British actor Idris Elba announced this week that he plans to make his next film in Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Arabia gave me an opportunity to make my film here. It made sense on an economical model," the Hollywood actor and director said, according to Arab News. “I would definitely be here – why not?”
Elba, 45, made the announcement during a speech at the kingdom's Quality of Life program on Thursday. Aiming to promote entertainment, health, sports and education, the program plans to spend 50 billion riyals ($13.33 billion) by 2020.
Born in London, Elba shot to fame for his performance on the American television series The Wire as well as the British series Luther. He then went on to play the lead role in the biopic film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which tells the story of former South African President Nelson Mandela's life and struggle against apartheid.
The actor is also well-known for his roles in Star Trek: Beyond, Beasts of No Nation and Pacific Rim. In 2016, Time magazine listed Elba as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Earlier this year, Elba made his directorial debut with the film Yardie.
“Saudi Arabia has an awesome opportunity to spread its culture through film-making," the British star said at the event this week, which was also attended by American actress Katie Holmes and French footballer Thierry Henry.
Improving entertainment options is a major part of the kingdom's Vision 2030 national transformation plan. Last month, Saudi Arabia made international headlines when it screened the Marvel superhero film Black Panther, the first official cinema screening in more than three decades.
The kingdom established the General Entertainment Authority in 2016, headed by Amr al-Madani, to enhance the cultural and entertainment sector within the Gulf country.
In addition to cinemas opening, there have been major improvements in the entertainment sector. The Saudi Public Investment Fund has launched a new entertainment enterprise with an initial capitalization of $2.67 billion, it was announced last year.
"By the end of 2030, the company's projects aim to serve more than 50 million visitors annually and create more than 22,000 jobs in the Kingdom, which will contribute around 8 billion Saudi Riyals ($2 billion) to the GDP," the Saudi Press Agency said.
In addition to increasing entertainment opportunities, Vision 2030 aims to improve the kingdom's economy, create more jobs, increase women's participation in government and the private sector and open the kingdom to tourism. Led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salam, the kingdom's ambitious blueprint for change has already led to major transformations.