Rupert Wyatt Directing Saudi-Set Epic ‘Desert Warrior,’ Toplining Anthony Mackie and Aiysha Hart

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British director director Rupert Wyatt (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”) is shooting Saudi Arabia-set actioner “Desert Warrior” featuring a top notch international cast led by “Captain America” star Anthony Mackie and Aiysha Hart (“Mogul Mowgli,” “Colette”).

MBC Studios, the production arm of prominent Middle East broadcaster MBC Group, has teamed up with U.S. producer Jeremy Bolt (“Resident Evil”) and Stuart Ford’s AGC Studios on the big-budget period epic set in 7th century Arabia.

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Pic, which started filming in September in NEOM, a futuristic city being built in the Tabuk province of northwestern Saudi Arabia, is being touted as the kingdom’s first tentpole movie and Saudi-owned MBC’s biggest production to date. The shoot is expected to continue for three more months, a statement said.

Besides the two leads, the “Desert Warrior” cast also comprises Ben Kingsley, Sharlto Copley (“District 9”) and Ghassan Massoud (“Kingdom of Heaven”).

Zeinab Abu Alsamh, MBC Studios KSA general manager, in the statement called “Desert Warrior” “a testament to our ambition towards producing premium content for global audiences” and underlined that it’s “a tale of adventure, with a fierce female hero at the forefront of the story.”

The tale takes place at a time when Saudi Arabia was made up of rival, feuding tribes forever at each other’s throats. Emperor Kisra (Kingsley) has a reputation for being utterly ruthless. So when the Arabian princess Hind (Hart) refuses to become Kisra’s concubine, the stage is set for an epic confrontation.

Wayne Borg, managing director of media industries at NEOM, pointed out that, “Attracting a production of the scale of ‘Desert Warrior’ as our first feature film highlights the confidence the film industry has in our ability to deliver a seamless production experience.”

Saudi’s ambitions to build a film industry have been hindered by the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and reports that appear to implicate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the assassination, which prompted media companies from the U.S. and elsewhere to clam up. But Hollywood now seems to be tiptoeing back in.

Cameras are also set to roll in Saudi in mid-November on Gerard Butler action thriller “Kandahar,” directed by Ric Roman Waugh, which MBC is co-producing and co-financing along with The Capstone Group and CAA Media Finance.

AGC International, the international sales and distribution arm of Ford’s AGC Studios, will handle worldwide sales on “Desert Warrior.”

Anthony Mackie is represented by UTA and Inspire Entertainment. Aiysha Hart is represented by Curtis Brown and 42. Rupert Wyatt is represented by UTA.

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