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10 Actors to Watch: Ali Fazal Leads ‘Victoria and Abdul’

Ali Fazal is one of Variety‘s 10 Actors to Watch for 2017. For the full list, click here.

Growing up in India, Fazal didn’t hear the usual bedtime stories from his mother. Instead she told the 5-year-old the tale of warring mob families in New York. It wasn’t until much later that he realized that she had related “The Godfather.” He was obsessed with Marlon Brando and watched all his movies: “On the Waterfront,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” and, of course, “The Godfather” movies.

With that upbringing you’d think it wasn’t strange that he became an actor, but the “Victoria & Abdul” star says he studied science. “I was a single child and they were worried about security,” he says of his parents. “Acting is considered a hobby in India.” Fazal caught audience interest with a small but pivotal role in Bollywood mega hit “3 Idiots.” Other films such as “Fukrey” followed as well as a part in “Furious 7.” And then he heard Stephen Frears was casting for his period piece. Working with Judi Dench was “wonderful,” Fazal says. “I couldn’t ask for more. She’s such a generous actor. Also very funny … so infectious. I learned so much from her.” While the film industry in India and the west are miles apart, he’s pleased to have had this “unique opportunity to work with legends like Stephen Frears, Judi Dench and Michael Gambon.”

Fazal took time from shooting the “Fukrey” sequel to attend the Venice premiere before heading to Toronto. He has a good career in Bollywood, but the actor says, “I would like to focus on this wonderful new journey, figure it out for myself.” Among his upcoming projects are one with Amazon and “Fukrey Returns,” which releases in December. And his parents are OK with his career choice now.

Influences: Marlon Brando, Bernardo Bertolucci, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg
Representation: Agency: Julian Belfrage Associates (U.K.), WME Entertainment (U.S.); Manager: Lavin Entertainment; Lawyer: Hirsch Wallerstein

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