When Fox executives tried to lure Mankiewicz to rescue the deeply troubled Cleopatra, he drove a hard bargain: he got what he asked for, figured he would spend six months on the film and be done with it. After a solid two years of delays, catastrophic weather, the real-time melodrama of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s very public love affair, the transplanting of the entire production from London to Rome, a constant plague of studio executives who blamed their own miscalculations on their director, a star who was on the brink of death, days of arduous shooting followed by nights of painful rewriting (all on three hours of chemically induced sleep a night), the humiliations of being fired and rehired and seeing his film cut to ribbons, Mankiewicz was a wreck, and it would be years before he made another movie. The miracle is that Cleopatra, in its restored version, is a literate, beautifully made epic.