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Tahar Rahim is a French actor of Algerian origin. He is living a golden moment in his artistic career. He was recently nominated by the international press for a Golden Globe for his role in “The Mauritian”, a true story taken from the book “Guantanámo Diary”. He played in the movie with Jodie Foster. So he told us the emotion of being on set with an Oscar & Golden Globe winner. The film will be soon released also in Italy. On Netflix, he is at the top with “The Serpent”, a miniseries that talks about the daring adventures of Charles Sobhraj, a serial killer who operated in the ’70s in the golden triangle of drugs and crossroads of hippies.
His transformation to put himself in the shoes of the character is amazing and outstanding.
How do you feel about being nominated for the Golden Globe as the best actor for “The Mauritian”, a movie with Jodie Foster?
Well, I am over the moon, it is incredible. If you are an actor of my generation and you grew up with her movies, it is almost a dream. I have vivid memories from when I went to the cinema to watch “Contact” or “The silence of the lambs”. She is a legend. I don’t deny that I was almost scared the first time I was in front of her. However, Jodie can make you feel so at ease and relaxed that you almost forget who she is.
“The Mauritian” has not come out in Italy yet. Why do you suggest watching this movie?
It is a very important story that needs to be told because it talks about freedom, harsh laws, and humanity. It is the story of a man imprisoned in Guantanámo Bay for 14 long years without even a charge against him. Mohamedou Ould Slah had been through a living hell in jail. When he got out of prison, he wanted to forgive everyone: that means achieving a level of forgiveness that goes beyond any imagination, a real demonstration of a pure and beautiful soul.
How did you learn English? It is impeccable and without a French accent.
The truth? I had to work very hard. I have always loved English since I was a child, but when they offered me the role of Ali Soufan in “The Looming Tower”, I knew I had to interpret an American citizen, so I knew I should make no mistakes, even small ones that would not convince the producers or the public.
So, I practiced with a coach for four hours a day for three months. When I started shooting in New York, I requested a coach on set to be always 100% sure. Even now I have two lessons per week.
Oliver Stone dedicated a post on Instagram to you and he pointed the finger at the Academy Awards for mentioning not even a category of your movie for the Oscars, meaning that probably it would not have been good publicity for the USA.
Honestly, when I was told it, I could not believe that Mr. Stone had done a post about me and the movie. Of course, we can’t say that American cinema is not able to criticize its society, this is Oliver Stone’s vision. I am just finding out how things go in the USA.
Did you already know the story of “The Serpent” before playing the lead role of the Netflix miniseries? It was not very well-known in Italy, probably because it is French.
I knew it but not because it is French, none of my friends remembered it. But since I have two elder brothers, I found the book about the story of Charles Sobhraj in the bedroom and I was fascinated by the synopsis. I was 16 years old and I already wanted to be an actor. But at that time, I could not understand the real horror behind that man, yet I imagined playing that role. When I discovered that Benicio Del Toro was about to start the film shooting in 2001, I was disappointed, but then they did not do it anymore. Exactly 20 years later, I got an email from my agent saying that I would play the role of a serial killer and then I realized it was him. Life is incredible. It’s almost as if fate gave me this role.
Do you think when cinemas reopen in France, people will buy tickets like before or will stay true to the streaming?
There will be a good season since we are getting closer to summer and probably people want to stay outside, but if I can say it, we humans tend to forget things. When this is over, we will just want to go back to normal life, like going to the cinema.
Curated by Francesca Romana Riggio