JEDDAH: There are film stars and there are real-life heroes. Combine the two on the silver screen and a blockbuster is in the making.
“Born a King” is the remarkable true story of a 13-year-old Saudi prince dispatched to Britain on a high-stakes diplomatic mission to secure the formation of his country.
Teenager Faisal, who was later to become king of Saudi Arabia, is the young hero sent by his father to lead negotiations in London with the fate of his nation resting on his shoulders.
Set in 1919, this extraordinary new movie was partly shot in Riyadh, and was co-produced by Saudi-born American filmmaker Todd Albert Nims.
Arab News caught up with Nims during the Winter Enrichment Program (WEP) at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and spoke to him about his role in the production.
Nims said he was inspired to take part in filming the story of King Faisal the child.
“It is an important story to be told, especially at this young age, a 13-year-old boy going on this diplomatic mission, where the fate of the country hangs in the balance. It is quite unique.
“I felt this was not just a story that I would enjoy, but one that international audiences and Saudi Arabians would too,” he said.
The film tells how Prince Faisal (played by Abdullah Khaleel) negotiates with some of the pre-eminent figures of the age, including Lord Curzon and Winston Churchill, while forming a friendship with Princess Mary who helps guide him through the corridors of power.
“The main shooting (of the film) started in 2016 and was completed by the end of that year,” said Nims. However, additional filming was required over eight weeks in London and three weeks in Riyadh, and he said “Born a King” was now being prepared for cinema release.
Anticipation of the release has created a major stir on social media, with a one-minute trailer going viral.
Nims said that one of the greatest challenges faced by the film’s producers was finding a cast that looked like the main characters.
“The majority of the cast playing Saudis are from Saudi Arabia,” he said. “But it took about a year to do the Saudi casting... The film includes hundreds of participants from the Kingdom.
“Trying to find an ‘Abdul Aziz’ was the most difficult because he was 6 feet 4 inches tall with huge hands, so trying to find an actor that is that tall or very tall was almost impossible. Also, finding a Saudi actor for the part, in a country where the film industry is still developing, was really difficult.
“It was a similar problem casting the young Faisal. To act at the age of 13 is tough already and to find someone who looks the same (was difficult), because they are actual historical figures,” Nims added.
“It was a huge film to bring (together); many people from different nationalities all working together but speaking different languages such as English, Arabic and Spanish. It was a challenge.”
Nims has a production company of his own in Riyadh called Empty Quarter Entertainment and is currently working on a new horror movie in the south of the Kingdom.
He is also behind a film called Joud that tells the story of Saudi Arabia and its culture and will be screened in cinemas throughout the country.