It is the choice of characters which he would like to chose for the film has raised eyebrows and criticism over concerns about whitewashing in films.
Franzoni and Stephen Joel Brown, a producer of the film, have revealed that they would like Leonardo DiCaprio to play Rumi, and Robert Downey Jr. to star as Shams of Tabriz.
“This is the level of casting that we’re talking about,” said Brown. However, both admit that it is too early to start casting for the film.
Franzoni said that they want to challenge the stereotypical portrayal of Muslim characters in western cinema by charting the life of the great Sufi scholar.
“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 and Brown recently visited Turkey where they met with Rumi experts in Istanbul and also visited the mausoleum of the mystic in Konya.
Rumi was born in present-day Afghanistan and later fled during the Mongol invasion, travelling through Baghdad, Makkah and Damascus before settling in Konya where he spent more than fifty years of his life and died in old age. The epics of his poetry Masnavi and Divan are considered one of the best in the world and have been translated in several languages.
The film will be a prologue and will focus on Rumi’s teachings as well as his encounter with Shams of Tabriz which is said to have changed his life and impacted his poetry especially after the disappearance of Tabriz . It will also give special prominence to Kimya, the poet’s outspoken daughter who some scholars believe may have married Shams.
The shooting for the exciting and rather challenging film is expected to start next year and the creators hope that the audience will be able to relate to the film as it has a lot common with the challenges of the world today.
“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.” said Franzoni.