Simon West, the director of Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and The Expendables 2, has set his next movie.
Based on a true story, swords-and-sandals epic Antara will follow Antara ibn Shaddad, a slave in the sixth century who won his freedom and became a knight and one of the most famous poets in ancient Arabia. The film will be set against the backdrop of the Neom region in northwest Saudi Arabia and is co-produced by writer and producer Alexander Amartei. Celtic Arabia’s Stuart Sutherland (Killing Eve, Born A King, The Man Who Fell To Earth), is also a co-producer and recently co-produced Kandahar, starring Gerard Butler, in the Kingdom.
Production in Neom, home to a proposed $500 billion megacity, is scheduled for 12 weeks to commence in early 2024, based at Bajdah Studios and tapping into the region’s 40 percent cash rebate program.
“Bringing the story of Antara ibn Shaddad to the big screen and the masses is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to continue his legend,” said West. “The life of Antara is one of those relatively little-known true stories that prove that fact can be so much stranger than fiction. The opportunity to film in the homeland of the Banu Abs tribe means we will keep true to the piece whilst helping to grow the emerging film industry in the region. It’s a project I’m thrilled to be involved with, and I am looking forward to creating something unique for a global audience.”
Antara will follow in the footsteps of Rupert Wyatt’s Desert Warrior, starring Antony Mackie, Aiysha Hart, Sharlto Copley and Ben Kingsley, which became the biggest Hollywood feature to shoot in Neom back in 2021.
“We are excited to work with Neom to bring the first great swords-and-sandals epic since Troy and Gladiator to the world,” said Amartei. “As Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon marked a complete paradigm shift for Chinese cinema, we see Antara as a cultural extravaganza that will be a complete game changer in the region and dazzle the world in a lavishly artistic and sophisticated way.”
With Butler’s Kandahar — which released earlier this year — and the upcoming Desert Warrior, the news of Antara marks another sign of Hollywood productions slowly shifting towards Saudi Arabia, which is investing heavily to position itself as a major shooting destination.