Behind The Scenes: Matthew McConaughey, Penélope Cruz & Breck Eisner On The Set Of SAHARA

Based Clive Cussler’s 1992 novel of the same name, Breck Eisner’s Sahara sees Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn and Penélope Cruz searching for American Civil War gold in the Sahara Desert, whilst simultaneously trying to discover the source of a mysterious plague.

The supporting cast of the 2005 release is also first-rate (William H. Macy, Delroy Lindo, Lambert Wilson and Rainn Wilson) and Clint Mansell’s wonderful score is brassy and Bondian.

McConaughey plays Dirk Pitt, the lead character  in multiple Cliver Cussler novels, while Zahn is his trusty side-kick Al Giordino. Eisner’s film is a sort of James Bond meets Indiana Jones action-adventure film and McConaughey is a great fit for the role – which was supposed to be a franchise starter.

There’s an alternate universe out there somewhere, which has gifted us with four or five Sahara sequels – but sadly, it’s not this one.

Things went south after filming started in 2003 and the $80 million budget ballooned to $160 million. It opened to $18 million at the U.S. box office in April 2005, ultimately grossing $68.6 million and only $119 million globally.

After Sahara was released Cussler sued the film’s producer, Philip Anschutz and there was a decade long legal action that turned very, very messy. All sorts of stories were bandied about and the film’s financials were released to much scrutiny. 

However, all that is now lost in the sands of time, and what remains is an enjoyable adventure film which highlights Matthew McConaughey’s leading man charisma. It also stands as one of the last big-budget movies that wasn’t overly reliant on CGI – and that’s almost enough to make it all worthwhile.