Architect Homayon Ershadi was literally sitting still when his life took an unexpected turn 11 years ago.
Iranian native Ershadi, who was 49 at the time, was in his car and stopped at a light. Suddenly, Abbas Kiarostami, one of the country’s most well-known directors who prefers to use amateurs rather than trained actors, walked up to Ershadi and quizzed him on whether he had an interest to star in the helmer’s next movie, “A Taste of Cherry.”
“He asked if I had acted before or if I had thought about it, and I said, ‘No.’ Then, when he asked if I wanted to be in the movie, I said, ‘Yes’ right away,” Ershadi recalls.
That performance in “Cherry,” about a man planning to commit suicide who needs to find someone to bury him afterward, earned Kiarostami the Golden Palm at Cannes in 1997 and greatly intrigued American director Marc Forster several years later when he began casting “The Kite Runner.”
Ershadi auditioned for Forster in Kabul — a city he had never visited before, and one he says is in such terrible condition that it left him virtually speechless. After a few days back home, he learned Forster had chosen him to be his Baba, the father of storyteller Amir in the Paramount Vantage film based on the bestselling tome.
Ershadi, a graduate of the U. of Venice who has been a successful architect since 1970, had read the book but wasn’t sure if he was the right choice for the role. He felt he had to convince Forster, even though Forster certainly didn’t need convincing.
“I went to Marc and said, ‘Are you sure I’m the right person?’ The character in the book has big hands and is about 6-foot-8. I’m much shorter. He said, ‘Don’t worry. Just read your lines.’ ”
Ershadi describes Baba as “a strong man and one who made a mistake when he was young and paid for it his whole life. He lost his country, his money and his power but was still proud. You lose something, you gain something. He learned to love his son.”
Favorite film: “I just saw ‘American Gangster.’ American films used to be very popular in Iran, but now they’re only shown in two theaters and only at night. We have to see all our movies on DVD, and the quality isn’t often very good.”
Next: “Nothing right now, but I would like to do something if I get the chance. If I can’t do that, I can always go back to architecture.”