‘Desert Warrior’ producer talks shooting a $150 million epic in Saudi Arabia

desert warrior

In the vast majority of cases, a $150 million epic with a recognizable star in the lead role isn’t the sort of project that would be capable of flying under the radar, but a lot of people weren’t even aware of Desert Warrior until cameras were already rolling.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes‘ Rupert Wyatt is directing the big budget historical actioner, which has Anthony Mackie playing a mysterious bandit who helps Aiysha Hart’s princess escape from the advances of Ben Kingsley’s ruthless emperor, forcing them on the run as they find themselves caught in the middle of a war between rival factions that places the fate of the ancient world in the balance.

Desert Warrior is far and away the biggest production to shoot in Saudi Arabia since the kingdom lifted its cinema ban four years ago, and producer Stuart Ford explained at the Red Sea International Film Festival via Deadline why the movie is such an important landmark for both the country and the film industry as a whole.

“I think Desert Warrior is something of a statement movie, certainly on behalf of the Saudi film industry, but actually the entire Arab-speaking region. The film and TV sector in this part of the world is growing very quickly. And, like in any growing production sector around the world, initially you need to import some expertise and Hollywood know-how. But the goal is obviously to infuse that know-how into the local industry.”

There’s plenty of proven talent involved in Desert Warrior, and having the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s new Captain America heading up the ensemble should generate some buzz, but it remains to be seen if the sweeping story has enough to captivate audiences around the world, especially when the historical epic isn’t anywhere near as popular as it was a decade or so ago.