Rome rebuilt in Tunisia

Ammar's Empire Film City to bow in October

DEAUVILLE — Paris-based film producer and media powerbroker Tarak Ben Ammar will unveil a $20 million studio facility recreating ancient Rome in his native Tunisia next month.

Ben Ammar, media advisor to Rupert Murdoch and Saudi Prince Al Waleed, among others, is hoping that Hollywood epics now in development at the facility.

“It’s the biggest set ever built,” Ben Ammar boasted Sunday at the Deauville Film Festival, where he was in town to promote the Sylvester Stallone starrer “Avenging Angelo.”

“We’ve faithfully recreated everything from Caesar’s Palace, complete with marble-floored interiors, down to the markets and taverns of ancient Rome. It has been made with real building materials so that it will last. We’ve got props and costumes and are geared for any epic.”

Empire Film City, as the facility is called, will have five sound stages and will also be open to the public as a tourist attraction.

Ben Ammar, who recently produced Brian de Palma’s ‘”Femme Fatale” has a history of luring filmmakers to shoot in Tunisia, for movies such as “Star Wars” “Jesus of Nazareth” and “The Life of Brian.”

“I brought Spielberg, Zeffirelli and Lucas to Tunisia in the 1970s. It’s the Switzerland of North Africa,” he said.

As a further carrot to cost-concious Hollywood studios, Ben Ammar says that his Paris-based sales and acquisitions company Quinta Communications will co-finance films by buying European rights.

Ben Ammar holds a 50% stake in the Tunisian venture with Italy’s Ettore Bernabei.

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