For Algerian-French actor Tahar Rahim, there came a point where he was fed up of the stereotypical parts he was getting from Hollywood, most of which were that of a Muslim terrorist or just an ornamental character or a Frenchman.
But Rahim, known for films such as A Prohphet (2009), The Mauritanian and TV series The Serpent, says things are now looking up in terms of roles as well as opportunities.
“It has changed in the past three years. But before that I wasn’t getting what I wanted to do. It wasn’t good and I didn’t want to do them as an actor simply on the basis of performance. I only used to get roles of a terrorist or a bad Frenchman or the French lover, and the idea of playing those stereotypical characters wasn’t interesting enough,” says the actor, adding that now he’s getting more fleshed out roles from Hollywood as well as in Europe.
It was the role in The Mauritanian that gave him the chance to break the stereotype. Directed by Kevin Macdonald, the film based on real life events, sees the actor play the lead role of Mohamedou Ould Salahi, who endured unimaginable horror as an inmate of the US government’s Guantanamo Bay detention center for more than 14 years.
However, Rahim, 39, admits having apprehension about the role initially and he reasons, “I was sceptical when I read the title of the script which was Guantanamo Diaries back then. But I knew that Kevin is a smart man and he’d never give me a stereotypical role which I’ve been consciously trying to avoid.”
Calling it the most challenging role in his career, he adds, “There were those torture scenes. I had to speak four different languages. Even my English… I had to build gradually, as his ability to speak English fluently increases with time. Also, I felt very responsible to Mohamedou. I didn’t want him to be disappointed or feel diminished about what he’d see. He was my first audience. I wanted to please him and make him happy.”
Rahim who idolises Robert De Niro, wants to have a diverse filmography like the Hollywood veteran.
“If I’m just able to do one third of what he achieved in his career, I’d be the happiest actor on earth. He’s a master of an actor and a good direction to follow,” he adds.concludes.