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Cyrus is coming
To a theater near you

By Fiachra Gibbons
May 17, 2003
The Guardian

An action adventure with a cast of thousands about the Persian emperor Cyrus is set to become the most expensive British film ever made.

Oscar-nominated director Alex Jovey, who has only made one previous feature, hopes to start shooting the $80m (£49m) epic in December. It is the first film about the shepherd boy who founded an empire that stretched from the Mediterranean to India.

Jovey, 32, said he wanted to create spectacular battle scenes reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers but with the sweep of Lawrence of Arabia "and the kind of authenticity you can only get by using thousands of extras". He is amazed that the story of Cyrus's rise in the sixth century BC has gone untold on celluloid.

"He was an astonishing character who is mentioned in the Bible and the Koran. He's a kind of Robin Hood, a champion of human rights, who drew up a kind of bill of rights for his people - a precursor of the Magna Carta called the Cylinder of Cyrus - which is in the British Museum.

"As a child he was condemned to death by his grandfather, who was a king, but was spirited away and raised by peasants. A birthmark set him apart as a prince and he led a rebellion against the emperor. He was surrounded at all times by a fearsome group of 1,000 guards called the Immortals."

Soldiers could only join this corps if an existing member had been killed in battle.

Jovey - who produced and directed the thriller Sorted - said the five-month shoot would be divided between Britain and probably Pakistan. "It may seem like a huge amount of money, but the budget is very low for an epic of this sort. There aren't many big films shooting in Britain at the moment either, so putting together a good crew at a reasonable price is not as difficult as it used to be," he said.

Finance, he claimed, was solid, with distributors already keen to buy into the story, which turns on a love triangle and Cyrus's ultimate betrayal.

Jovey said he was in talks with several internationally known actors, but said the project was not "dependent on big names".

This article was published in the May 17 issue of The Guardian.

May is... Mamnoon Month
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Book of the day

The Education of Cyrus
By Xenophon,
Wayne Ambler (Translator)

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