A Hollywood biopic based on Sir James Brooke a.k.a. the first White Rajah of Sarawak is finally going into production, with Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers tapped to play the legendary British explorer
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rhys Meyers - who starred as King Henry VIII in The Tudors as well as having appeared in Mission: Impossible III and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - will also perform parts of the movie in Malay, Dayak, and Arabic, as Brooke was a linguist who readily adapted and immersed himself in the region's culture.
Brooke, a prominent figure in our Sejarah textbooks, was appointed the Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after helping the Sultan of Brunei crush a pirate rebellion and restore the latter to his throne
The former soldier, who had fled a romantic scandal to explore Borneo in the 1840s, would go on to rule Sarawak until his death in 1868.
During his rule, Brooke waged a lifetime crusade against piracy, slavery, and headhunting, which led to a knighthood in 1848. Later, Brooke would find himself tried for murder and piracy after defying the British Empire's attempts to colonise Sarawak.
The reign of the White Rajah lasted three generations across a century, and the family's legacy is now immortalised in the recently opened Brooke Gallery at Fort Margherita in Kuching, Sarawak.
The movie has been in the works since 2010, when producer and screenwriter Rob Allyn picked up a coffee table book called The White Rajahs Of Sarawak in Singapore
"It was a fantastic book with beautiful illustrations of all the Sarawak tribes and the exotic locations, and the story was just an incredible romantic adventure. So, the first thing I did was get on IMDb (Internet Movie Database) and make sure there wasn’t a movie about it," Allyn told The Star in a 2016 interview.
The movie will reportedly be filmed in a combination of Bahasa Malaysia, English, Iban, Bidayuh, and other native Sarawak dialects. The script will also incorporate details from Brooke's diaries, letters, first-hand historical accounts, and archives of The Brooke Heritage Trust, with the latter serving as the film's technical advisory.
With Michael Haussman in the director's chair, Rhys Meyers will also be joined by English actor Dominic Monaghan (Lost, The Lord of the Rings series) and Hong Kong singer-turned-actress Josie Ho
The Borneo Post reported that local actors Bront Palarae, Shaheizy Sam, and Rahim Razali have also been cast in the movie
In addition, the film is supported by the Sarawak Tourism Board and the federal FIMI film rebate, marking the first time the rebate has been used to make a Hollywood movie outside of Peninsular Malaysia.
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