Kazakhstani filmmaker Akan Satayev announced Tuesday that Hollywood veteran Ghassan Massoud will star as Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, in KazakhFilm’s upcoming historical drama, “Tomyris.”
Satayev, best known for “The Liquidator,” is heading up a movie on the legendary female ruler, named Tomyris. She is thought to have reigned for 50 years over the Massagetae people and is suspected as having killed one of ancient Persia’s most famous rulers, namely Cyrus the Great.
“Friends, with joy and pride, I want to inform you that King Cyrus in our film “Tomyris” is being performed by the talented, charismatic and famous Ghassan Massoud,” Satayev wrote on his Instagram account. “Today was his first filming day with us.”
The 59-year-old Syrian actor and filmmaker is best known for playing the role of the Muslim ruler Saladin in Ridley Scott's 2005 film “Kingdom of Heaven.” Massoud has also appeared in numerous films in his native Syria including “The Chant of Rain.”
Aliya Nazarbayeva, the youngest daughter of Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev, is the film’s producer and co-screenwriter.
“This is one of the largest historical projects in the history of our cinema,” Nazarbayeva said earlier this year, according to reports by Nur.Kz.
The movie’s plot centers on the story of a large-scale battle between Tomyris’ and Cyrus’ armies.
According to the Greek historian Herodotus, whose works are being used in the development of the film’s script, Cyrus intended to seize areas inhabited by the Massagetae. The Massagetae, also known as Massageteans, were an ancient nomadic confederation that, according to some sources, inhabited the steppes of Central Asia, northeast of the Caspian Sea. The region today includes modern Turkmenistan, western Uzbekistan, and southern Kazakhstan.
According to Herodotus, the Massagets inhabited the western coast of the Caspian Sea beyond the Araz River located in the territory of Azerbaijan. At the same time, there is a version according to which Massagets settled in the southern territories of modern Russia and the north of Azerbaijan.
Although Herodotus mentions that many stories circulated in the ancient world regarding the death of Cyrus the Great, who is famous for his conquests and expansion of the Persian Empire and the founder of the Achaemenid Empire, local lore says it was Tomyris who killed the famed ruler, in 530 BC. Tomyris’ reign is thought to have been between 570 and 520 BC.
Filming is taking place in several picturesque locales throughout Kazakhstan, including Zharkent, Chunzha, Borovoye and Bayan. Custom-made, large-scale scenery has been built for the film’s production near Kapchagai and on the territory of the Kazakhfilm studio.
Satayev says the movie characters will speak in a mixed language created by philologists.
“The language we are doing is a mixture of ancient Turkic and the Old Persian language. Kazakh historians [and] consultants are here every day, and we do not take a single step without their consent,” he said according to Tengrinews.com, adding that the shooting of the film should wrapped up by December.