I recently got the opportunity to talk to Pano Masti about his role in ‘The Devil’s Double’. Here, Pano talks about the film’s controversial nature and about how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey Pano. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film, ‘The Devil’s Double‘.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film? I hear it’s based on a true story?
Yes, it’s the true story of Latif Yahia, a lieutenant in the Iraqi army during the Iran-Iraq war in the 80’s, who, because of his physical similarity to Uday Hussein, Saddam’s older son, was forced to become his body double. Through his eyes, we get to see what was going on in Saddam’s and Uday’s inner circle, and it wasn’t a pretty sight: a bunch of gangsters shooting blindly whenever they felt like it and snatching girls off the streets of Bagdad.
In your opinion – is this film aimed at shocking people or educating them to a degree?
I’d say that the film is an action movie within a specific historical context. The director, Lee Tamahori, said that the point he wanted to make was that dictators’ sons are worse than their fathers and need to be lined up and shot in public, which, in my opinion, is a legitimate view. I read a lot about the film’s violence before I saw it, and, I have to admit, it didn’t seem to me, apart from a couple of cringe worthy moments, any more violent than the average gangster movie that’s out there now. So, I think, the movie shocks and educates at the same time, but it was made primarily to entertain.
Tell us a bit about your character in the movie…
I play Said Kammuneh, the head of the Iraqi Olympic Committee – a patriot and, as Uday Hussein points out in the movie, a respectable businessman. Watching the film, you might think I’m a bigot, a murderer and a bat-shit crazy psychopath; it depends on the point of view.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I auditioned a couple of times, and, on one sunny day, I was offered the job.
The film stars the likes of Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier, Raad Rawi and Mem Ferda – and has Lee Tamahori onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew? I’ve watched the trailer and Dominic Cooper – wow.
I worked with Dominic Cooper mostly, who had set himself an impossible task – playing both leads in the movie, very often against his own self. It was impressive seeing him working so hard and switching from one part to the other. And he came out a winner. As for Lee Tamahori, he was right in the centre of the action. He inspired confidence, and, at the same time, kept you on your toes, creating a charged atmosphere, which gave the film the edge it needed.
Let’s talk a bit about you Pano. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
I was drawn to the theatre as a kid because it offered the opportunity to socialize, open up and be creative in a safe environment free of competition. In theatre, you don’t need to beat anyone in order to win; everybody works together towards the same goal, and when you reach it, everybody wins, it’s exhilarating. Later on, of course, you realize how much the business side of it is competitive, but if you learn to live with it, the excitement remains the same.
You’ve had numerous roles in different films and TV projects – who has been your favourite actor to work with and who has given you the best advice?
I recently worked with Benedict Cumberbatch, and he cracked me up. He’s witty and quick, quite an out-there character. It was a fun shoot. As for advice, I got the best piece from a teacher of mine in New York. ‘Play what’s in the script,’ he said. ‘If the script says, “illegal minicab driver,” play that. If it says, “man about to leave his wife,” that’s what you have to go with. A good script contains all the information you need in order to play the character, don’t look anywhere else.’
What is currently playing on your I-POD?
I’ve been listening to ‘Dead Man’s Bones’. Wonderful indie tunes and ghostly lyrics: a cracking combo.
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
I read in the paper that astronomers now reckon there was a time when two moons orbited earth. I would have liked to see that. Can you imagine the effect two moons would have on tides, or, for that matter, on our moods? The Thames would be constantly going up and down, and London would be full of werewolves.
What’s coming up for you in 2011?
Later in the year I’ll be the Dark Assassin who saves Sherlock’s and Watson’s lives in ‘Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall’ at the BBC. For anything else, stay tuned.
Thanks for the interview!