Cannes First Look: Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Swashbuckling British Explorer James Brooke in 'Rajah' (Exclusive)

Rajah still - H - 2020
Credit: Margate House Films

Brooke — the real-life 19th century inspiration behind Rudyard Kipling's 'The Man Who Would Be King' — would become Rajah of Sarawak, where he ruled a vast jungle kingdom.

Having portrayed Henry VIII in The Tudors, Jonathan Rhys Meyers has now ventured to the other side of the world to play a lesser known British ruler. 

In this exclusive first look for Margate House Films' period epic Rajah, the Irish actor — recently seen in The Vikings — stars as Sir James Brooke, a swashbuckling 19th century explorer whose fight for the indigenous people of Borneo saw him become the real-life role model for Joseph Conrad's novel Lord Jim and Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King.

Written and produced by Rob Allyn and helmed by award-winning music video director Michael Haussman, Rajah also stars Hong Kong singer-turned-actress Josie Ho and Dominic Monaghan, best known for his work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Lost. XYZ Films is handling the North American rights at the Virtual Cannes Market.

Born in Bengal to a British expatriates, Brooke would join the Bengal Army of the British East India Company before being seriously wounded and sent to England to recover. Having inherited a small fortune, he later bought a 142-ton boat and set sail for Borneo in 1838. After falling in love with this tropical paradise, he fought pirates and the Sultan’s enemies to win a crown as Rajah of Sarawak, where he ruled a jungle kingdom larger than England. 

Brooke was knighted by Queen Victoria for his bravery, but went on to defy the monarch when the British Empire tried to colonize Sarawak. 

Alongside Rhys Meyers as Brooke, Ho will play Madame Lim, the explorer's former lover and Chinese leader, with Monaghan playing Colonel Arthur Crookshank, Brooke’s cousin and comrade-in-arms.

Allyn wrote the script and is producing along with Jake and Conor Allyn via their company Margate House Films, in association with Ho and Conroy Chan with their company 852 Films. Rajah has been made with the support of the Sarawak Tourism Board and the federal FIMI film rebate of Malaysia.

Rhys Meyers is repped by David Unger of Artists International. Ho is repped by John Maatta of Eisner & Frank and David Unger of Artists International, while Monaghan is repped by Buchwald, Link Entertainment, United Agents and attorney Kevin Yorn. Haussman is repped by Artists International and Ziffren Brittenham.