5 actresses who played Cleopatra

She's one of the most emblematic historical heroines of all time.

Here are 5 legendary actresses who have all played Cleopatra on screen, including Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh and Monica Bellucci.


The tragic story of Cleopatra has inspired filmmakers all over the world. This million-facetted character will forever be the object of our intrigue. Among the numerous actresses who have played the Queen of Egypt in cinema, Vogue shines a light on the five most memorable.

claudette colbert 1934 - cleopatra - by paul hesse
Claudette Colbert 1934 – cleopatra

Claudette Colbert in “Cleopatra” (1934)

To tell the story of the tumultuous love life of the Queen of Egypt, the American director Cecil B. DeMille called upon the French actress Claudette Colbert. The release of the film was met with scandal surrounded as the Hays censorship code had just been passed, and the actress’s outfits were no longer acceptable. That very year, Claudette Colbert was also cast in New York-Miami. The Frank Capra film won Oscars in every category, while Cléopâtre was just nominated.

Vivien Leigh in “Caesar and Cleopatra” (1945)
Vivien Leigh in “Caesar and Cleopatra” (1945)

Vivien Leigh in “Caesar and Cleopatra” (1945)

In this historical drama directed by Gabriel Pascal, Claude Rains plays alongside Vivien Leigh who is transformed into the theatrical Queen of Egypt. Inspired by the play by Bernard Shaw, Gabriel Pascal chose the British actress even though she was older than the heroine. The costume department led by Oliver Messel went to great lengths to give this Cleopatra a real Goddess-like allure. Vivien Leigh’s impressive wardrobe of incredible headdresses, resplendent jewels and intricate dresses is unforgettable.

Sophia Loren in “Two Nights with Cleopatra” (1954)

Sophia Loren in “Two Nights with Cleopatra” (1954)

Directed by Mario Mattoli, Two Nights with Cléopâtre tells the story of a servant to the Queen of Egypt who is put in her place so that the Queen can join her lover Mark Anthony undetected. Seduced, the new Royal guard named Cesarino spends the night with her without knowing that she is not the real Cleopatra. Sophia Loren plays both Cleopatra and her double, the maid Nisca.

Elizabeth Taylor in “Cleopatra” (1963)
Elizabeth Taylor in “Cleopatra” (1963)

Elizabeth Taylor in “Cleopatra” (1963)

Under the direction of Joseph Leo Mankiewicz, Elizabeth Taylor became the highest-paid actress in Hollywood when she agreed to play Cleopatra. Surrounded by Richard Burton and Rex Harrison, the actress was transformed into the Egyptian Queen in this super-production which lasts over four hours and remains one of the most expensive films of all time today. Hollywood’s ultimate icon, Liz Taylor fell in love with her on-screen partner Richard Burton, and the romance between the two became one of the most scandalous in cinema. Despite becoming cult film, it was cursed by weather problems, Taylor contracting meningitis, and a budget that nearly bankrupted the studio.

Monica Bellucci in Asterix and Obélix - Mission Cleopatra (2002)
Monica Bellucci in Asterix and Obélix – Mission Cleopatra (2002)

Monica Bellucci in “Asterix and Obélix: Mission Cleopatra” (2002)

When the Queen of Egypt decides to prove to her lover Jules César that her country is one of the greatest civilisations in the world, she calls upon a young, slightly clumsy architect: Numérobis. In this well-known episode of Astérix and Obelix’s adventures, the role of the prickly Cleopatra is given to Monica Bellucci. Directed by Alain Chabat, Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra was an enormous success. The film sold a total of 14 million tickets in France when it was released in 2002.


Courtesy: Vogue (Published on August 12, 2022)


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