Simon West
Simon West Image Credit: Instagram/ simonwestproductions

Director Simon West, best known for his work in the action film ‘Con Air’ will be shooting his upcoming historical drama, ‘Antara,’ in Saudi Arabia in the country’s growing production hub of Neom, a futuristic city.

The movie will be based on Arab history, and is the tale of Antara ibn Shaddad, a slave warrior who was propelled to mythical status in the sixth century after winning his freedom and becoming a beloved knight and a widely celebrated Bedouin poet in the region.

West, whose credits also include ‘The General’s Daughter’ and The ‘Expendables 2’, said: “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,” 'Deadline' reported.

Production on ‘Antara’ is scheduled to start in early 2024 and last for 12 weeks. The film will tap into Neom’s 40 per cent plus cash rebate for productions and will provide its spanking new sound stages and accomodation facilities, as well as local talent and crew. Casting of ‘Antara’ is being kept under wraps, much like its budget.

More specifically, the film will be based at Neom’s Bajdah Studios which, besides being state-of-the-art, boasts  breathtaking landscapes of Neom which combines canyons, deserts, and a long stretch of the unspoiled Red Sea coastline. Neom, which is in the Tabuk province, is also the site of a futuristic city that is rapidly being built.

Neom Managing Director of Media Industries, Entertainment, and Culture Wayne Borg said the arrival of a big international production like 'Antara' was further evidence of the growing confidence film producers have in Neom.

“They also boost our ecosystem’s development by providing unparalleled work experience opportunities for young Saudis and fast-track the development and growth of the local workforce,” he added.

Other projects hosted and supported by Neom over the past 18 months include Rupert Wyatt’s $150 million Hollywood epic ‘Desert Warrior’, starring Anthony Mackie and Sir Ben Kingsley, and Bollywood blockbuster ‘Dunki’, directed by Rajkumar Hirani and starring Shah Rukh Khan.