Disney's Shahnameh

Exclusive interview with "Prince of Persia" producer Jerry Bruckheimer


Disney's Shahnameh
by Ari Siletz

With great sense of excitement and curiosity for Iranians, Disney's "Prince of Persia: Sands of Time," starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton, will open in movie theaters next month. Ari Siletz had an opportunity to interview producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who's most recent hits include "Pirates of the Caribbean" and the "CSI" television series. Special thanks to Goli Fassihian. -- jj

What observations, events or persons inspired you to the idea that PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME would make a good movie?

The world that Jordan Mechner created in his videogame is a really wonderful combination of history, myth and fantasy. We thought it would be great to bring that world even more alive for moviegoers.

From a storyteller’s point of view what images and feelings does the concept of “Persia” evoke in you?

Persia is one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known, so it give me a sense of its vast history, the magnificence of its architecture and design, literary heritage and imagination.

What qualities of Jake Gyllenhaal say “Prince of Persia” to you?

Jake is a wonderful actor who's proven himself in a real variety of roles and is also very handsome. I knew instinctively that he would create a really compelling character in Dastan who could be heroic and human at the same time.

What qualities does Gemma Arterton bring to the film?

Gemma is really a talented and classically-trained young actress who had recently graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. She's also very beautiful. Again, like Jake, I knew that we had found someone who could create fully-dimensional character in Tamina.  

As a producer, what efforts do you initiate to create the sense of cultural authenticity in the universe of the story?

"Prince of Persia" is a fantasy based upon history, so we hired an amazing team of designers who did an enormous amount of cultural research into Persia and its vast empire at that time. But at the same time, we gave them the freedom to invent a world especially designed for the film.

Friendship, patriotism, teamwork and the quest for freedom have been among the motivators driving action in your films.  How would you characterize the motivations or personal strengths that compel the protagonists in “Prince of Persia”?

Very much the same as what you describe, to which I would add "family." Dastan is a child of the streets who is adopted by the king, and his struggle is to prove his worth as a son of that king, and brother to the king's natural sons, to truly become a prince of Persia.

The name Dastan may reference Persia’s greatest epic hero, Rostam.  Were Persian literature resources used in researching the film?

Actually, Jordan Mechner found the name "Dastan" in the Shahnameh, the Persian book of kings, which inspired him greatly for both the video game and the film. He said that ie means "trickster," which is perfect for the character, because as Jordan says, Dastan is an underdog who's a bit mischievous and gets by with his cleverness. And the trickster is a literary archetype which goes through all literary history.

Farah and Tamina are distinct archetype names for the Iranian-American audience.  What led to the name change from Princess Farah in the video game to Princess Tamina in the film?

Again, this came from Jordan Mechner. He combined the names of two characters in Mozart's opera "The Magic Flute" Pamina and Tamino, into Tamina, which is a beautiful Persian name, and sounds truly regal.

Sometimes films with settings in foreign lands make a special effort to be sensitive to the sentiments of the native people.  How do you weigh the critical need for artistic license against the restrictions of intercultural respectfulness?

We've tried to pay homage to the greatness and beauty of Persian culture and history while at the same time creating a story of fantasy and magic for all audiences to enjoy. Artistic license is always used to tell great stories, even by people telling their own cultural legends and myths.

There are pictures of you on the set of the film.  Would you give us some recollection(s) of your on-the-set feedback during the production process?

"Prince of Persia" was a fabulous production experience, but also a very challenging one. We shot during the middle of the summer in Morocco and temperatures every day were at least 100 degrees, sometimes as high as 120 or 125. But it was exciting to see this story come alive visually, with our wonderful sets, costumes, set dressing and props, many of which were handmade by the very talented artisans of Morocco. After location filming, we shot on nearly every soundstage at Pinewood Studios outside of London on huge sets, including the "007 Stage," the largest in Europe.

As a producer of action films, do you see necessary compromises between mass appeal and artistic/intellectual depth?

I don't really see it that way. For me it all comes down to story and characters you want to follow and which take you away for a couple of hours from your "real" life.


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Ari Siletz

Thanks Darius

by Ari Siletz on

I am very curious to see what director Mike Newell has done with the "Persia" theme which lends itself  too easily to Western cliches.  As you know, Newell strives to avoid cliches, taking risks with the audience. I expect we will see some fresh ideas.


Here's Newell speaking his mind after his "Harry Potter: Goblet of Fire" film became a big success:

"I was very anxious to break the franchise out of this goody-two-shoes feel. It's my view that children are violent, dirty, corrupt anarchists. Just adults-in-waiting basically." 

If there was a natural pull towards Bollywood during production, the rebellious Newell would have worked hard to  resist it. We'll wait and see how far he has succeeded.



Darius Kadivar

Good Job Ari ! ( Reprise)

by Darius Kadivar on

Very good questions Ari Jaan,

Hope the film will live up to our expectations as Persians although my gut feeling is that this is going to be Hollywood in Bollywood !

Also personally I would have prefered Monica Bellucci to Gemma Arterton ( who was terrible in Quantum of Solace as much as the entire Movie and cast "Daniel Craig excluded of course" ):

A PERSIAN PRINCESS: Monica Bellucci on Prince of Persia (The Game):


And although not a must  I wouldn't have snubbed some 3D effects but that is not their fault for the movie started production before Avatar Hit the screens.

So might as well have it in 1D than a poorly imitated 3 D ... as in the Clash of the Titans or Alice in Wonderland 

But well I still look forward to seeing the movie. At least they did read the Shahnameh it seems for the characters name. It changes from 300 ...

Looking forward to your other interesting articles as always.

Warm Regards,


Recommended Readings:

Persia? Ancient Persia's virtual absence in Hollywood By Darius KADIVAR

Prince Of Persia Finishes Shooting! by DK

Under Persian Masks by Darius KADIVAR

Jake Gyllenhaal Crowned Prince of Persia! by Darius KADIVAR

A Persian Prince in the Making by Darius KADIVAR

Persian Enigma by Darius KADIVAR


We have a voice!

by Shanbalileh on

Over the last 25 years I've watched Hollywood use Iranians as they might use props.  On screen, Iranians have been one-dimensional rabid villains or, in the kindest renditions, misguided and tragic victims.  Iranian characters and culture were distorted at whim, because there were no consequences to filmakers for doing so.  We complained among ourselves of course.  But as far as the filmakers, and the general American public whose favor they sought were concerned, we were voiceless.

I didn't find anything in Mr Bruckheimer's answers that indicates a sudden epiphany on Hollywood's part.  And I'm sure Prince of Persia will be full of frustrating historical inaccuracies, even if it is a step in the right direction to have an actual Persian (can I call him Iranian?) hero.  

No, it wasn't the content of the answers that made me want to shout for joy upon reading this interview.  It was the sharp, probing questions--and the fact that a top Hollywood producer felt compelled to provide answers.  It seems Hollywood is now answerable to the Iranian community for its portrayals of our people and our culture. 

Keep up the good work!


Darius Kadivar

Congrats Ari Jaan ;0)

by Darius Kadivar on

Although I noticed your interview, I still Haven't had the time to read it yet ( which explains why I did not comment) but will do in due time.

So Stay Tuned !

Warm Regards,



thsi might be good

by amgw4 on

i'll check the movie out


Read the interview People (Aynak)

by alexzanzibar on

The movie is not about the Shahnameh people.  The name is very misleading and the ADD readers (Aynak), don't seem to be able to get passed it.  Prince of Persia Sands of Time is based on a very famous video game produced in the late 80's, that is still around.  The video game is arguably one of the most famous in the last two decades and millions of people have played it. If you are Iranian and have kids anywhere between 12 and 42 that grew up in the west, they have probably played it.  The game is so popular that I am sure Disney and JB are more concerned about pleasing the gamers than us.  This movie is not a story from the Shahnameh. 

No wonder our community can't ever see beyond it's own toes, because we
don't look that far. 
I am getting heartburn, by reading some of these comments.  I've got to stop reading these things. One last thing, even a bad movie about the Shahnameh is better than no movie at all.  Do you think all the movies based on Homer, or Roman history are well made and accurate? One step at a time. A movie made by disney and bruckheimer, based on a video game set in mythical persia, with a couple of names taken from Iranian folklore, IS A GOOD THING.  


why do we lack so much in self confidence?

by aynak on


last I checked, Shahnameh is (according to Ferdosi himself)  several thousands years old, ( myth/story/history), and if it has survived this long, it will regardless of a disney movie made about it or not.  So it is very  important to know the details of how a producer/director goes about making a film about one of its most famous stories.

Some of the question Ari has asked were right to the point.   Please at least read the interview.   The answers provided by Jerry are not at all convincing.

You can ask what is the purpose of this film?   Will it be true to the spirit of Shahnameh?   With Jerry's interpreation of "Dastan" he already gives the first bad vibe.   One can easily read Shahnameh to get a picture of Rostam's physical attributes and family background.   Jerry's interpretation already does not match what Rostam was about.  Not from family background (and it looks like Jerry has not even done his homework there to know Rostams was not as he puts it:" Dastan is a child of the streets who is adopted by the king", not to mention the title "Prince of Persia" which is something Rostam was never known as.   (Rostam, the Persian Warrior would have seemed like a good title).   Then the film is shot in Morocco, so don't come back here after you watch the film and say they are showing Iran as all deserts.   (Most of Rostams fights happens in Mazandaran as well as what could be considered todays Azarbaijan Armania, or Touran).   Even based on the description of Systan and Zabol, the climate at the time in that state was very different than today, this is simply based on reference to some of the oldest civilization and number of people who lived there).

I am not sure why so many are thankful for a movie they have not seen regarding our biggest mythical  warrior? I state my concerns and my doubts, at least those who are so in awe of the film, can they give their reasoning for their optimism?

Part of the problem with these type of film making is that the film director can change a real event (like Miller did in 300, by the way Xerxex was portrayed) and then dismss the critiques by saying it is just a fictioan!   I can see the directors doing it for making a buck (and some other motives),  but for us to applaud the distortion?



Ari Siletz


by Ari Siletz on

I don't have a video, but I did meet the Iranican news team at one of the press events. They may have a video interview. I believe there will be an openeing in London which is closer to Darius Kadivar. Also, Disney Studio's PR team likely knows JJ is in London these days.



by statira on

 Do u have a video of interview ?  if not,you and Darius Kadivar should make a team and interview them+ Gemma.This is a rare apportunity that might not happen again.



by statira on

We all need to be grateful to Mr. Bruckheimer for starting to show our culture in a good way. I don't understand why some still nagging. What do u expect? Do you wanna see another Alexander or 300?


Substantial interview Ari

by Monda on

Look forward to reading your review of the movie. 


thanks Ari

by MM on


Ari Siletz

Some more replies

by Ari Siletz on

Statira: I was born in Tehran to a Hamedani father and a Tabrizi mother. The name Siletz is a pen name and the name I use in the US. The Siletz are a native American people in the Pacific Northwest. I use the name in the US in acknowledgment of the fact that most Americans, including Iranian-Americans, are immigrants on equal footing to a land once entirely inhabited by a people that are neither European nor Chinese, African, Middle Eastern or...


Obama, thank you for the very kind words. The positive qualities you describe, to the extent that I strive towards them, I owe to an Iranian upbringing.


Alexzanziber: Acute observation about the significance of this outreach to the Iranian diaspora community. Yes, the ball is in our court now to respond positively.


Aynak: Give it time, as other in this thread have noted this is a good first step. 






Ari, excellent job

by capt_ayhab on

Wonderful line of questions and excellent report.




Thanks but no thanks Jerry!

by aynak on

  If this is the same Jerry Bruckheimer who produced the Dishonor episode of CSI Miami, then you can expect a sloppy (at best) and malicious distortion of our culture.   Please refer to the following link to see what this particular episode displays of Iranian "dishonor killing practice" according to Jerry:      //www.cbs.com/primetime/csi_miami/ then click on Dishonor (03/23/10)  to get a first hand view of  Jerry's work.   The problem is, honor killing of women because she does not want to marry the person their family has selected for her is NON-existent in our Iranian culture, we have many  issues, but this ain't one of them).  This of course is very different than our neighboring Pakistan or Afghanistan, where this is practiced.   But I would challenge anyone to tell us a story where a girl did not want to marry a guy and his father wanted to kill her because he felt dishonored?!   Add to that the family who is in U.S and the story becomes even less factual.   Then the question becomes, how much homework did Jerry do about a film he made, and if we can expect the same type of crap, get  ready for a disaster folks.     BTW, through out this episode be it through the use of names (Sedeegh?), or the documents (which clearly says Dadgostri-- an Iranian entity)  everything is so convoluted, so an average Joe, can not tell Iran, from Afghanistan from Iraq!?    May be so that when the days come, they can all be treated the same, what is the difference?   As you can see this aired on 23 of March a few days after Norouz.   Happy Norouz to you as well Jerry.     


So proud of Ari

by statira on

So Ari jan, you are a persian. I thought you were German. What does ur last name mean?


Ari, U R a great representative of our community!Smart, handsome

by obama on

sophisticated, intellectual, artist, well spoken and written, community activist, patient, not a reactionary, calm, writer and story teller, proud of your iranian background, know our history, and you seem to be a gentleman.

You are the type of person who can leave an excellent impression of us on the artists in the entertainment industry.I say this (even though I have never met you) not because of one interview, based on all of your writings that I have read over the years.

Ari, areh you've got my vote my fellow countryman! May be you could have played zaal!


Thanks to iranian.com and Ari

by alexzanzibar on

Thanks Ari. I have to say I am very impressed you got this interview and that Disney and JB are reaching out to the community. Someone here also commented that Disney was present this year at the Persian Parade! Wow. That's weird.  After being uniformly ingnored as a community, to have a film with the title Prince of Persia and the recognition of the community by the filmmakers, who happen to be the biggest fish in the biggest pond, is, how should I say it, emotional. 

I know many of Iranian.com readers are Iranians who migrated here, but as a kid who grew up to middle age crisis, outside of Iran, and who still plays the video game. I can tell you that the simple fact that Hollywood is treating Persia, like Rome, Greece, and Eqypt, is awsome.  I like to remind everyone that Elizabeh taylor was not Egyptian, Kirk Douglas was not Thracian. WTF, would Bruckheimer cast an Iranian in the lead.   The fact that JB and Disney have taken this first step is huge with anyone that associates it self with Iranzamin and has been waiting for recognition of an era and peoples lost to the western world. Anyone who wants to see actual Iranian histroical stories and folklore, on the silver screen, better step up and thank Disney and JB for paving the way.  The community should puts its money where its mouth is and make sure this succeeeds. Because if mr. bruckheimer, aka Mr. Moneymaker, can't make money with this film, it'll be much more difficult to make the case for it. 

Ari Siletz

Many thanks for reading folks

by Ari Siletz on

I'm also looking forward to seeing (and reviewing) the film. Besides Mr. Bruckheimer, I had a chance to speak with director Mike Newell, screenwriter Jordan Mechner, and actor Jake Gyllenhaal.  The exchanges were very positive._______________    Newell is quite an intellect with a ready sense of humor; look for depth where you don't expect it, say in an action scene. We discussed Shakespeare, British vs. American acting style.  And also Russian politics a little in the context of films. As for Iranian politics, I felt it was better to wait and see how the artist has broached the subject in the work itself._______________    Mechner has done impeccable research on his subject, and if you see 6th century anachronisms in the film--like castle Alamut--you can confidently chalk it up to artistic license, likewise with names like Dastan. In fact Mechner recommended sources to me that I plan to follow up on. When I asked him how familiar he is with Persian culture outside of his research, he said, "Well, I live in LA." Enough said._______________    Jake Gyllenhaal cracked up when I told him I was Persian too. He said he did feel Persian by proxy. Then he asked me if I myself could define what "Persian" meant. I didn't want to bring up doogh, and Hafez would have been a little unfair. So I spoke briefly about intense cultural pride, respect for parents, etc... to which he said, "Hey I can do that too."    Hopefully I can go into more detail in a film review.

Red Wine

تصور نمیکنم که ایشان دل سوخته برای تاریخ پارسیان باشند

Red Wine

آری جان بسیار لذت بردیم از این مصاحبه، دستتان درد نکند هم وطن.

تا فیلم را نبینیم،نمیتوانیم با خیال راحت نظر دهیم ! این هالیوودیها تنها به جیب خودشان مینگرند و بس ! تصور نمیکنم که ایشان دل سوخته برای تاریخ پارسیان باشند و بخواهند واقعیت را به غیر ایرانیان نشان دهند، سابقه اینان بسیار خط خطی‌ و بی‌ پایه است در این زمینه.

امید وارم که اینبار اشتباه کرده باشم.باید صبر کرد و فیلم را دید.



Thank you Ari

by anonymous111.2 on

for the interview.  Well done!!!  We need more Iranians in the entertainment industry.

I'm excited to see Prince of Persia.  They are targeting the Iranian community with advertisement.  They had a float in the Persian parade in NYC and were passing out posters.  


Excellent Interview Ari

by divaneh on

Very good questions and very much to the point. Seeing the film is now in my "to do" list.

Khaleh Mosheh is right about the Dastan and it is indeed another name for Zaal. Here is another line from Shahnameh in which Rostam addresses the Siavash after his death:

خوش آنروز کاندر گلستان بدیم

ببزم سر افراز دستان بدیم

Ineterestingly many people think "Rostam Dastan" means "Rostam of Story" and I was one of them prior to reading the Shahnameh.


Dear Ari

by minadadvar on

Great interview.  I was right about you.

khaleh mosheh

Dear Statira

by khaleh mosheh on

I suppose they actually did not have a particular character from Shahnameh in mind they were just after a name for the character they created in the film.


As far as Rostam e Dastan is concerned, the way I look at it the ancestory of Rostam is as follows,

Rosatm Fathered by Zal( Dastan) who is Fathered by Saam, who is Fathered by Nariman and so we have

Rostam e Dastan (or Zal)

Dastan e Saam

Saam e Nariman

 So the formula is

(Son's name) e (father's name) so as far as Rostam e Dastan is concerned Dastan is not Rostam's name it is his father's. But I guess it really does not matter here because there probably is no connection between the Prince of Persia and a Shahname character in the storyline of the film in any case.

Best wishes 



khaleh Mosheh

by statira on

Maybe they meant Rostam . Rostam was Zal's son and he was famous as Rostame dastan.

khaleh mosheh

Great interview

by khaleh mosheh on

Although I think they have got it wrong on Dastan- the albino white haired prince(hence called Zal- Old man). He had been abandoned by his father Sam - due to being born white haired-and was nursed by Simorgh who then gave him the name Dastan. Here is the verse that Simorgh tells him his name


 نهادم ترا نام دستان زند

که با تو پدر کرد دستان و بند



Great interview, Ari

by statira on

Mr. Brukheimer or Mr. blockbuster is gonna rock even more with this movie.


on the census, should we now write Persian-American not Iranian

by obama on

American? I sent mine already! Darn it!

This is what happens when we are not totally connected to our souls and not proud of who we are as people or individuals. I don't need validation from Hollywood to feel proud or ashamed. Their ignorance is not my problem.

However, the reality is that PR matters. That's why I never saw 300, nor w/o my daughter, but I will make sure to take my kids to see this one. I won't be surprised to see many of us still complain! As long as Hollywood is improving! I am fine with it.

Ari, your questions proved how deep and bright you are, which I never doubted before. Thanks!


Thanks Ari

by benross on

Good interview. And smart comment by JJ! but I guess I will remain an Iranian!

Jahanshah Javid

Lucky Persians

by Jahanshah Javid on

For all those who were convinced "300" was a conspiracy to defame Persians/Iranians, "Prince of Persia" will be something to think about.

Of course, many conspiracy theorists will see this film as confirmation of their views (nothing will change their mind), but the fact is that Hollywood is there to entertain and make money. Period. We just got lucky this time.

Thanks for the interview Ari.

PS: After this film comes out, there will be a sudden 10-fold increase in the number of Iranians who will describe themselves as "Persians". Whatever makes you happy :>)