EXCLUSIVE: Filming has started in Saudi Arabia on Gerard Butler’s action flick Kandahar, which becomes the first big-budget American feature film to shoot in the famed AlUla region.
Produced by John wick with Thunder Road Films and Capstone, Kandahar reunites Butler with his Greenland and Angel fell director Ric Roman Waugh.
Butler plays Tom Harris, an undercover CIA agent trapped deep in hostile territory in Afghanistan. He must make his way, alongside his Afghan translator, to an extraction point in Kandahar, while avoiding the elite special forces tasked with tracking them down.
Join the cast are Victoria & Abdel and Death on the Nile the star Ali Fazal and Country, 24 and Legion star Navid Negahban.
The film is the first Hollywood production to shoot in the beautiful AlUla region in the northwest of the country, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra. It will also shoot in Jeddah and has received support from the Saudi Film Commission, so it will recruit a local crew and extras. Producers took advantage of the local rebate system.
Culturally and cinematographically, the AlUla “project” is at the forefront of the government’s Vision 2030 plan to modernize the country. The Film AlUla agency has been active in festivals and in the media to promote the region as a destination for international filming. The location is eye-catching, combining preserved tombs, sandstone outcrops, ancient dwellings, and natural monuments.
Saudi Arabia is gaining popularity as a destination for international filming. Among the projects to have filmed recently there is the horror film Cello with Jeremy Irons and Rupert Wyatt’s Desert warrior with Anthony Mackie, which remains in production. Desert warrior and Kandahar are the first two major Hollywood films to be shot in their entirety in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the country’s very first film festival kicks off next week.
Capstone finance Kandahar with Middle Eastern media group MBC Studios. Producers are Basil Iwanyk, Erica Lee and Brendon Boyea for Thunder Road, Alan Siegel and Butler from G-Base and Christian Mercuri from Capstone. David Haring, Scott LaStaiti, Ruzanna Kegeyan, Andrea Dimity and Jonathan Fuhrman are executive producers. Capstone manages international sales while CAA Media Finance represents US rights and arranges financing.
The storyline comes from Mitchell LaFortune, based on his own experiences as a military intelligence officer during the Snowden Leaks.
Capstone Director Christian Mercuri said: “Both the attraction and the challenge of filming in such an incredible location as AlUla was an opportunity neither of us could pass up. The support from the Film Commission and the Saudi government has been remarkable and we are more than delighted to be in production and to see Gerry, Ric and Basil doing their jobs.
Stephen Strachan, Cinematography Commissioner at Film AlUla, added: “We are delighted to officially begin production on Kandahar, and welcome production to the visually stunning county of AlUla. With such a remarkable team of directors behind the production, this is an incredible opportunity for us to showcase not only AlUla’s captivating and diverse landscapes, but also our local crews and talents that are used by the production. We are excited to be able to present AlUla to a global audience across the globe and to open the doors to the region as a world class filming destination.
Ric Roman Waugh recently directed STX’s upcoming feature film National Champions, with Stephan James, JK Simmons, Uzo Aduba, Tim Blake Nelson and Timothy Olyphant.
Fazal is replaced by Julian Belfrage Associates, Bowery Artists and Hirsch Wallerstein Hayum Matlof + Fishman. Negahban is replaced by Innovative Artists and Weintraub, Tobin, Chediak, Coleman, Grodin.