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For other films with the same name, see Sahara.

Sahara is a 1983 British-American adventure drama film directed by Andrew McLaglen and starring Brooke Shields, Lambert Wilson, Horst Buchholz, John Rhys-Davies and John Mills. The original music score was composed by Ennio Morricone.

Theatrical release poster by Drew Struzan
Directed byAndrew McLaglen
Produced byMenahem Golan
Yoram Globus
Written byJames R. Silke
Story byMenahem Golan
Music byEnnio Morricone
CinematographyDavid Gurfinkel
Armando Nannuzzi
Edited byMichael John Bateman
Michael J. Duthie
Distributed byMGM/UA Entertainment Co.
Release date
  • December 2, 1983 (1983-12-02) (United Kingdom)
  • March 2, 1984 (1984-03-02) (United States)
Running time
111 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
United Kingdom
Budget$25 million[2]
Box office$1,402,962[2]


In 1927, Gordon (Steve Forrest) develops a new racing vehicle, a hot rod, but dies in a practice run before he can compete in the 'Trans-African Auto Race'. To save her father's dream, and win the prize money, Gordon's flapper daughter, Dale (Brooke Shields) disguises herself as a man and takes the place of her father in the race through the Sahara Desert, with the help of her father's friends. Dale is an excellent driver and has a good chance to win the male-only race. After she crosses the start line, she takes off her wig and mustache and reveals her true sex to the other participants in the race. While taking a short-cut, she comes close to a tribal war between Bedouin factions. Another racer, the German Von Glessing (Horst Buchholz), also takes the same short-cut in order to supply weapons to the evil leader of the two warring tribes. Dale and her crew are captured by Rasoul (John Rhys-Davies), the uncle of the good leader of the warring tribes. The good leader, Sheikh Jafar (Lambert Wilson), had seen Dale from afar and desired her, so he rescues her from his uncle by claiming Dale as his bride. Dale marries Jaffar and escapes the next morning in her car to attempt to finish the race. She is captured by the evil leader before she can complete the race, but a stow-away gypsy child runs back to Jaffar to tell him of Dale's capture. Meanwhile, Dale is thrown into a pit of leopards. Jaffar rallies his men, rescues her and allows her to return to drive in the race. Dale wins the race, and when celebrating sees Jaffar's horse nearby. She bids farewell to her crew, mounts the horse and returns to Jaffar.




The film was supposedly inspired by the then British Prime Minister's son, Mark Thatcher, who became lost in North Africa in 1982 during an auto rally. It also came about due to the box office success of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Menahem Golan's fondness for the Rudolph Valentino film The Sheik (1921).[3]

In May 1982 it was announced Guy Hamilton would direct Brook Shields in Sahara with a $15 million budget.[4][5] It was one of the biggest budgeted films from Cannon Films.[6]

Shields' fee was reportedly $1 million or $1.5 million.[7] Her mother Teri was executive producer with a fee of $25,000.[8]

Terri said she wanted the film "to be cute and light and I wanted a fatherly director, who would play with her, smack her around, have fun. I don’t want anyone looking at her like a woman yet. It’s not time.”[8]

There were reportedly eight rewrites at the behest of Shields' mother and two directors quit before filming started.[8]

Finding the male lead took over a year. “I wanted someone as handsome as could be with an unusual accent,” said Teri. Among those considered were Ted McGinley (“I darkened his hair and had him grow a beard, but he couldn’t get the accent” said Teri); Adnan Khashoggi's son Khaled (“He is a gorgeous boy, but he’s not an actor”); and John Kennedy Jr. (“He’s dark, handsome as hell and what a physique, but can you imagine the press if he co-starred with Brooke? The film would get lost. Besides, I didn’t think his mother would let him”).[8] Vincent Spano, who had played a character called "The Sheik" in Baby It's You said he was offered the role but turned it down. "I wondered if it would be good for my career to play another sheik," he said. Also, didn't want to be standing around in the Sahara Desert waiting for Brooke to fix her eyelashes."[9]

Eventually Lambert Wilson got the role.

“Brooke is the most beautiful creature on earth,” said Golan. "She is the genie of the desert and Lambert is a wildman, but educated. He wants to rape her, but he controls himself. We are not afraid here of clichés. I want a beautiful romantic blockbuster where all American kids will identify.”[8]


Filming began in August with Andrew McLaglen as director.[10]

Sahara was partially filmed in the Negev Desert of southern Israel near the city of Elat.[11][12][3]

The fashions were designed by Valentino who said 1925 was one of his favourite years. "It was a fantastic moment, full of fantasy and ideas," said the designer. "A time when women changed for tea, and then for dinner and then for a ball."[13]

Shields later said "It was fun being in Israel for four months and driving a car." She was injured during filming when she was thrown from a car she was driving. "They’d mounted the camera on the side of the car, and it flipped it over, because they didn’t balance it on the other side. Stuff like that happened all the time." [14]

"I tried so hard to think of a way to get out of it, but my mind went blank," she said. "I closed my eyes and let go and something - I think I was being protected from above - put my hands back on the wheels so everyone was flung out and I was hanging on. Then I thought, 'I've got to let go because if I don't, I'll be crushed underneath the car.' She landed on her back and bruised her ribs. "It was the closest I've ever come to death, probably."

Filming ended in February 1983 after which Shields enrolled in Princeton University.[15]

"It was enjoyable to be in the Negev desert and in Eilat and sort of in the Dead Sea, but the experience of it and living there for that long was definitely more memorable than the movie itself was," said Shields.[14]


The film was meant to come out in December 1983.[16] The release was delayed until February 1984. "We couldn't get the theatres we wanted at Christmas so the decision was to wait," said an MGM/UA spokesman.[7] Other reports said the decision to push back a release were made after poor previews.[17]

It was released only in the West Coast states. "We decided to open it in half the country to see what we had," said MGM.[7]

It made $550,848 on 344 theaters on the West Coast - a per screen average of only $1,601. [18] The Chicago Tribune called the film "a dog"[7] It ended up making $1.2 million.[19]


At the 1984 Razzies, Brooke Shields was nominated for Worst Actress and won Worst Supporting Actor as "Brooke Shields (with a moustache)", making her the first and only actress to win this award.[20]

One of the cars made for the film, a replica Hispano Suiza, was put up for auction in 2015.[21]


  1. ^ "SAHARA (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. 1983-11-15. Retrieved 2012-09-29.
  2. ^ a b Sahara at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ a b Rabinovich, Abraham (1983-01-20). "Brooke Shields in Israel's 'Sahara'". Christian Science Monitor. ISSN 0882-7729. Retrieved 2016-12-25.
  4. ^ AT THE MOVIES. New York Times 21 May 1982: C.8.
  5. ^ INC. GOLD; Sneed. Chicago Tribune 4 July 1982: b1.
  6. ^ CANNON'S BOX-OFFICE RESPECT New York Times,26 Apr 1983: D.1.
  7. ^ a b c d MOVIES: Will Chicago ever see Brooke Shields' 'Sahara'--and do we want to? Siskel, Gene. Chicago Tribune 25 Mar 1984: k8.
  8. ^ a b c d e McMurran, Kristin (February 28, 1983). "Brooke Bobs Up in Israel". Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (November 13, 1983). "Rumble Fishing: Scenes from a Chinese restaurant". Roger Ebert.
  10. ^ 'Peg' eyes Broadway despite suit Beck, Marilyn. Chicago Tribune 24 Aug 1982: c10.
  11. ^ People Magazine: Brooke Bobs Up in Israel February 28, 1983 Retrieved August 10, 2011
  12. ^ Rotten Tomatoes: Sahara (1983)
  13. ^ Fashion 82: Valentino's Direction Permits No Defection From Perfection Luther, Marylou. Los Angeles Times 17 Dec 1982: j22
  14. ^ a b Harris, Will (October 17, 2012). "Brooke Shields on The Middle, Jim Henson, and bar-crawling with Tom Green". AV Club.
  15. ^ BROOKE IS PRINCETON-BOUND - AND THE WORD HAS THE CAMPUS BUZZING Kolson, Ann. Philadelphia Inquirer 4 May 1983: C.7.
  16. ^ FILM - A TOUCH OF CLASS IN A GIANT ARRAY OF NEW SCREENINGS Lyman, Rick. Philadelphia Inquirer 11 Sep 1983: K.1.
  17. ^ NY CLIPS Of endearing mice, men and some video turkeys O'Toole, Lawrence. The Globe and Mail 25 Nov 1983: E.6.
  18. ^ MICHAEL JACKSON NOMINATED FOR 24 VIDEO AWARDS Philadelphia Daily News; Philadelphia, Pa. [Philadelphia, Pa]07 Mar 1984: 46.
  19. ^ Cannon Group's Fortunes Take Sour Turn Over Distribution Problem With Its Films By Michael Cieply. Wall Street Journal 26 July 1984: 1.
  20. ^ Razzie Awards: 1984 Archive Archived 2009-02-28 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Lodge, Will. "Gallery: Car from 1983 classic film Sahara to go under the hammer in Colchester". East Anglian Daily Times. Retrieved 2016-12-25.

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