sets.

Cleopatra’s sets were meticulously designed to recreate ancient Egypt, featuring towering structures, intricate details, and vibrant colors. The production spared no expense in creating a visually stunning world.

The movie’s release was highly anticipated.

The release of Cleopatra was highly anticipated, with fans eagerly awaiting its arrival in theaters. The film generated significant buzz and excitement leading up to its premiere.

Cleopatra has become a cult classic.

Over the years, Cleopatra has gained a cult following and remains a significant film in the history of Hollywood. Its lavish production, memorable performances, and enduring legacy have cemented its place in cinema history.


In conclusion, Cleopatra is a legendary film that has left a lasting impact on the movie industry. Its grand production, exceptional performances, and historical significance have made it a timeless classic. The movie’s extravagant budget, lavish sets, and intricate costumes set a new standard for epic filmmaking. Elizabeth Taylor’s portrayal of Cleopatra was not only iconic but also earned her an Academy Award nomination. Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s meticulous attention to detail and the film’s stunning cinematography further elevated the overall experience. Cleopatra continues to be admired for its scale, ambition, and artistic achievements, making it a must-watch for any movie enthusiast.


Q: Is Cleopatra based on real events?
A: Yes, Cleopatra is based on the life of the famous Egyptian queen, Cleopatra VII. While the film takes creative liberties, it incorporates historical events and characters from Cleopatra’s life.

Q: Who plays the leading roles in Cleopatra?
A: In Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor portrays Cleopatra, while Richard Burton portrays Mark Antony. These two renowned actors deliver captivating performances that contribute to the film’s lasting legacy.

Q: How long is the movie Cleopatra?
A: Cleopatra is known for its lengthy runtime. The original 1963 release was approximately four hours long. However, different versions and edits of the film exist, with some shorter versions available.

Q: Did Cleopatra win any awards?
A: Yes, Cleopatra received nine Academy Award nominations, winning four. The film won awards for Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Visual Effects.

Q: What historical inaccuracies exist in Cleopatra?
A: While Cleopatra incorporates many historical elements, it also takes creative liberties for dramatic effect. Some critics have pointed out inaccuracies in costumes, set designs, and the timeline of events.

Q: Why is Cleopatra considered a classic film?
A: Cleopatra is considered a classic film due to its grand scale, exceptional performances, and enduring cultural impact. Its large production budget, epic storytelling, and portrayal of a legendary historical figure have solidified its status as a cinematic masterpiece.

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