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In this video I answer the most popular questions that I have received through my website, emails and social media.
There are many perceptions of me, that I have made millions from my books and the movie, not true.
That since I fled Iraq my life has been safe, not true, either.. That the government of the country where I reside have provided me with protection and security, that’s not true either, I have my own private security.
In my twenty one years in the West, I have not found democracy nor a country to call home and grant me citizenship, and so I am still stateless.
I could not and would not sell my soul, One man forced me to become something I wasn’t and ruled my life, when I broke free of him I vowed never to be forced to do anything against my will again, be it by a single person or a country.
From Arcanum Media Group.
We had printed a limited run of 185,150 copies of
The Devil’s Double, due to high demand for the book on pre-order it has sold out. So we are going back to press to bring you a further 50,000 copies, if you wish to secure your copy, please buy now on pre-order and your book will be delivered to you before Christmas.
We will not be supplying any other bookstore or website with this book, it is being sold exclusively here on Arcanum Media Group so if you have pre-ordered from Amazon etc please contact them for a refund.
The A.M.G team
|THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE, Book.|
Dear friends, be aware that the Devils Double book will be re-released at the end of this month, please DO NOT try and buy this book through Amazon or another book site, the publisher will not be supplying any other website with the book it will be available exclusively through Arcanum Media Group. This is also where you will be able to find my other books.
Please share this link with all your friends so that they too know not to buy or pre-order the book on any other site except Arcanum Media Group as they will not receive it and may not get a refund either.
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Vanaf 8 september in de bioscoop: The Devil’s Double (NL)! Van James Bond regisseur Lee Tamahori komt deze knallende actiefilm over de dubbelganger van de zoon van Saddam Hussein! Ook wel de Scarface van het Midden Oosten genoemd dus deze film mag je niet missen!
Mooie vrouwen in gouden bikini’s, de aanwezigheid van de internationale cast en regisseur, een stormloop op Tuschinski en meer dan genoeg BN’ertjes die deze film niet wilden missen: alle ingrediënten voor een geslaagde première waren aanwezig. Maar het meest bijzondere was toch wel dat de echte Latif Yahia acte de presence gaf met zijn familie. Inderdaad, de man die gedwongen werd de dubbelganger van Uday Hoessein te worden; een sadistische en totaal ontspoorde dictatorszoon.
Could you live with the devil for five years? How about become him?
At only 23-years-old, Iraqi military official Latif Yahia faced both dilemmas, as the psychotic eldest son of Iraq’s notorious dictator brought him to the edge of hell and back with a job offer.
Or rather, a job assignment.
To be a fiday, a double…
Adapted from Yahia’s autobiographical book, the 2011 Sundance film “The Devil’s Double” directed by Lee Tamahori and starring Dominic Cooper as both Yahia and Uday Hussein, is being called a “must-see summer movie” and the “Scarface of Arabia.”
While Yahia praised the film and Cooper’s performance, stating that “no one has played him [Uday] as well as Dominic….great performance,” it’s apparent that nothing about the film’s inspiration was glamorous.
For five years Yahia, now a Ph.D and well respected author, endured torture, forced plastic surgery, and psychological torment at the hands of a man he calls “completely erratic” – Uday Hussein.
Yahia and Hussein became classmates in their adolescence but it wasn’t until the closing of the Iran-Iraq war that Yahia was called summoned to undertake what would become the most heinous and disturbing task of his life.
Becoming Uday Saddaam Hussein.
Yahia recalls the emotional chords struck by certain scenes in Tamahori’s film: “The scene that affected me the most was the torture scene where Uday is whipping me on the bench. It reminds me of all the torture that I suffered at his hands. The scene where he tries to have me kill the father of the raped girl, not just because I refused and slit my wrists but because, although the movie doesn’t show it, Uday actually took the gun as I was bleeding and shot the man anyway, right there in his office.”
Forced to duplicate Hussein’s mannerisms, demeanor, and even dental alignment, Yahia assured me that Uday, as crazed and powerful as he was, never truly took hold of who he was.
“I never lost myself, if I had I would have given in to Uday’s lifestyle and psychotic behavior as his “friends” did,” Yahia says. “Always in the back of my head I would say “I am Latif Yahia, my father is Yahia, he raised me to be a strong and true man.”
Reflecting on the most difficult aspects of his experience as a body double, the now husband and father recalled the anguish of witnessing Uday’s treatment of women.
“Uday would find them anywhere and everywhere, if they didn’t come willingly he had them abducted. He had his pimps bring groups of girls around and he would choose, whomever was leftover the pimps could have…. I believe they should all rot in hell.”
While discussing film, which has not been shown in Iraq, Yahia also notes the sociopolitical impact “The Devil’s Double” had on the Muslim world, and why U.S. involvement in Iraq has destroyed a connection to his homeland.
“Iraq has been brought back a thousand years, thanks. The Muslim people all know what their leaders are and how they behave, in Iraq we had one Saddam and one Uday, now we have hundreds, every Ministers’ son acts in the way Uday did.”
He continues, “Anyone who says Iraq is stable is lying, delusional, corrupt and/or working for the American government. I have no feeling for a country that is run by Iranians and occupied by American forces.”
In 2003, Uday Saddam Hussien was killed along with his brother Qusay and nephew Mustapha during a U.S. Task Force 20 confrontation. Yahia was less than satisfied at hearing the news.
“I was FURIOUS! Not because he I liked him! I wanted justice! I wanted to see him in court, I wanted to stand in front of a judge and say ‘Look what this madman did to me,’ I wanted the Iraqi people to get Justice, killing him was the easy way out. No one got closure or justice that day.”
What is justice?
After reading Yahia’s book and seeing the film, I am moved by the power of individual resilience and personal character, even when the world is trying to rip it away from you. Perhaps justice is the ability to propel forward, unscathed by the evils of one’s past.
Having spent the last 15 years in Ireland, despite 105 letters to the Ministry of Justice in Ireland, Yahia still awaits to hear back from his third citizenship application. His previous two were denied.
“I will never give up my fight for free speech, freedom, and justice…I work for peace around the world, with people who believe in peace and humanity.” Yahia is now working on what he refers to as a “controversial” documentary film, and seems to be following the promise made on his personal website.
“As my dearest friends and family say ‘I don’t have a filter’ but for me it’s easy to talk about these things, I don’t have a political party to toe the line in, I’m not affiliated to anyone or anything. Therefore I can speak the truth and the only one that will pay the price will be me. If I survive the release of the documentary.”
Although Latif Yahia is still in search of a homeland, 19-years after the darkest chapter in his life, it seems that he is, in some way, at home with himself.
by: Michael J. Totten
By: Colin Freeman
The siege of the Iraqi mansion lasted five hours, starting with a loudspeakered call to surrender and ending with the crash of missiles from a United States helicopter gunship. By the time it was over, half the house’s wedding cake-style facade was missing, affording the media a unique, through-the-rocket-hole tour when they were finally allowed near it.
Inside we found an elegant inner balcony splintered with bullets, and for anyone with a knowledge of gangster movies, one scene sprang to mind: the closing shots of Scarface, where Al Pacino’s drug baron makes his famous last stand.
“That film was mentioned a couple of times,” grinned Lieutenant Colonel Rick Carlson, commander of a unit involved in the raid, when I put this to him later.
So came the spectacular demise of Saddam Hussein’s notorious sons Uday and Qusay, whose lives resembled a real-life gangster flick, and whose deaths in July 2003 produced one of the few moments of universal good cheer in the ever-mounting gloom of post-war Iraq. For the US military, it was a much-needed morale boost in a steadily fraying mission, netting both the Ace of Hearts and the Ace of Clubs in the “Deck of 55” most wanted. For Iraqis, meanwhile, it meant the passing of two of the regime’s most feared men – in particular Uday, whose psychotic, unhinged brutality made his father look statesmanlike.
Yet as celebratory gunfire erupted over Baghdad, Latif Yahia, a 39-year-old former commando, was one of the few Iraqis who didn’t reach for his Kalashnikov. Not just because he was thousands of miles away in exile in England, where assault rifles are still frowned upon as party poppers, but because he didn’t want to cheer. He wanted to cry.
“The Americans should have taken Uday alive,” he tells me now. “I wanted him to face trial, so that I could tell the world what he had done, all the killing.”
Playboy, murderer, and sadist extraordinaire, Saddam’s elder son left no shortage of people with horror stories to tell in his wake. Yet for Latif, the trauma of his encounter with him was uniquely personal, one that still haunts him every time he looks in the mirror. For back in 1987, after noticing his striking likeness to Saddam’s son, Iraq’s secret service picked him to be Uday’s “fiday”, or body double, a job that involved becoming the living, breathing copy of the nation’s greatest hate figure.
Being the stand-in man on any occasion where Uday feared one of his many enemies might assassinate him was just one of Latif’s occupational hazards. Far worse was the window it gave him into the ruling family’s inner circle, attending Uday’s debauched parties, mixing with his entourage of pimps and thugs, and looking on as his doppelganger rampaged with impunity. And, to his ultimate horror and guilt, sometimes enjoying it.
“Until now, I haven’t slept properly because of thinking about him,” he said. “I am stuck with Uday for the rest of my life, and will probably take him with me to my grave.”
Now, though, 19 years after fleeing Iraq and claiming asylum in Europe, Latif has another chance to give Uday’s crimes an airing, and, hopefully, give his designer-stubbled, Ray Ban-wearing demon a final exorcism.
The Devil’s Double, released this week, is a film loosely-based on Uday’s early life – shot entirely from the point of view of his body double. Coming in the wake of Green Zone and the Hurt Locker, it is the first major Iraq movie to explore life in the ruling clan. And while Uday played no real role in the wider political drama of the war, he proves an illuminating focus point, being in many ways the personification of the regime’s dark side. Addicted to drink, sex and violence in equal measure, he was despised even more than his father – as I myself found when I was a correspondent based in Baghdad after the war.
On the hot July night that news emerged that he had been killed, the Iraqi capital erupted with so much gunfire that I thought a full-scale insurrection had broken out; by contrast, the celebrations when Saddam was caught five months later were more muted.
Iraqis used to tell me that their worst nightmare was Uday inheriting power, a fear that was not without justification, if the words that Latif claimed his employer once said to him are anything to go by: “Just wait till I’m president, I’ll be crueller than my father. You will often remember these words, and yearn for the days of Saddam Hussein.”
Starring Dominic Cooper as both Uday and Latif, the film is directed by Lee Tamahori, best known for his portrayal of violence within New Zealand’s Maori community in Once Were Warriors. The mayhem in that, however, is nothing compared to the savagery in The Devil’s Double. It applies the gangster movie blueprint to an entire country, replacing the Mafia with the Hussein clan, although Uday is far more crazed than anything Coppola or Scorsese have so far conjured up.
In one horrific scene, he uses a carving knife to stab to death Kamel Hannah, his father’s personal pimp, at a party attended by the wife of the recently-deposed Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. The incident is entirely authentic, according to Latif, save for the minor detail that Uday actually used an electric rose pruner that he had at his side. Even so, Latif says the violence has been toned down.
“The movie shows 20 per cent of what really happened, at most,” he says. “On one occasion, in a jail back in ’91, I remember Uday dealing with a Shia prisoner who had been involved in the uprising against Saddam after the first Gulf War. He said: ‘I won’t kill you by the gun,’ and instead put a drill through his head. When he’d finished, he looked around and said: ‘This is what happens to those who stand up against us.’ They killed half the people in that jail, and put the bodies in among those still alive. Then they released the survivors, just so they could tell other Iraqis what they’d seen.”
Latif first met Uday in 1979, when the two were at the Baghdad College High School for Boys, the country’s answer to Eton. The Iraq of that time was a very different place: Saddam, newly in power, was still relatively popular, having used Iraq’s oil money to create one of the Middle East’s most developed countries, while Baghdad was the region’s party capital, full of bars, discos and nightclubs.
Even then, Iraq’s First Family were a law unto themselves. Latif’s teachers learnt this the hard way when Uday first turned up at school, surrounded by five bodyguards. Having turned a blind eye to his habit of throwing chalk at them during lessons, and parking his yellow Porsche in the school’s basketball court, one teacher finally protested when Uday brought a girlfriend into class. “The teacher told Uday this was forbidden in an all-boys school,” recalls Latif. “He was never seen again.”
A keen painter, Latif won Uday’s friendship after drawing a portrait of Saddam, but knew to keep his distance. When university beckoned, he even switched to reading law when learning that Uday had enrolled on the same engineering course.
Then, one day in September 1987, while serving at the front during the Iran-Iraq war, he was whisked by limousine to a palace in Baghdad, where Uday, sat in a white leather armchair and smoking one of his trademark Montecristo No 6 cigars, told him of the top-secret plan to make him his “fiday”. After all, his father had been using one for years. “I want you to be me. Everywhere, always,” he said. It was an order, not a request. When Latif at first refused, he was thrown for days into a blood-encrusted jail cell with no lavatory. When he still protested, Uday threatened to feed his sisters to his pet dogs.
Thus began his secret service-organised “training programme”. He and Uday already bore a sharp resemblance to each other, with the same round eyes, thick eyebrows and slightly curly hair. But nothing was left to chance. To start, there was cosmetic surgery – a cleft added to the chin, and dental treatment to mimic Uday’s bucktoothed grin, which even gave him Uday’s distinctive lisp as well. To be really convincing, though, he also had to study the unique Uday school of deportment, honing, as he puts it, a “supercilious, dictatorial arrogance”.
How to mimic Uday’s childlike giggle, cocky stride and slovenly manners, always sitting slumped rather than straight up. How to greet people with a studied stare, and make his point by gesturing with a revolver. How to cruise around Baghdad in a different Porsche, Ferrari or Lamborghini every day, which also had to match whichever loud designer suit he was wearing. How to cradle a Montecristo between middle and index fingers, and knock back vast quantities of Dimple, the unsophisticated Scotch that was Uday’s favourite. And how, when attending discos, to up the tempo by blasting a few gunshots into the ceiling. For Latif, though, the hardest part of the fakery was played on his own family. He signed a contract saying he would never, on pain of execution, tell anyone that he was Uday’s double; this included his parents, who were told he had gone missing at the front, and whom he was forbidden from seeing again.
At first, being Uday had benefits. Latif was billeted in a five-star apartment with four full-time servants, its own bar, and a wardrobe packed with Uday’s hand-tailored clothes. He was also introduced to Saddam himself, or a man he assumes was him: one scene in the film shows the Iraqi leader playing tennis with his own double, the two impossible to be tol apart. But the scales soon fell from Latif’s eyes as he saw at first hand Uday’s appalling behaviour, which was normally covered up by Iraq’s state-controlled press.
Saddam’s son ran his own dark empire in Iraq, controlling the lucrative underworld smuggling rackets that thrived during the years of UN sanctions. His vast wealth allowed him to buy hundreds of cars, stashed all over Baghdad in underground garages and torched once the US invaded so nobody else could own them. (Uday employed somebody just to scour the internet for photos of new or collectable cars, which were then placed in a ring binder. He employed his own fisherman and two lion-tamers, too.)
He also ran the Iraqi Olympic Committee – the only one in the world that had its own jail, where athletes who did badly in international contests would be tortured using increasingly elaborate methods Uday had found on the internet. Worst of all, though, was his penchant for kerb-crawling around Baghdad.
Like Uday’s request for Latif to become his “fiday”, proposals of a quick night of romance with the president’s son were not negotiable. Dozens of girls would be paraded before him at the Baghdad Boat Club every night, and most would end up in his bedroom. Those who refused were abducted by his bodyguards and raped, first by Uday, and then by his henchmen. (It’s said he never slept with the same girl more than three times.)
Latif chronicles several such incidents in his book I Was Saddam’s Son, including the events of one notorious night at Habbaniya, a resort in Iraq’s western desert. Spotting a woman on honeymoon, Uday dragged her up to his sixth-floor hotel room, where he beat and raped her.
“Afterwards, he comes grinning out of the bedroom, pours himself a brandy and goes on chatting as though nothing had happened,” Latif writes. “Suddenly, we hear a long shrill scream that goes on forever. I dash into the bedroom, and see the door open to the balcony… she jumped from the sixth floor because she couldn’t stand the shame. What could I have done? Uday’s bodyguards, who almost derived more pleasure from their boss’s acts of cruelty than he did himself, would have killed me.”
So what made Uday so crazy? The Devil’s Double doesn’t dwell on this too much, but Latif has theories of his own. For all that Uday’s childhood was spoilt and overindulged, he points out, it was also traumatic.
Saddam, he claims, inducted Uday into the ways of the “family firm” from a young age, taking him to his first public execution aged just five, and, aged ten, showing him videos of regime opponents being tortured. Living up to family expectations was also hard. After all, when your father has already grabbed the titles of President, High Excellency, and Conqueror of All Iraq, there is very little left to achieve.
“This evil man, this gangster, he would cry like a baby when he was drunk, and talk about how his father ignored him,” says Latif. “He was close to his dad, but after he murdered Kamel Hannah [the pimp killed with a rose pruner], Saddam started favouring his brother Qusay to take over from him. At that time Uday also got rid of all his professional bodyguards, and just had pimps and thugs around him. That made things even worse.”
Things got worse for Latif too, as anger over the gassing of the Kurds in 1988 and disastrous 1991 Gulf War defeat made the ruling family more unpopular. He suffered two assassination attempts during public engagements on his boss’s behalf, nearly losing a finger in a grenade blast. When he returned to Baghdad for treatment, however, Uday’s only concern was that he too may have to forfeit a finger if his double’s digit couldn’t be saved. The film eventually depicts Latif escaping Iraq with one of Uday’s former girlfriends, Sarrab, and as the closing credits point out, “the rest is history”.
Minus his double, Uday spent his final years paralysed from the waist down after being shot while out cruising for girls one day, although even that does not seem to have curbed his lust. When US troops searched his various hide-outs after the war, they reportedly found Viagra, porn movies and an HIV testing kit, as well as millions of dollars’ worth of fine wine and a heroin stash.
Latif, who now lives and blogs in Belgium, joined the exiled anti-Saddam opposition, although to this day, he insists the US-led invasion was a mistake, simply replacing one gangster clique with many. “I knew it would put Sunni and Shia and Kurd against each other,” he says. “Now you have lots of people all wanting to behave like Saddam and Uday.”
Nor does he wish ever to return to his home country, whatever rosy claims are made in the West about it now becoming a democracy. Because from his own bitter experience, the problem is not just the thugs who tend to hog power in Iraq, but the willingness of the people to follow them slavishly.
“The problem is not Iraq as a country, but the people. I am sorry to say this, but if you read the history of Iraq, you will see it has been like this for 7,000 years – that is to say,
a–holes, clapping their hands for anyone, and selling their mothers for money. It will take 50 years, maybe more, to change the place.”
The Devil’s Double opens in cinemas on Friday
He shot to fame playing the romantic lead in the most successful British film of all time, but there’s a hint of menace about Dominic Cooper’s performances that could make him this generation’s most lovable Hollywood rogue, writes DONALD CLARKE
EVERY GENERATION needs a cad. Funny cads like Terry-Thomas. Brooding cads like James Mason. Smooth cads like George Sanders. The dangerous lover never quite goes away.
In recent years, Dominic Cooper, a dreamy Londoner with bandit eyes, has been shaping up to become the signature cad for this era. He is perhaps still best known for playing Amanda Seyfried’s boyfriend in Mamma Mia! , but he was superbly slippery as a classless conman in An Education . He did the business as an uncaring pop star in Tamara Drewe . Heck, I half expect him to swipe me across the face with a riding crop, fling me down the stairs and call me “a bally whore”. He doesn’t.
“Yes I suppose I have done a few cads,” he says. “They’re much more fun than your basic lover. I guess there’s a bit of repetition there. But I hope I find something more than what’s on the page each time.”
Next week, Cooper moves from moustache-twirling cad to out-and-out bastard. In Devil’s Double he delivers two quite stunning performances as Uday Hussein, deranged son of the late Saddam, and Latif Yahia, the soldier who was forced to act as the heir apparent’s double.
The film offers a series of technical challenges. Not only does he have to play two characters – a murderous psychopath with a toddler’s giggle and an ordinary bloke propelled into an extraordinary universe – he has to play one playing the other.
It was a busy set. Far from having hours to shift character, Cooper was often asked to move from monster to man in an instant.
“There was no time,” he says. “I managed it because I had established exactly who they were. I had worked out the basic tricks of creating two very different physical types. The vocal tunings were different. Uday somehow occupies more of the room than Latif.”
Cooper was lucky enough to have the real Latif Yahia as a resource. Since fleeing Iraq – the film speculates that he may have tried to assassinate Uday Hussein – he has written a few books. Until recently, he lived quietly in this country with his Irish wife.
“It was daunting when I sat down with him,” Cooper explains. “I knew immediately not to pry too much. He has serious scarring and I had to be careful not to ask too much about that too soon. Who am I to start interrogating this guy?”
The film depicts Hussein kidnapping school girls, enjoying video tapes of torture sessions and murdering a henchman at a heart-stoppingly vulgar party. He also has a creepily close relationship with his mother. Did Cooper come to any conclusion as to what turned him into such a deranged personality?
“Was it nature or nurture?” he muses. “It was hard to find anything to cling on to with that character. It’s so far from anything I could understand. But you can’t help but think who his father was. You just think how difficult that sort of relationship can be at the best of times. His father really did seem all-powerful to him. By all accounts, Saddam thought Uday was idiotic.”
Cooper, now 33, was raised in southeast London, the son of a nursery-school teacher who separated from his father when Dominic was a boy. Later in life, his dad revealed he had a daughter by another woman while still living in the family home. It all sounds very EastEnders. But Cooper insists everybody behaved in a mature fashion.
“After that, I had a stepdad, and he was lovely and great,” he says. “No, it wasn’t like a broken home, because there was no real animosity. It was very easy and calm. Everybody saw one another and got on very well. Looking back, it was a bit eccentric. I don’t know how it worked. But it just did.”
Cooper’s older brother is a music-video producer who arranged work for his teenage brother as a runner on his sets. Later, Dominic moved into editing, and while at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts he used this to support himself. “During the day I’d be pretending to be a dog, then at night I’d be digitising images and logging them into computers,” he says.
A good-looking guy with a crisp, clean voice and an ability to convey inner turmoil through the tiniest movement, Cooper has never been short of work. Soon after graduation, he secured a berth at the Royal National Theatre, where he appeared in the first production of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys. He later starred in the film version of that piece and remains pals with Bennett.
Coopermania stepped up a gear in 2008. He had, to that point, rarely been molested while buying his roll of Toffos and his pint of milk. But his turn alongside Keira Knightley in The Duchess brought him a greater degree of visibility. Then he starred in (honestly) the most successful British film of all time.
“I learned quite quickly that fame goes in waves,” he says. “If you are in a magazine, that week you are recognised. When it does happen it’s never aggressive. It’s very pleasant when someone refers to a play they’ve seen or the deep-rooted happiness that they got from Mamma Mia! ”
It’s hard to overestimate the impact of that mad, charming Abba musical. Everyone knew it would be a hit, but no sane person suggested it would take more than €400 million worldwide. Until Avatar came along, it was the most lucrative film ever at the combined UK and Irish box office, and it still holds the No 2 spot.
“It’s very touching. It’s very, very moving. I can’t believe the number of people who’ve come up and said: ‘We saw that at an important point in my late mother’s life, and that brought us all together.’ ”
Was he surprised to find himself in a musical? “I think so. I wasn’t sure what I was embarking on. I had never seen the show. That genre is not mine. I found it hard to cross the line of suddenly bursting into song. But, when I saw who else was in it, I thought, this could be either extraordinary or a disaster. I didn’t actually realise I could sing in that way. I’d always been in some sort of band, but those Abba songs are hard to sing.”
The success of Mamma Mia! coincided with a difficult time in Cooper’s personal life. He had been going out with Joanna Carolan, personal assistant to Harold Pinter, for 12 years. The relationship ended that year amid reports Cooper had begun dating Amanda Seyfried.
“We are still great friends,” he says of Carolan. “It’s an amazing experience going through a relationship that is longer than a lot of marriages. There was a sense of loss. I was so young when we got together: 16 or 17. But you realise that that person can still be a major part of your life. Work pulled me away. I just began travelling a lot, and that’s hard.”
One suspects Cooper is here to stay. Tabloids have tried to represent him as the new Colin Firth or the new Hugh Grant, but he has a sly energy all his own. Though he can play the romantic lead, there is a hint of menace about him that adds an edge to all his performances.
You can see that force at work in the current, surprisingly nifty superhero flick Captain America: The First Avenger . Playing Howard Stark, father to the future Iron Man, Cooper nods towards Howard Hughes with his portrayal of an eccentric engineering genius.
Later this year he will join a tasty cast – Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier, Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh – in Simon Curtis’s My Week with Marilyn . Cooper plays the esteemed photographer Milton H Greene.
What with all this travelling, he must have trouble maintaining a normal home life. Has he found time to buy a proper house? Is there butter in the fridge? “No, not at all. I bought a shoe box at the top of a tree in north London,” he says, laughing. “I have barely been home this year. There are so many things to do. I keep meaning to buy a bed, but I haven’t got round to it. There are just so many choices.”
He’s laughing at the trivial nature of his problems. Cooper seems to have his head screwed on. Earlier he was talking about the horrible pressures that assailed Latif Yahia.
“He was acting, and he knew that if he got it wrong he could be killed.”
Well, that puts his job in perspective. “Yeah, yeah. It certainly does.”
The Devil’s Double is on general release from Friday
On the double
No challenge excites actors more than playing against themselves. It stretches their technical gifts. It allows them to experiment with vocal timbres. Most importantly, it ensures they keep as much of the limelight as possible to themselves. The history of the double-up performance goes back a long way. In 1922, Rex Ingram, a Dublin-born film-maker, directed what was already the third version of Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda . Lewis Stone played the English gentleman who gets to impersonate a Ruritanian prince.
Subsequent versions of that definitive lookalike story followed, with Ronald Colman, Stewart Granger and Peter Sellers all playing both roles. Comics quickly saw the comedy potential, and, in 1921, Buster Keaton played virtually every role in The Playhouse. But the masters of this class of comic multitasking were Laurel and Hardy. They each played dual roles on three occasions. In Twice Two (1931) each, somewhat creepily, also played the other man’s wife. In Brats (1930) they played their own children. And in the superb Our Relations (1936) they played sober domestic pals and their dimmer, more dissolute sailor brothers.
If you really fancied yourself, you could, like Keaton, attempt a whole busload of characters. Peter Sellers managed three in the magnificent Dr Strangelove (1964): a blimpish English officer, the ineffectual president and the titular, Machiavellian scientific adviser. That array seemed insignificant when set beside Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), in which Alec Guinness gave us eight members of the foolish and doomed D’Ascoyne family.
Such versatility deserves an Oscar. Yet only two actors have ever managed it. No, not Jeremy Irons as the twins in David Cronenberg’s masterpiece Dead Ringers (1988). Nicolas Cage failed to take a statuette for his split personalities in Adaptation ( 2002). But Frederic March triumphed in 1931 for playing both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in the best version of that story (then again, are they both the same man?). And Lee Marvin got a gong for best supporting actor for playing the drunken Kid Shelleen and the scary psychopath Silvernose in Cat Ballou (1965).
Mind you, the double-up performance can be as much a triumph for the special-effects boys as it is for the overworked actor. In The Social Network (2010), rather than hiring real twins to play Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, David Fincher asked Armie Hammer to submit to the digital photocopier. The effect was dramatic, but it looked a little like showing off.