x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 November 2017

Star of B-movie take on King Arthur tells of struggle to find roles in UAE

Dubai actress Eilidh MacQueen is starring in The Asylum's B-movie parody of the King Arthur legend.

Eilidh “Ailey” MacQueen on the set of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Courtesy Ailey MacQueen
Eilidh “Ailey” MacQueen on the set of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Courtesy Ailey MacQueen

Audiences across the UAE had a chance to check out director Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword over the weekend. But at least one person in Dubai is more excited about another, somewhat less-hyped film adaptation of the Arthurian legend.

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, released just a few weeks before Ritchie’s film, takes a rather less traditional approach to the source material. It features spaceships, martial arts and a leather-clad Morgana who, after centuries of exile in outer space, is hellbent on taking revenge on King Arthur’s descendants, who inexplicably live in a dojo in ­Thailand.

If this sounds a little odd, it will come as no surprise to learn that the film is the latest offering from B-movie experts The Asylum, the prolific producer of the cult-­favourite Sharknado series, as well as lesser-known gems such as Sunday School Musical and The Fast and the Fierce — no prizes for guessing which films they were inspired by.

Dubai-based Scottish actress ­Eilidh MacQueen plays Krista, who has a vital role in the battle against the evil Morgana. The movie was filmed over a frenetic four days in Thailand, where MacQueen lives when not in Dubai. Despite the recent run of blockbusters filmed in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, MacQueen says her UAE base has not particularly advanced her career. Most of her work is from Thailand, where she was once voted the 25th-most ­attractive woman in the world by FHM Thailand magazine.

“It’s almost mission impossible [to get acting work] in Dubai,” says the 30-year-old. “I don’t know why the industry isn’t booming more than it is. It feels like all the ­potential is there. There’s so many different landscapes, there’s money, there’s talent.

“I’m not sure what’s stopping it from booming, but over the years there just don’t seem to have been many projects at all, in my experience. I guess the fact it’s so cheap in Thailand is part of the reason why there’s so many more low-budget films that come through here.”

Thailand has provided her with more opportunities, including roles in martial-arts movies alongside the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme (Soldiers, 2010) and Steven Seagal (Belly of the Beast, 2003), as well as appearing ­alongside John Cusack in the ­drama Shanghai (2010).

King Arthur lacks such star power but provides MacQueen with one of her biggest roles to date, although she admits she almost did not bother auditioning for it.

“I just wasn’t really in the mood at the time I heard the movie was casting,” she says. “I just didn’t feel like I wanted to go through the whole casting process, being in the hands of somebody else making all the decisions.”

It was one of her co-stars that changed her mind.

“I heard Sara [Malakul Lane, who plays Morgana] was involved,” she says. “I’d worked with her before, on the Steven Seagal film, and she’s a really big name in the B-list ­Hollywood world right now. She does a lot of work with Asylum Films — Sharknado and Jailbait and all these sort of films — so that kind of convinced me.”

MacQueen admits that when she then heard the entire film would be shot in just four days, she worried she had made the wrong decision, but she enjoyed the experience and is clearly pleased with the results.

“It was great to be involved,” she says. “It’s just so unreal, really tongue-in-cheek. There’s just so many elements to it — and if you can make a really funny, quirky, sci-fi, CGI version of such a ­famous story, then why not?”

• King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is available to buy on DVD.

cnewbould@thenational.ae