I recently got the chance to talk to Sam Feuer about his role in ‘The First Grader’. Here, Sam talks about his involvement in the project and how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey Sam. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film ‘The First Grader‘.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film? I understand it’s based on a true story?
‘The First Grader’ tells the true story of Kimani Nganga Maruge, a veteran war hero in Kenya who fights for his right for an education at the tender age of 84 years–old.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
The character I play is that of the American Journalist. Since I was the one who found the article and travelled to Kenya to secure the life rights, it seemed only fitting. Unfortunately, most of it ended up on the cutting room floor, but you can catch a quick glimpse of me.
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
I am one of the producers and as I mentioned earlier, I found the story on the front page of the LA Times and immediately knew this was a movie that needed to be made and one that I wanted to make… I flew to Kenya, secured the rights and when I got back, started producing it with my producing partner, Richard Harding.
How would you say this film is different and unique?
The film is different and unique because it was shot entirely on location in Kenya with mostly real people, not actors. The hundreds of kids in the movie, who were the real stars, were kids that had never even seen a camera before let alone a movie. It’s a Kenyan story with massive universal appeal, made in a very indie kind of way during the biggest financial meltdown the world has ever experienced.
The film stars Naomie Harris, Tony Kgoroge, Nick Reding, Oliver Litondo and your good self – and has Justin Chadwick onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
I have to modest myself here to say that to include me in the list of actors above, would be wrong. The way it came out, my role looks more like a background actor more than anything, but it’s a nice homage in the Hitchcock sense of the word. I follow in huge shoes. The cast and crew were amazing to work with. A pure dream for any producer, let alone a first timer like myself. Everyone gave it their all. Everyone worked with a passion that was pure and inspiring. Naomie is a goddess and is now playing the new Bond girl in ‘Skyline’.
Let’s talk a bit about you Sam. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
Isn’t that the big mystery behind why any actor would want to subject themselves in their one lifetime to such a career. It’s a bug…I got moved around a lot as a kid and when I was 9 my parents moved from the quiet middle class suburbs of New Jersey to Israel. That was a big shock for me and I loved to go the movies. It was my escape. I kept telling myself that if these guys can do, so can I. That and I wasn’t really good at anything else.
You’ve had a number of roles in different TV series’ and films – who have been your favourite actors/actresses to work with so far, and which project has been your favourite to be a part of?
Other than ‘The First Grader’, I would have to say that my favourite to be a part of would be ‘Munich’. Any actor would give their left arm to work with Steven Spielberg, let alone one of his more important and intimate movies. I enjoyed working on ‘Miss Castawy And The Island Girls’ and not because of all the beautiful ladies, including Colleen Shannon, (Playmate Of The Century), but Michael Jackson had a cameo in the movie and held the wrap party at his house. Being the huge MJ fan that I am, that was one of the most memorable experiences I had in film, regardless if the movie is considered to be one of the worst movies of all time.
If you were stranded on a desert island – what three things could you not live without?
My iPad. My guitar. My Middle Eastern set, which includes Humus, Hookah and Backgammon…
What’s the funniest/interesting piece of news you’ve heard in the last month or so?
The indie Spirit Award nominations and seeing just how indie some of these films are… not.
What’s coming up for you in 2012?
We are in the midst of campaigning ‘The First Grader’ for the Oscars which seems to be a full-time job. Producing a bunch of movies – from ‘The Man Who Sued God’ with Will Smith, ‘Son Of Hamas’, ‘The Translator’, ‘The Good Doctors’, ‘The Benghazi Six’, ‘Just The Beginning’ and more…
Thanks for the interview!