The Kite Runner’s Hamayoun Ershadi

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There’s a bigger story here, though, one that all of us can relate to, one that will force all of us to feel, think, believe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though it’s set in Afghanistan as the Taliban came to power, The Kite Runner—the new movie from Marc Forster, based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini—is a universal tale of redemption. Sure, there’s a bit of historical drama, class oppression, and terrorist regime thrown in. But ultimately, it’s a human tale: of family, of betrayal, of loyalty.

So far, the biggest news generated by the film pre-release has been the removal from Iran of one of the child actors due to the film’s (perceived) graphic sex/violence. There’s a bigger story here, though, one that all of us can relate to, one that will force all of us to feel, think, believe.

In advance of the movie’s release, actor Hamayoun Ershadi (who plays the character Baba in the movie) embarked on a U.S. promotional tour which included a stop in St. Louis. A very gracious, refined and soft-spoken man, Mr. Ershadi leaned back in his chair in the Ritz-Carlton interview room, a small small at the edges of his lips as we talked.

What interested you about the role and the movie?

First of all, I loved the book; I could imagine the movie because I did know they were going to make a movie. And two months after I finished the book, they called me to make the movie. It was a good book so I wanted to read it.

So they approached you, as opposed to your approaching them?

Yeah yeah. The casting agent, she saw my film A Taste of Cherry and Marc [Forster] saw it and liked it so they called me.

What sort of impact, political or otherwise, do you think this film will have?

I don’t think it will have a political impact; most of all, [it will have] a moral impact on the people because of what they know about Afghanistan: Russian, Asian, Bin Laden, suicide bombing. These things that this film shows because it’s the only film on the war that shows the family. It’s a family film. It’s about love, forgiveness, friendship, guilt, redemption. It shows the people there’s a way to be heroic. It’s all about the principles, not about the politics or religion.

I was kind of struck by that; it’s more of a redemption tale.

It’s not for Afghan people, it’s for everyone. It’s not a political movie at all.

prof_kiterunner_med.jpgWhat about the boy who played Hassan and the threats against his family. Do you think they knew what they were getting into?

Uh…I don’t know about that. I don’t think so. They knew what was going on because they had the rehearsal with the kids, they knew I’m Baba, they knew this story, everything. It was almost two years ago we cast the boys; the situation in Afghanistan was much better than it is now. They have all rights to care about the kids and I think the studio is doing a really good job and taking up and pushing them to come to the States.

I guess that will be good for him in a way, but that takes him away from everything they know.

What do you mean?

I mean, he’s got to leave his life…

That’s what they wanted; they wanted to come to the States

And you came into acting by accident?

Yes because the director, Abbas Kiarostami, does not work with professional actors. I was in the car, waiting for a [stop] light, when somebody knocked at my window. It was Kiarostami; he said, “Do you want to be in my film?” and I said, “Yes.”

You knew who he was but you didn’t recognize him?

I knew. I’d never seen his face but he said who he was. The day, after he came to my art gallery — I have an art gallery in Tehran. He came there and said, “I have to leave tonight for a festival. My assistant is going to take a video of you so I can see the tape.” So they took the tape and, after two weeks he came back and called me and said, “I want to make my tape; I want to do it myself.” So the day after we went. That’s it.

So you did nothing before that?

No. No. Nothing. Nothing. I am an architect.

Did they do school plays in Iran?

Oh, they do school plays. I am an architect; I never imagined I would be an actor at my age. I am 60; I was 49. I never had an acting class.

But when he asked you, you said yes.

Yes!

That’s awesome! So right now you’re full time?

Yes, since then. My job is with architecture and sometimes I do some projects for friends.

So this was your first Hollywood film?

That was my first.

Do you think there’ll be more?

I don’t know. We’ll see. [smiles]

In what ways do you feel you and the character Baba are similar?

Many ways, many ways. Sometimes it’s hard to explain how because it’s inside, the feeling you have inside. It’s hard to explain your feeling, it’s difficult to explain to other people. When I was reading the book, I formed Baba’s character. I had similar experiences that Baba had. I had kids, so I realized that everyone has a secret. And I was a proud man, strong man, rich man, then I lost my things like Baba. For that reason, because I feel it inside, I can act.

You mentioned last night that you keep him inside you. That he’s still there.

He comes from here, yeah. [points to chest] Last night, I said I showed Marc Forster the picture of another actor and he said no, he doesn’t want to see it. He’s a good director and he saw Baba here.

How do you think playing that role has changed you?

It doesn’t change me. It changed me toward understanding more love for the people which I knew nothing about them, many countries, other cultures. Now I’m willing to more go after their culture, not just Afghanistan because lots of places with the same situation as Afghanistan. Nobody knows Afghanistan. Maybe this film helps people to understand Afghanistan is not only what they heard about; they deserve better life. There are many things about Afghanistan I hope this film can show. | Laura Hamlett

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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