You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Latido Films Boards ‘Born a King’ as Movie Mints Millions in Saudi Arabia, UAE (EXCLUSIVE)

BUENOS AIRES  —  Bringing onto the market what looks like by far the biggest new movie at Ventana Sur, Latido Films has acquired international sales rights to Agustí Villaronga’s “Born a King,” starring Ed Skrein, fresh off his star-turn in “Midway.”

Latido Films’ director Antonio Saura and Juan Torres, intl. sales head, will introduce “Born a King” – also starring Hermione Cornfield (“Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”) and marking a return to production after an eight-year hiatus of Andrés Vicente Gómez – to select buyers at Ventana Sur, the Cannes-Incaa Latin American market which kicks off Monday in Buenos Aires.

A U.K.-Spanish co-production between London’s Celtic Films, and Spain’s Arena Audiovisual that yokes the craft of both countries’ top tech pool, “Born a King” is budgeted at a declared €19 million ($21 million).

That shows in the heavy VFX work recreating a bustling yet gray 1919 London and a spectacular battle scene at the film’s get-go, capturing Arabian warriors who, at the beginning of last century still rode into battle on horseback and fought with curved swords (plus British rifles), the red blood of battle offsetting swirling of desert yellow sand.

Surprising viewers at April’s Barcelona Festival and directed with a warm heart by Spain’s Agustí Villaronga, who showed a knack in another period piece, 2011’s Goya winning “Black Bread,” to never forget the central human stories at the heart of ambitious historical reconstruction, “Born a King” marks the first big international feature to shoot in the Kingdom, Celtic’s Sutherland said. It received the vital support of the ruling Al Faisal family, especially Prince Saud Bin Turki Al Faisal, the young nephew of the ruling monarch, and got horses and camels from the Saudi army for battle scenes.

Popular on Variety

Going into production when there were no cinema theaters in Saudi Arabia, it has caught an exhibition revolution, notching up $4.2 million in its totality in the Middle East, 60% in the Kingdom pf Saudi Arabia’s first theaters opened, and $2 million in the United Arabian Emirates.

That is quite a feat given that Saudi Arabia still only has  theaters in cantal Riyadh, Jeddah and Khobar, representing some 25% of the total 34 million population in Saudi Arabia, Gómez told Variety.

Set at the dawn of the unification of Arabia, as the film initial voiceover explains, the true events-based historical drama follows the coming of age of Prince Faisal of Saudi Arabia, against the background of a diplomatic mission he led to London in 1919 at the tender age of 13 to plead for non-intervention in Arabia or even the British government’s support for his father’s ambitions to open up Mecca to all Arabs.

The dice are loaded, however, against young Faisal.

After WW1, the Allies carved up the Middle East seeking  to keep Arabia divided, and appeared if anything to support Sharif Hussein, Faisal’s father’s rival but backed but idolized by  T.E, Lawrence, whose lands moreover may have important oil deposits, as the British navy switches from coal to oil.

“All I want to do is fight beside my father and make him proud like you do,” he tells elder brother Turki, at the beginning of the film.

But his father, Abdulaziz Bin Saud, the Emir of Najd, is a kind but daunting man of action, in an early battle scene against invading Rashidi troops, standing sword-in-hand alone facing dozen of charging cavalry, slaughtering eight enemies, some on horseback.

Faisal meets with a frosty reception from the British Foreign Office, spends much of the film attempting to engineer a meeting with King George V and Lord Curzon, Britain’s all-powerful Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

Born a King England
CREDIT: Lola Films

“Born a King” was an “artistic and life journey and adventure” for director Villaronga, his reaction to Arabis and indeed Britain, two cultures he didn’t know well, he says, causing him to shoot the scenes in Arabia with much greater tonal warmth than grey, sober 1919 London.

Lensed in Steadycam to give “a sense of discovery, of a child penetrating fascinated into a new world,” he added, Villaronga’s most major effort, he explained, was “to give the film soul, never relinquish the point of view of a boy who is emotionally more defenseless and without having sharpened as yet his weapons of diplomacy.”

“‘Born a King’ is structured more like an adventure film than a thriller, with the latent tension of the question of whether the protagonist will achieve his objectives, which is an emotional tension, one of sentiments,” Villaronga concluded.

“I’m very happy to give the world sales rights on the film to Latido, a Spanish company that defends good cinema and, headed by Antonio Saura, will grow in the future into one of the independent cinema specialists of greatest international reach,” said Gómez.

“This is Latido’s first collaboration with Agustí Villaronga – one of the most admired film directors in Spain, a creative, inventive talent that knows like very few how to portray the complexity of the human mind – and  with Andrés Vicente Gómez, one of Spain’s legendary film producers,” said Saura.

He added that he “proud” Goméz had entrusted him to represent Spain’s most ambitious production of the year.

“For me, particularly, it is also personal [pride], since I worked with Andrés Vicente Gomez in his production and sales company Lola Films for several years,” said Saura.

He went on: “It’s a great privilege for him to entrust his former protege with this important film, which I see as proof that he sees us somehow as heirs to the great company that he created and which represented the best Spanish films of the last decades.”

Born a King England
CREDIT: Lola Films

More Film

  • The Irishman

    'Captain Marvel,' 'The Irishman,' Other Original Scores to Miss Out on Oscar Nominations

    The Regina Spektor song from “Bombshell” and at least six major scores including “The Two Popes” and “The Irishman” won’t be on Oscar’s music shortlists when they are announced next week. That’s because none of them are on the official Academy eligibility lists from which music-branch members are now voting. Preliminary voting ends tomorrow afternoon, [...]

  • Golden Globes Zodiac signs

    Golden Globes Nominees as Zodiac Signs

    The Golden Globes nominees aren’t the only stars of awards season. Variety turned to astrology to assign Zodiac signs to this year’s nominees. Some selections required a little more nuance — Olivia Wilde’s “Booksmart” is a Virgo with a prominent Sagittarius rising and Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” is a Sagittarius that wishes it were a [...]

  • Two-time Oscar®-winner Tom Hanks portrays one

    How Production Designer Jade Healy Recreated the Beautiful Neighborhood of Mister Rogers

    Production designer Jade Healy is doing double duty this awards season. For one, her work can be seen in Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story.” There, she created a world of angst and individuality, making use of negative space as a couple reaches the end of their relationship. In Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” [...]

  • Eddie Murphy Awkwafina

    The Golden Globes Polish Up Their New Respectability (Column)

    It’s always a fun ritual to peruse the nominations for the Golden Globes, because you’re probably going to see a handful of eyebrow-raisers and maybe a jaw-dropper, the sort of “Oh, did they actually do that?” choices that make the Golden Globes the Golden Globes. That’s the theory, at any rate. But it may be [...]

  • Greta Gerwig Lulu Wang Ava DuVernay

    Hollywood Responds to Golden Globes Female Director Snub: 'Advertisers Should Weigh In'

    Snubs and surprises are par for the course when it comes to award show nominations, but outrage over the shut-out of women in the best director category for the 2020 Golden Globes is proving considerable. Women nominees and Hollywood gender equity watchdogs have expressed disappointment and anger over the exclusion of at least four women [...]

  • Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) is

    Golden Globes: Six Things to Know About the Film Nominations

    Most of Monday morning’s Globe nominations didn’t come as a big surprise. “Marriage Story,” “The Irishman,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “Parasite” have been ruling awards season – their many nominations were expected. But Globe wins don’t necessarily translate to Oscar gold — about half of best pic wins have been in sync [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content