So here comes a sentence we never thought we'd write: Sacha Baron Cohen's next film is The Dictator, inspired by the book Zabiba and the King by Saddam Hussein. Yes, that Saddam Hussein. Larry Charles is set to direct, and Scott Rudin is producing. The film will hit screens on May 11, 2012.
The film is "the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed".
That sounds like a slightly loose adaptation of the book, a romance novel purportedly written by the former Iraqi dictator (and, most believe, ghost-written with some involvement from him).
Set in 7th or 8th century Tikrit, the book's heroine is the titular Zabiba, a commoner who is harshly treated and raped by her evil husband. The hero is the country's King 'Arab, who forms a platonic but deeply felt love affair with the wise young woman. Cue plots against the throne, uprisings of the population and heroic self-sacrifice all over the place.
If you're looking for allegory, Zabiba represents the Iraqi people, 'Arab is Saddam and her husband the US invaders. Probably. But we're guessing Cohen and Charles (who, of course, also directed Borat and Bruno as well as Religulous) will be putting the "fun" in "fundamentally not great literature" with their screen adaptation. We'll see for sure next year - start speculating on other casting, and indeed everything else about the film, right now!