Shohreh Aghdashloo says she’d devote a great portion of her memoirs to the 2½ months she spent in Tunisia playing Saddam Hussein’s wife in the four-hour HBO-BBC co-produced miniseries “House of Saddam.”
Missing from those recollections, though, would be a key piece of information that the Iranian-born Aghdashloo has attempted to track down. Namely: What did Hussein’s scorned spouse, Sajida Talfa, think of her work?
“She must have seen it,” Aghdashloo says. “I really tried finding out whether she liked it, but I got nowhere. I did ask a few Iraqis, and they were very kind. They said, ‘You played her with class.'”
Aghdashloo laughs at the compliment, adding that she considers Talfa, currently a fugitive from justice, a “very courageous” woman undone by an appalling sense of self-entitlement. Preparing for the role, the Oscar-nominated actress listened to audiotape of Talfa and watched what video she could find. Photographs also provided many telling details.
“In all of her pictures, her legs are apart — just like Lenin stands,” Aghdashloo says. “That’s because of her childhood, where she was always barefoot. When she wore heels as an adult, she walked like someone who has been working in a field.
“Likewise, in all the pictures, one hand is relaxed and open, while the other is curled in a fist,” Aghdashloo adds. “Again, just like Lenin.”
Aghdashloo refused to watch another piece of archival history offered to her while filming in Tunisia — video footage of Saddam Hussein’s execution.
“All the young people, whenever we’d be out and about, would ask, ‘Would you like to see Saddam being hanged?'” Aghdashloo recalls. “They have this bit of film in their cell phones. All of them. And I had to keep saying, ‘No, young man. I refuse to watch it.’ It’s actually remarkable that I left the country without having seen it.”