It was even more startling to arrive in Morocco during preproduction on Cleopatra, the $30 million epic I wrote for the great Robert Halmi, Sr., the Hungarian resistance fighter, balloon pilot, and Life magazine photographer who went on to become the king of television movies and miniseries. In the Moroccan desert he had built not only ancient Alexandria but ancient Rome as well… .
That movie ended up being a tumultuous production. The original director either got fired or stomped out on his own weeks before principal photography, and a new director was hired at the last moment. The new director brought in a new writer, Anton Diether, who had done an excellent adaptation of Moby Dick a few years earlier for Halmi…. Enough of my original work was left that I’m pretty sure it’s me, and not Anton, who must bear the responsibility for what has been pointed out to me as the worst line of dialogue ever uttered in a miniseries. Julius Caesar has just aided the young queen Cleopatra in crushing a rebellion in the Egyptian capital. In the battle, though, the great library of Alexandria, the repository of all the world’s wisdom and knowledge, has gone up in flames. As Cleopatra tends Caesar’s wounds, he turns to her and whispers, “I’m sorry about your library.”