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Sergei Bodrov to Direct ‘White Rajah’ Based on James Brooke’s Adventures (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 5/3/2017 Justin Kroll
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Sergei Bodrov, who earned Oscar nominations for best foreign-language films for “Mongol” and “Prisoner of the Mountains,” is set to direct “White Rajah” for Margate House Films.

The movie is based on the true adventures of Sir James Brooke in 1840s Borneo.

The real-life inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s “The Man Who Would Be King” and Joseph Conrad’s “Lord Jim,” Brooke was an English adventurer who sailed to Borneo in 1839 and earned the title of “White Rajah” after defeating pirates in Sarawak. Brooke fell in love with the beauty, wildlife, and people of Borneo and embarked on a lifelong crusade against slavery, piracy, and headhunting. Queen Victoria knighted him for bravery. Brooke resisted British imperialism, so Parliament put him on trial for murder and piracy. Brooke fought back, founding a dynasty of Brooke Rajahs, who ruled a jungle kingdom larger than England for 100 years, until the eve of WWII.

Rob Allyn wrote the original screenplay, based on Brooke’s writings and archives of the Brooke Heritage Trust and the Brooke family. Their rights deal with Margate includes serving as technical advisers to the film, led by the Rajah’s direct descendant, British Museum historian Jason Brooke.

Margate House Films is producing with U.K. partner Simon Fawcett’s Atlantic Screen Productions. The film is fully financed and greenlit for a mid-2018 shoot in Sarawak, the jungle paradise where Brooke’s exploits took place.

Bodrov is represented in the deal by WME. WME also repped Allyn and Margate House Films, along with Margate’s legal counsel, Tricarico Chavez LLP.

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