Empress Of Iran, Is Taking Her Story To Hollywood

In a recent interview with Deadline, a leading Hollywood publication, I discussed Iran and the upcoming film project about my life, which I have authorized Hollywood producers to develop.

 

EXCLUSIVE: Farah Pahlavi, Empress of Iran, is ready to tell her story in a big way.

Under a newly announced collaboration with Women of the Movement producers Serendipity Group, Inc. and John Powers Middleton, whom Her Majesty has authorized her life rights, a documentary, and a scripted project are currently in the works. The doc project recently began shooting in Washington, D.C., with production expected to continue throughout the year. The scripted project is being developed simultaneously.

“I’m interested in [Serendipty] wanting to tell my story through a documentary and a scripted project, but I want them to go beyond that. I want to show what Iran is and who the Iranian people are. I want them to talk about my country, especially its history and culture which is very important to me,” says Pahlavi, who was married to the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi for 20 years before he died in exile in Egypt in 1980.

She continued, “Many young people and people from the United States don’t know about our country, and what they do know is mostly negative, especially with everything that’s going on there now. I hope these projects will spark an interest in our country and our civilization by people all over the world.”

HIM Farah Pahlavi

On behalf of Serendipity, the projects will be produced by co-founders Rosanna Grace and Nicole Tabs as well as John Powers Middleton for Middleton Media (Women of the Movement, Manchester by the Sea), David Clark for Mazo Partners (Women of the Movement) and Ivan Herrera (Bantu Mama).

The untitled projects will explore the life of the last Empress of Iran, Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi. It will focus on showing the resilience of a woman who, despite an exile lasting more than 45 years, and mourning the loss of her husband and two children, remains deeply devoted to her duty as a sovereign and attached to her homeland. She never remarried or gave up her Iranian identity. Her marriage to the Shah goes far beyond a union between a man and a woman, or between a subject and her sovereign; it is a union of a citizen with her homeland. Until death tore them apart.

Grace reached out to Her Majesty and her private secretary Kambiz Atabai following the death of Mahsa Amini, whose death in 2022 while in custody of Iran’s Gasht-e Ershad morality police (she was arrested for not wearing a hijab) sparked a wave of anti-Islamic Republic protests. Serendipity had just come off its latest project, the 2022 ABC miniseries Women of the Movement, which highlighted Mamie Till, the devoted mother of Emmett Till.

The common thread between Amini and Pahlavi: is women standing up and fighting for what they believe in. Grace says she was interested in Her Majesty’s story because of her strength and unwavering devotion to women’s rights. Under the Pahlavi dynasty (1925-1979), women had more freedom, including the right to vote. Rulers both before and after have extensively restricted women’s rights.

Learning about Serendipity’s focus on telling historically accurate stories, Pahlavi agreed to the collaboration. Middleton boarded the project at a later time.

“It is a great honor and privilege for us to share this very important and profound story. We believe it is the perfect time to tell the tale of Her Majesty Farah Pahlavi, not just as a Queen, but as a woman, mother and wife. We are excited to present this narrative to audiences around the world,” reads a joint statement from producers.

Although she has no preference as to who she’d like to see play her in the scripted project, Pahlavi is looking forward to sharing stories about the late Shah and showing a side of him most did not know.

“I want people to see what sort of a human being he was. He loved his country and his people. From what we were during his period, how much Iran developed in every way; for women and young people and villages in what we call the White Revolution. There was also so much negative publicity. I don’t say that everything we did was perfect but his late Majesty cared and brought Iran into that position. But now of course, since things have happened, we always say, ‘If we had done this differently,’ but as my friend says, ‘You can’t put Paris in a bottle of water.’ “

She added, “With all that has happened to his late Majesty and our country, he never said a bad thing against his people or his compatriots.”

HIM Farah Pahlavi visits the late Shah’s tomb in Egypt

The documentary and series are the only authorized works about Pahlavi’s life that can be told from her point of view. A previously announced project from Random Access Media, titled The Last Shah, is said to be taking a look at Iran’s last royal family and is inspired by Netflix’s The Crown. But it has no connection to Pahlavi.

According to Variety, which first reported on The Last Shah in May, the project tells the “heroic and ultimately tragic story of a wife, mother, and queen trying to save her husband, the Shah of Iran, her family, her dynasty and her homeland. Told from the point of view of Empress Farah Pahlavi, it’s an epic struggle for the survival of Iran’s monarchy at the crossroads of the modern world.”

When asked about The Last Shah, Pahlavi was unaware of it. “I haven’t heard that they are doing a show about his late Majesty,” she said.

On the same day of that announcement, a helicopter crash killed Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian, among other top officials. No official cause has been released, but theories mainly surround the effects of bad weather and the age of the Bell 212, as well as the possibility of foul play.

“When I heard the news, my first thought was that maybe they have done it themselves because they do so many things themselves,” Pahlavi says. “But later on, many Iranians, young Iranians, said that this person was someone who ordered many executions and hanging of dissidents. He was a very terrible, rude person in the history of our country.”

Pahlavi, who in her heyday was compared to Jacqueline Kennedy thanks to their fashion sense, made her debut as the Shahbanou of Iran on her wedding day in December 1959 wearing a gown designed by Yves Saint Laurent during his time at Dior Maison, with accessories (crown, necklace and earrings) created by Van Cleef and Arpels.

When the Shah and Shahbanou were forced to flee Iran before the 1979 revolution, they were limited as to what they could take with them. The wedding dress, along with many of her ensembles and jewels, stayed behind. Many can be admired today at the Royal Clothes Museum in Tehran.

(L-R) Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi; Shahbanu of Iran, Farah Pahlavi; and President John F. Kennedy

Her Majesty looks forward to debunking many of the inaccurate stories about her family via the two new projects, which include tales about the cargo her family did and did not leave Iran with when they went into exile.

“I heard someone on TV a few years ago say that someone very close to the President was saying that we were in two airplanes when we left Iran and that the second plane was full of cases filled with stones and jewelry. I was worried they might steal [the actual jewels], which were left behind and the banks were closed for a few years. Fortunately, some compatriots from Iran sent me emails after it was reported in the news confirming the jewels were at the museum,” she said.

Pahlavi lost more than that including “thousands of books and photographs” as well as paintings. Compatriots outside of Iran sold and gifted artwork to her that she said “her children cannot keep.” So, she created the Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi Foundation in 1976 which houses many of the artifacts she collected in exile for everyone to enjoy.

“I thought the foundation could tell the history and culture of Iran and one day, hopefully, when things change in Iran, all these things can go back,” she said.

At 85 years old, Pahlavi’s days are busy with emails, telephone calls, and paperwork for the foundation, though she emphasizes that at her age she’s getting tired.

“I’m thinking of what is important to do before I leave this world,” she said. “But the whole day I’m busy, which makes me happy because it gives me energy. If I’m able to do one positive thing, it gives me energy.”

Amid her busy schedule, Her Majesty counts on her longtime companion to bring a smile to her face. His name is Mowgli, a King Charles Spaniel that was gifted to her by grandaughter Noor, the first daughter of the Queen’s eldest son Reza Pahlavi, Crown Prince of Iran and his wife Princess Yasmine. When picking a name for her puppy, she was inspired by Noor who had a dog of the same breed named Baloo from the Jungle Book.

“More than 60 years ago when I was a chieftain of the Cub Scouts in Iran, I was Baloo myself,” she recalls. “My daughter Farahnaz suggested my dog should be named Mowgli, and so it is.”

HIM Farah Pahlavi and Mowgli, her beloved King Charles Spaniel

When she’s out and about, Pahlavi also relishes bumping into her fellow Iranians during her travels who remember her fondly. She recalls a doctor in the U.S. who left for Iran a few years ago and visited a leper colony — as she did extensively in the late 1960s to help break the stigma against those infected — and bumped into people who remember her and sent along messages of gratitude which she refers to as “such a great present for me to hear.”

Her Majesty is equally motivated by young Iranians who are learning about her via social media without restrictions from the regime. Pahlavi touts the internet for allowing people to research history without the blockages for anyone wanting to learn more.

“When these people came to power, they said so many stories and nonsense about the past and also, there were groups, not only Iranians but foreigners, because Iran was not working for their interests,” Pahlavi shared. “Oil became our luck and our problem. When oil was in our hands, we could take extraction, the price, and everything. Some countries were not happy about that and they started to criticize the regime. So, if you want to compare our regime to what the Islamic Republic had done, many of these people didn’t say anything against the Islamic [Republic] for many years. Fortunately, now they say things.”

She continued, “Now with the internet and the iPhones, although many things are forbidden [in Iran], they see movies and things of the past. I wonder how they find these films about the past like His Majesty’s travels, his speeches, and my travel to different parts of Iran. The young people see what we really were and it touches me very much. Many of them were born after everything and they share their sympathy via emails and sometimes I also call them. It makes me so happy to still be alive and hear all this. As I always say, the seeds that you plant with love and care never perish.”

HIM Farah Pahlavi with a group of school children in Iran

When asked if while looking back on her life story for the documentary and the scripted project she had any regrets. She said, “There’s no use in thinking of that. It is done. I don’t want to be presumptuous but in all the reactions from people both inside and outside [Iran], the sympathy I feel from them is what gives me a lot of energy.”

Family is also of utmost importance to Her Majesty and she often thinks of their future.

“What I wish for them, first of all, is that they have a happy life. And also that one day, they could see their country free, and they could go back,” she said.

Source: DEADLINE