Interview with Elysium’s Faran Tahir

You may remember Faran Tahir from his role as Raza, the primary rival of Tony Stark in Iron Man. Faran is no stranger to Hollywood blockbusters and his upcoming films are sure to be huge hits at the box office. The Elysium and Escape Plan star spoke to Tribute about the range of characters he will be playing in the coming year.

Let’s talk about Elysium first – tell us about the movie and your role.
So, Elysium is – of course – science fiction. The basic story line of the movie is that there is this utopian space station called Elysium, where all good things happen. Everything is perfection there. But all the grunge work done for it happens on earth and naturally, the inhabitants on earth want to get up there. Elysium is a really closed society and does not want people coming in. It’s a basic immigration issue that you’re dealing with. It’s a wonderful action-packed, edge-of-your-seat kind of movie. I play the newly elected leader of Elysium. Of course, he is a politician, so he is very nuanced and very sensitive to how he should be approaching this issue. Counter to him is Secretary of State, played by Jodie Foster, who has a very different idea of how to deal with the situation. So, it’s a nice concept and contrast between the two characters. I think it’s going to be an amazing treat for audiences.

So, would you consider your character to be one of the good guys or the evil villain in the movie?
That’s an interesting question, but I’m going to leave that to the audience and I’ll tell you why. I think whenever you approach a character with that in mind, you subconsciously might close off certain aspects of the character. My way is that even if you are playing the worst evil, the worst evil character doesn’t wake up in the morning saying, “You know what, I’m the worst evil.” He or she wakes up in the morning and feels completely justified in the actions they are going to take. So, I will leave it to the audiences. If they look at this guy and think he is bad, then okay, but if they look at him and think he is a politician, then okay. And if they think he is a good guy, then that is okay too because my job is to present the argument of that character in the best way I can.

Right, playing the character in a certain way could make people think he is a good guy.
Exactly! I think that’s the wonderful thing. Obviously, there are certain movies where the contrast is so black and white that you have to play that counter, but I think in other movies, you want to show that there are layers to these guys. You might think of them as bad, but there might be some kind of angle or facet of light that you can also identify with. That’s the challenge and the interesting part of it.

Did you learn anything while playing the role of the politician?
As an actor, you learn from the characters you’re playing, the people you meet and all of that. So, yeah, I think the thing that I learned was that politicians are sometimes put in a very precarious position, arguing their point, and yet they are sensitive to a large base that they represent. How do you balance what you believe in, which sometimes might be in contrast with what the popular belief might be.

Okay, let’s talk about Escape Plan – from what I understand, your character is somewhat the opposite of your Elysium character.
I find myself very fortunate because in the next six months, I have four movies coming out and I think it shows a nice little range of people. Escape Plan is a movie about an impenetrable prison, where these characters have been put – Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The basic story is that the three of us plan an escape. It’s a lot of fun. It has all the ingredients of a great action-packed thriller, especially with those two guys who are icons in the genre. So, from a president [in Elysium] to a prisoner, it’s a lot of fun! We had a lot of fun, as I said, Stallone and Schwarzenegger, they are the biggest icons in that genre. They know that action frame so well and they make it so natural that it puts you in that student mode of learning from these guys. They know that dance so well that you never see the technique, you just see the dance. I think it will be a huge hit because it goes back to the good old, not the superhero, not that kind of action-thriller, but down and dirty. All testosterone, butting heads, that kind of an action.

As I said, I have two smaller movies coming out. One is called Torn, which is about two families losing their teenage son in a shopping mall explosion — I play the father of one. Then, I have a supernatural thriller coming out called Gin, in which I am a kind of crazy guy in a straight jacket in an asylum. I like that range because it challenges me and shows audiences a variety.

How do you think Minister Patel (Elysium) would react to someone like your character in Escape Plan, breaking out of that high-tech prison?
That’s a very interesting question. I’ve never heard that, let me think about it. I think trying to portray the image of an outstanding politician who is law abiding, he would probably frown upon that guy breaking out of prison. I think those are actually polar opposites of the spectrum.

After those four movies, what’s next?

I’m taking a seven-year vacation. No (laughs), those are the four that are my focus right now and we are in talks for other projects. I’m a little superstitious being in this business that until it’s all done and signed, I don’t like talking about it because anything can change at any moment. However, that will also give me the opportunity to talk to you again when they do happen!

Is there anyone you’d like to work with in the future?
Meryl Streep is one of those amazing actresses that seldom come, it’s an amazing treat to watch her. Robert De Niro and Al Pacino are up there, but there is a long list of actors who I would love to learn from.

Are there any specific characters you would like to play?
I wouldn’t mind doing some comedy.

Elysium opens today (August 9) and Escape Plan will be released on October 18. ~Renita Naraine

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