Kazakh Film backs ‘Arabian Nights’

Chuck Russell's 3D adventure to shoot in Kazakhstan

Kazakh Film, Kazakhstan’s state company, has boarded Chuck Russell’s 3D adaptation of “1001 Arabian Nights,” starring Liam Hemsworth, which will shoot in the oil-and-gas-rich central Asian state next year.

Russell, who directed “The Mask” and “The Scorpion King,” has been scouting locations for the $70 million pic for the past year and will start shooting in June. Sets include a full-scale medieval period city 120 miles from Almaty, where Kazakh Film is based, that was built a few years ago for Russian director Sergey Bodrov’s “Nomad.”

Other locations are understood to include the sandy hills and gullies at Altyn Emel.

Kazakh Film is understood to be putting up some $10 million for the movie.

FilmDistrict acquired U.S. rights to the film at Cannes. Inferno is handling worldwide sales.

Russell said that working with Kazakh Film is like working in Hollywood in the 1950s and 60s.

“More than a decade ago I made ‘The Mask,’ ” Russell told reporters in Almaty after inking a co-operation deal with Kazakh Film.

“Now I want to make a film that is understood the world over. For a director, nothing is more pleasant than to discover new talent. Kazakh Film is like Hollywood studios were in the 1950s and 1960s, when they were discovering new faces and supporting young, novice directors.

“These days Hollywood prefers to work with familiar names and big stars.”

Ermek Amanshaev, head of Kazakh Film, is hoping that the recently modernized, state-of-the-art studios, fabulous locations and healthy finances will lure more major Hollywood productions to Kazakhstan.

“We are currently determining what part local Kazakh actors will play in the production,” Amanshaev said. “Those cast will receive training in the U.S.”

Russell, who was in Almaty in September as a guest of the Eurasia Film Festival, said he was keen to use local talent in the movie.

“When I was at the Eurasia festival, as I watched local films, I kept thinking, ‘Who is this and this?’

“My grandmother read ‘1001 Nights’ to me when I was a boy, it is the third most popular book in the world after the Bible and the Koran. I love travel and adventure. I’d like to create something special.”

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev has made supporting the film industry a priority.

His backing over the past two years has sparked a major investment program at Kazakh Film, and has helped spawn a resurgence in the domestic film industry that is now translating into interest in participation in international co-productions.

Last year 30 features were produced in Kazakhstan — 23 of them with state support — a three fold increase since 2007. Box office was $50 million, of which the domestic share was $7 million.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • San-Sebastian

    San Sebastian, Zurich to Take Up SXSW, Tribeca Titles at Newly Created Film Markets

    The San Sebastian and Zurich film festivals have teamed to launch new film markets that will cater to the gaps created by the cancellation of SXSW and the postponement of Tribeca due to the coronavirus pandemic. The programming of both fall festivals will feature titles originally scheduled for spring fests SXSW and Tribeca. The markets [...]

  • Coronavirus Placeholder COVID19 Variety

    Japan's Toei Closes Tokyo Studio After Coronavirus Infection

    Toei closed its Tokyo studio Tuesday after actor Reo Komiya was diagnosed with the coronavirus. The star of the “Mashin Sentai Kiramager,” a sci-fi/action show broadcast on the TV Asahi network, seventeen-year-old Komiya tested positive for the virus while shooting new episodes at the studio. His condition is not known at the present time. A [...]

  • Aqute Media Takes North America on

    Aqute Media Takes North America on Helen Reddy Biopic 'I Am Woman'

    London-based sales agent WestEnd Films has closed a North American deal with Jeff Sackman and Berry Meyerowitz’s company Aqute Media for “I Am Woman,” the biopic about Australian singer Helen Reddy. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival as the opening film of the Special Presentations section. The film also recently [...]

  • Sundance Film Festival Placeholder

    Sheffield Doc/Fest Rejigs With Fall Programming, Virtual Forums in Lieu of Festival

    The Sheffield Doc/Fest pitching forums, MeetMarket and Alternate Realities Talent Market are to take place virtually in June, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The rest of the June festival is being replaced by a series of programs that will take place on weekends through the fall. The planned programming will include film screenings, talks, panels, [...]

  • Southland Tales

    Streamer Mubi Partners With Prada Foundation on 'Perfect Failures' Film Series

    Specialist streaming service Mubi has teamed up with fashion label Prada’s Fondazione Prada foundation on “Perfect Failures,” a curated selection of movies deemed to have been “widely misunderstood” upon their release. The joint project will launch on both the Mubi platform and the Fondazione Prada’s website on April 5 with U.S. director Richard Kelly’s 2006 flop [...]

  • Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) in

    'Morbius,' 'Ghostbusters' Sequel and More Sony Movies Pushed Back to 2021

    Sony Pictures has pushed back many of its major tentpoles — including “Morbius,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” “Uncharted” and “Peter Rabbit 2” — to next year, the studio announced on Monday. Jason Reitman’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” has moved from July 10, 2020, to March 5, 2021; Jared Leto’s “Morbius” has been pushed back from July 31, 2020, to [...]

  • Anne Hathaway to Star in 'French

    Film News Roundup: Anne Hathaway Stars in 'French Children Don't Throw Food'

    In today’s film news roundup, Anne Hathaway will portray an American journalist in Paris, blockbuster director Michael Bay signs with Sony Pictures, and “Extra Ordinary” and “The Etruscan Smile” are added to arthouse streaming services. CASTING Anne Hathaway is starring in the movie “French Children Don’t Throw Food,” based on Pamela Druckerman’s autobiographical book, “Bringing [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content