Nazanin Boniadi Makes History as the First Iranian Born Actress as a Female Lead in a Major Motion Picture


By Iman Sadri

Nazanin Boniadi is making history this weekend in Tinseltown. Boniadi is the first Iranian born actress to play a female lead in a major motion picture, distributed by one of the five major Hollywood studios. Boniadi plays Esther the wife of Judah Ben-Hur in Ben-Hur, a remake of the 1959 classic starring Charlton Heston. Boniadi stars opposite Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman in the $100 Million 2016 remake opening this weekend.

Boniadi is in good company this week in the context of Iranian women making history. Iranian women are winning medals for the first time at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Boniadi is best known for her role as Fara Sherazi in the award winning Showtime drama Homeland. She has been a part of other hit television shows, including How I Met Your Mother, General Hospital and Scandal. Boniadi has appeared in feature films including Iron Man, The Next Three Days, and Charlie Wilson’s War, to name a few.

Starring as the female lead in the Ben Hur remake is a formidable next step to catapult Boniadi towards international super-stardom. Iranian born actress Golshifteh Farahani has also starred as a female lead in recent international films. However these have been independent pictures with limited distributions and budgets, namely Altamira and Paterson. Boniadi, however, is the first Iranian born actress to star as a female lead in a major motion picture distributed by one of the five major Hollywood studios, with a multimillion dollar budget.

If Ben-Hur proves to be even half as successful as its 1959 counterpart, Nazanin Boniadi will be on her way to starring in even more blockbusters.

Iman Sadri blogs for Persian Media outlets and can be reached at