In an Q&A with The Butler producer Cassian Elwes, published on September 6, 2013, The Hollywood Reporter indicated that Elwes' movie project Queen of the Desert, a biopic of multitasker (political officer, writer, explorer, spy, etc.) Gertrude Bell to be directed by Werner Herzog, has lost its two leads: Naomi Watts, who was initially cast in the title role, and Robert Pattinson, who was to play T.E. Lawrence aka "Lawrence of Arabia" – brought to movie life by Peter O'Toole in David Lean's 1962 multiple Oscar-winning blockbuster of the same name.
"With Naomi Watts and Robert Pattinson dropping out of Werner Herzog's Gertrude Bell biopic Queen of the Desert, is the project dead?" inquired the Reporter. As found in the trade magazine, Elwes' reply was: "It's been in casting hell, but we feel like we are coming out of it now. I think we're close to making an announcement." Note that Elwes seemed to implicitly agree that Watts and Pattinson were both gone.
However, a Deadline.com "exclusive" has Robert Pattinson still as one of the film's stars, with U.S.-born, Australian-raised Best Actress Academy Award winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours) replacing U.K.-born, Australian-raised Best Actress Academy Award nominee Naomi Watts (21 Grams, The Impossible) as the British Gertrude Bell. Apparently as British diplomat Henry Cadogan, James Franco is the reported replacement for the originally announced Jude Law.
Will Robert Pattinson play T.E. Lawrence?
Needless to say, Robert Pattinson fans have been in a tizzy. Is Pattinson in or out of Queen of the Desert?
Earlier today, Cassian Elwes took a non-committal route on Twitter. When asked by a fan if he could confirm that Pattinson is indeed gone from the project, Elwes replied: "nothing is written in stone." In other words, stay tuned.
If Robert Pattinson ends up playing T.E. Lawrence, that may well turn out to be his third back-to-back character based on a real-life person. In Jesper Ganslandt's Mission: Blacklist, about the discovery of Saddam Hussein's whereabouts following the Iraq War, Pattinson is (for the time being) slated to play U.S. military interrogator Eric Maddox. And if all goes as planned, in the recently announced Life Pattinson will play photographer Dennis Stock opposite Dane DeHaan's James Dean under Anton Corbijn's direction.
Earlier this year, Robert Pattinson was featured in David Michôd's futuristic action thriller The Rover, co-starring Guy Pearce, and reteamed with his Cosmopolis director, David Cronenberg, on the Los Angeles-set Maps to the Stars, starring opposite Julianne Moore, John Cusack, and Mia Wasikowska.
Nicole Kidman: From Grace Kelly to Gertrude Bell?
And in case Nicole Kidman truly ends up landing the role of Gertrude Bell in Queen of the Desert, that'll be her third character based on a real-life figure this past year or so. In Jonathan Teplitzky's The Railway Man, which has been screened at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival, Kidman plays Patricia Wallace, the wife of Scottish World War II prisoner of war Eric Lomax (Colin Firth in the film); and in Olivier Dahan's upcoming Grace of Monaco, Kidman incarnates actress-turned-princess Grace Kelly (Oscar winner for The Country Girl).
Wrapping this up, Gertrude Bell remains an important historical personage – if only morons everywhere would come to the realization that current events don't take place in a historical vacuum. After all, modern-day Syria and Iraq were at least in part her (artificial) creations.
That took place nearly a century ago, but such events, for better or for worse, tend to have long, long lives: decades, centuries, millennia. People in power today should remember that their actions will have long-lasting effects as well – but don't hold your breath expecting them (or their braindead followers) to stop and consider any future consequences.
Nicole Kidman The Railway Man photo: Lionsgate.