‘Mohammad’ Actor: My Selection for Abu Lahab Role Took One Year
According to Islamic narrations, Abu Lahab was prophet Mohammad (PBUH)’s paternal uncle. Because of his open opposition to Islam, he is condemned by name in the Quran in sura al-Masad.
Mohammad Asgari who was chosen to play the role of Abu Lahab in Majidi’s movie told FNA on Saturday that since he was first nominated had his first audition, it took one year for Majidi to trust him with the role.
He said since there is not much information about Abu Lahab in Islamic books and he is merely named once in the holy Quran, understanding his character was a tough job for acting.
Asgari said after being chosen by Majidi for Abu Lahab’s role following different tests, he was finally selected by Vittorio Storaro, the famous Italian cinematographer, for the role after several makeup tests.
Asgari said the director and his assistants thought that prophet Mohammad (PBUH)’s uncles shouldn’t all be look alikes because it would make the audience tiresome. Yet, they thought that they should all look like Arabs and from Arab descent.
Asked why Majidi didn’t invite any foreign actors, he said the roles in the movie needed Muslim actors who love their prophet and religion and act with love.
Asgari said that even if Alfredo James “Al” Pacino, the American actor of stage and screen, filmmaker and screenwriter, played the role of Samuel instead of the Iranian actor, Mohsen Tanabandeh, the audience would like Samuel’s character only because of Al Pacino’s fame in the cinema industry and not for his acting techniques, reiterating that acting in such a film needed an understanding of the religion by “every cell”.
Speaking about the difficulties he and his colleagues bore after being selected for their roles in the film, he said that Majidi made the actors live in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for nearly two months and forced them to milk the goats, ride camels and take fencing and arrow-throwing lessons.
Asgari said Storaro has written a memo for him in admiration of his good performance in the film, and said it is of high value to him.
“I have heard it many times from Storaro that the spirit of integrity and friendship existing among the crew in Iranian cinema is rare in other countries’ cinema industry,” he added.
Mohammad (PBUH), The Messenger of God, garnered positive reactions from the audience across the globe.
The 171-minute, visually stunning film cost around $40 million (36 million euros) and took more than seven years to complete.
Mohammad (PBUH), which stars many top Iranian actors, opened and closed the Montreal Film Festival this year.
Majidi has said that the aim of his work, the first part of a trilogy, is to reclaim the rightful image of Islam, which he said extremists have distorted.
“Unfortunately at this time the impression of Islam is of a radical, fanatical and violent religion, which is not what it’s about,” he said in Montreal, where “Mohammad” had its international premiere, hours after screening back home.
“The barbaric acts of terrorism conducted by terrorist groups under the guise of Islam are not related to Islam,” he said, alluding to beheadings and destruction of cultural treasures by the ISIL Takfiri militants in Syria and Iraq.
“Islam is a religion of peace, friendship and love, and I tried to show this in the film.”
“I think this film can be a starting point of research for those who don’t know Islam,” he said.