Prolific Persian : Q+A with Director Ali Mashayekhi

January 12, 2022

Ali Mashayekhi is an award winning film-maker who has produced over 50 films in less than two decades. He has worked with a myriad of A-List names including the likes of Mena Masoud (Aladdin) and Shiva Negar (American Assassin). He is making history by adapting a Stephen King work for the first time into a foreign language film. Mashayekhi just wrapped production on The Last King in Los Angeles. An ensemble piece, entirely in Farsi. Encompassing an All-Star cast including Tara Grammy and Maz Jobrani. To get caught up with Ali, we did a Q+A with this prolific Persian film-maker from Canada.

Ali Mashayekhi with Mena Massoud (Image Credit Instagram)

IS : Describe your early life, education and upbringing.

Ali Mashayekhi :We moved from Iran to Canada in 1988 and at an early age I started making movies. My first student film was for my grade seven class in 1992 but my parents were very focused on my education so I didn’t really continue moviemaking for another decade. I attended the University of Toronto for neurobiology but that didn’t end well. Started filmmaking for real in 2003 when I started my own film production company Landed Entertainments out of my parent’s basement. Fast forward to today with over 50 films made since, shot all around the world. 

IS : What were some of the films you watched growing up that got you
interested in film-making ?

Ali Mashayekhi : Beetlejuice,  Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice. Honestly, I didn’t watch films at an early age. I am notorious for never having watched a lot of classic films most of my contemporaries have, such as; Star Wars, E.T., Jaws, Goonies and if you name it, I probably didn’t watch it.

Ali Mashayekhi and Mena Massoud on the red carpet (Image Credit Instagram)

IS : Who were / are some of your favorite film-makers who are / were
influences ?

Ali Mashayekhi : Tim Burton from an early age, Wes Anderson later on, currently Darren Aronofsky & David Lowery and in the future Dan Abramovici (I said it here first) . Sorry no Persian names but that’s mostly due to my own lack of knowledge I am sure. 

Ali Mashayekhi at the Raindance Film Festival.

IS : Who were / are some of your favorite actors / actresses on screen that
influenced you to make films ?

Ali Mashayekhi : Julian Sands at an early age, Cirián Hinds in my young adulthood years, currently Sam Rockwell and Rooney Mara

Ali Mashayekhi with Marshall Manesh on the set of The Last King.

IS : What / who were some of the influences (if not mentioned) that gave you the onus to be able to make a career in film-making ?

Ali Mashayekhi : I was most influenced to make movies by my disdain for doing anything else. If I wasn’t making movies I wasn’t going to be a productive member of society. I was, and am motivated by fear of not doing what I love. 

Ali Mashayekhi with Omid Djalili.

IS : Describe some of your early films and highlights from each ?

Ali Mashayekhi : I will say this, my first four films are actually not on IMDb and very few people have seen them because they were all learning experiences which allowed me to build confidence to try new things. They served only one purpose; to learn what not to do. These films, which will remain unseen by the masses, are the most important films of my career. 

The All-Star cast of The Last King

IS : What is your favorite all-time film and why ?

Ali Mashayekhi : Glengarry Glen Ross is a masterpiece in writing, directing and casting. To entertain an audience with just words and performance is not an easy task by any means. If I can come close to this film at any point of my career I will retire and die happy. 

Ali Mashayekhi on set.

IS : What is your Top 5 lists of your favorite films of all time ? Glengarry Glen Ross – The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Requiem for a DreamThe Triplets of Belleville. A Ghost Story.

IS : Describe Samanthology and highlights from the film / creation process?

Ali Mashayekhi : I love making short films so I decided to make an anthology of short films with my producing partners Neil Huber and Al Magee. The idea was we were going to look at a death from nine different perspectives, essentially nine films focusing on the same death by nine different writers/directors. The throughline was the ninth film will reveal the actual death while the lead up short films all just give clues and perspective. It was by far the most fun I ever had as an artist because of the challenges this concept provided. I took my love for short filmmaking and put it on steroids. 

IS : Describe One in Two People and Merging with the Infinite and
highlights from the films.

Ali Mashayekhi : These were my directorial debuts in a way. I shot Merging with the Infinite with our mutual friend Shiva Negar (American Assassin) and Mena Massoud (Aladdin) whom I have several projects in development with. It was a love letter of sorts to myself working with two of my favorite people. One in Two People was my take on mental health awareness masquerading as a horror short film. Again, the entire cast were actor friends of mine from over the years including Adam Tsekhman (DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) whom I’ve known and worked with since 2003 on over a dozen films. 

Ali Mashayekhi with Candy Maldonado.

IS : How did selection process of The Last King come about.

Ali Mashayekhi : Stepehn King has an initiative called the “Dollar Babies” where he makes some of his short stories available for a random creative bid by filmmakers to acquire the rights for a period of time to make a short film version of it. Kaveh Mohebbi, our writer, had submitted a bid to make any of these stories into a Persian adaptation. We got the rights to “The Doctor’s Case” within 12 hours of submission.

IS : What about the The Last King drew you to it and how did you decide
to turn it into an all-Persian cast?

Ali Mashayekhi : I was attracted to the opportunity to produce a Stephen King story, as I am sure that appeal was across the board for all involved, including the actors.  From the start we were always going to do it in Farsi language with Iranians as part of the grand pitch. So for us, it was very exciting to actually do the film in a non-English language, being the first to ever do this for a Stephen King short story, as far as we can research. 

Ali Mashayekhi with some of the cast of The Last King

IS : How were you able to write the script in Farsi ? Did you work with a
translator and if so what was the inspiration to make it all Farsi ?

Ali Mashayekhi : Once we had the English version in place we shared it with a few translators who we trusted to see who was interested and made a decision based on who we thought could get us closest to the English version, not necessarily the most accurate per say but the most comparable. 

Ali Mashayekhi has made over 50 films.

IS : Describe the film-making process for The Last King. From inception, to
story-boarding, financing, cast-selection, photography, sound, set design,
directing and editing.

Ali Mashayekhi : Almost three years ago we won the right to make our own version of Stephen King‘s “The Doctor’s Case.” After which Kaveh Mohebbi wrote the screenplay in English. With the English script I reached out to specific actors whom I wanted in the film for very specific roles and concurrently started the audition process for other roles. Once we had a rough cast in place we tried to raise money for the project. We used private investment and did a crowd sourcing campaign. We then prepared to shoot in March of 2020 in Toronto Canada but Covid shut us down. We then waited for over two years and reconvened to shoot in Los Angeles in December of 2021. I started with hiring our Director of Photography Fabian Tehrani and from there we got recommendations for other crew members with the help of Sheri Abadini of AeroDrone Productions who was going to help from day one back in Toronto. We needed a mansion that reflected the status of the family which was hard to find but we managed to do it. I brought my 1st AD, Abanoub Andreas and Associate Producer Gillian Fortin from Toronto to help and Kaveh and I co-directed the short with him in Toronto and me in LA. The editing will happen in Toronto and we hope to have a locked cut by the end of Persian new year 2022. It’s been a long journey. 

IS : What do you want the audience to take away from The Last King ?

Ali Mashayekhi : I want the audience to be entertained by the story and the performances foremost. I want you to like the film. After watching it, I hope that the complexity of this film is appreciated under the circumstances of the covid penamic, the language challenge and the need to pay homage to Stephen King along the way. This was the hardest film of my career to make.  

IS : If you could work with any actor / actress alive today and no longer
alive who would you work with ?

Ali Mashayekhi : Carroll O’Connor – most famous for Archie Bunker in All in the Family. He was such a prolific actor and shaped the role of lovable television antagonists forever. I think he’s the most underrated actor of the past 50 years. 

IS : What more can be done to get Persian Americans more into film-
making and the creative arts ?

Ali Mashayekhi : Fine people like me who not only want to collaborate but have a history of delivery. Both matter. It’s always important to find like minded people and just create with them. It’s really the only way, it might take a while to find the right match, but when you do, hold on to it. 

IS : Describe Landed Entertainment and other film types in the future you
would like to make.

Ali Mashayekhi : Landed Entertainments is a company I made in 2003 as an inside joke and homage to filmmakers. The name is actually spelled wrong, because the Entertainment is plural but my grammar and spelling was always horrendous so I thought I needed to add the “s” to it at the time. Also, Landed is pun on landed immigrants, which was our status when we went to Canada and of course the logo and image is a plane landing which is how all immigrants of the modern age got to North America. Landed Entertainments has always been my own little vessel to do whatever I wanted, which is the purpose of it, to make my kinda movies for myself, if others liked them along the way, that’s great too. 

Follow Ali Mashayekhi on Social Media @AliMashayekhi