Prince of Persia
Jordan created and programmed the original Prince of Persia on an Apple II computer in 1989. A decade later, he partnered with Ubisoft to reinvent his classic for a new generation of gamers with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Its success launched a global franchise that now includes video games, graphic novels, toys, LEGO, and a blockbuster Disney feature film.
I’m writing this from London, where the Prince of Persia movie is shooting now. The Pinewood studios, originally built in the 1930’s, still feel very much of that era, at least to my L.A.-accustomed eyes. The contrast between the dilapidated physical infrastructure, and the state-of-the-art technology being used inside the stages, is striking.
Whereas the state-of-the-art technology we used to make The Last Express is now as quaint and dated as the 1914-era steam locomotives that were still in service when the Pinewood stages were built.
Pinewood is in an industrial park west of London. To get there, you take the A40 highway, which was originally a Roman road. It was already old in the sixth century, when Prince of Persia is set.
Jet lag makes me think about stuff like this.
Reader Masoud Shoushtarian asks about the Prince of Persia movie:
1. do know about persian culture and persian civilization?
2. why do you make this movie without iranian actor or actress?
3. why don’t you make this movie in iran?
The story and screenplay for Prince of Persia were inspired by many sources, especially the tales of the 1001 Nights and Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh (Book of Kings). In doing the research I read pretty widely, including the lives and writings of Omar Khayyam, Rumi, and Ibn Battuta, and modern histories such as Frye’s The Golden Age of Persia, but my goal was to create an entertaining fantasy in the spirit of the 1001 Nights.
In my afterword for the Prince of Persia graphic novel (which was written by an Iranian author, A.B. Sina) I talk a bit more about the origins of Prince of Persia and its connection to Iranian history and legend. The graphic novel site also has an interview with A.B. offering some of his thoughts on the subject.
The movie casting and location decisions weren’t mine to make, but the choice to shoot in Morocco and the UK was certainly based on practical considerations including availability of locations and production facilities. For similar reasons, Kingdom of Heaven, Black Hawk Down, and Asterix and Obelix Meet Cleopatra were also shot in Morocco, although those stories take place in Jerusalem, Somalia and Egypt respectively.
The Sands of Time: Crafting A Video Game Story, an essay I wrote a couple of years ago for MIT Press, is now available online. If you’re curious about the nuts and bolts of video game writing — and how it’s different from screenwriting — check it out.
What the drawing doesn’t show is that it reached 125 degrees that day (52 Celsius).
UPDATE: The complete “Making of Prince of Persia” Old Journals have also been published as a book. You can purchase a paperback, Kindle, iBooks, or PDF copy here, or read them for free in blog form starting below.
The following are excerpts from journals I kept starting in 1985, when I graduated from college. They tell the story of how Prince of Persia came to be, and almost didn’t.