For Cooper, the importance is in the audience understanding Latif’s struggle. “This story is so full of such monstrosity and awful violence that you need to see Latif as a kind man in a terrible situation with no alternative,” he explains. “And he’s ultimately prepared to sacrifice his own life because he knows how horrendous it is and the effect that the person he’s doubling for is having on other people.”
But for the film’s Yahia, the world Uday inhabits is not without its charms. “There are great little scenes where he’s offered luxury cars and things and I think he does get rather tempted by them,” explains Cooper. “The stories I hear of [Uday]; he was in charge. No one fucked with him. No one crossed him, no one said anything against him, and he had no boundaries. With all the money you could ever desire and all the drugs you’d ever want, he had everything. They were a bunch of rock stars and they did what they wanted to do.”
“It’s a real bandit movie, a real gangster movie in Iraq,” says Tamahori. “Dom’s an actor who’s got huge amounts [of energy]. But we’ve got to watch the physical nature of it because he’s going at it every day. It’s going to wear him out, so we’ve got to be really careful. It’s just ruthless.”
The challenge for the actor is in balancing the two extremes of personality in the dual roles of Latif and Uday. “Every level of it is completely mesmerizing,” he explains. “I am finding it tough to constantly switch between the two of them.”
The physical torment of the shoot is clearly taking its toll. Our day on set is long, and since both characters are in these scenes, everything must be shot twice. In the morning he’s Latif Yahia and after a quick lunch he emerges from the costume trailer as Uday Hussein. When he finally sits down with IGN towards the end of the day, he’s exhausted by it all.
Tamahori, for his part, doesn’t seem to be working any less tirelessly. He darts around the set every minute, pausing behind the camera only to call “Action,” on a shot.
“I’m always like that,” he laughs when we point out that we’ve rarely seen a director so animated. “I’m a pretty active director; I like to be up with my actors, not stuck behind monitors. We’re pushing ourselves to the limit everyday. We’re trying to do high quality on moderate to low budget. But we have a great crew and a fabulous cast and we’re making it work.”
is a look at some of the darkest, and least often reported, elements of the Hussein regime. But it’s not the heavily politicised Iraq movie most have come to expect, and it seems clear the emphasis is on creating a truly entertaining experience against the backdrop of a fascinating story. The results will hopefully speak for themselves when the film is released next year.