Rumi: America’s favourite poet
The Oscar award winning screen writer David Fanzoni, who wrote the script for the 2000 blockbuster Gladiator, and film producer Stephen Joel brown, are collaborating to produce a film charting the life of the great Sufi scholar Rumi, said they wanted to challenge the portrayal of Muslim characters in western cinema.
“He’s like a Shakespeare… he’s a character who has enormous talent and worth to his society and his people, and obviously resonates today. Those people are always worth exploring.” Franzoni said.
“It’s a very exciting project – and obviously challenging,” Franzoni stated “There are a lot of reasons we’re making a product like this right now. I think it’s a world that needs to be spoken to; Rumi is hugely popular in the United States. I think it gives him a face and a story.”
Franzoni and Brown met experts of Rumi and visited the mystic’s mausoleum in Konya last week in Istanbul with hopes to begin shooting the biopic next year.
The ecstatic poems of Rumi, born 807 years ago have sold millions of copies in recent years, making the Sufi mystic the most popular poet in US. The spiritual and mystical epics, the Masnavi and Divan are widely considered among the best and most beautifully written poetry to have ever been written and have been translated into numerous languages.
Even though the film is not scheduled to start production until next year, Critics have already slammed the producer and screenwriters choice of wanting to cast Leonardo DiCaprio as Rumi and Robert Downey Jr. for the role of Shams Tabrizi, spiritual instructor of Rumi, especially after the white washing of the Oscars and casting decisions of cult anime classic Ghost In The Shell.
With even the most basic facts about Rumis’ life in dispute, the biggest challenge the two face with making the biopic is building an identifiable and credible profile of Rumi from an extensive body of mythology.
“We’re trying to invent and resurrect a character at the same time because there is so much missing in the shadow of history, and some of it is idealised so you have to go back and find the human being who became a saint, because we can’t write about a saint,”
The main reason they want to produce a film of rumis life was to introduce the millennial generation that loves his poetry to his story hoping the audience will identify with the poet.
Franzoni said he would probably include a introduction to Rumis’ life, in which the poet fled his birthplace because of the Mongol invasion as it bares some semblance to the rampage of extremists in the Middle East today and the ensuing flight of civilians