Iranian actor Amir Jadidi, the breakout star of Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar-shortlisted “A Hero,” is no novice to the big screen. He previously appeared in more than a dozen films in Iran, where he also has a parallel career as a professional tennis player.
Jadidi worked closely with the director on his character Rahim, who, while on furlough after being imprisoned for debt, returns a lost handbag full of gold coins. But his action sparks other actions that create turmoil. “A Hero” gives Farhadi a shot at his third international Oscar, and Jadidi plans to travel to the U.S. to support the film. The actor spoke to Variety about the film.
How did you find out about the role?
I got a call from Mr. Farhadi’s office and they asked to set up a meeting. At the time that I got the call, I had been shooting another movie and, because of the physique of that character that I was already playing, I had worked out more and buffed up. So, when we met, the first thing he said was: “You need to change everything about yourself to be able to play the character of Rahim — lose weight, get smaller, alter your voice, walk different, rework your style, change your body language …” And that was my first time meeting with Mr. Farhadi.
What was the next step?
When I read the script, Mr. Farhadi and I started working on the character immediately, and we created the character together as we rehearsed. We decided how he talks, how he walks, how he looks at people, how he gets angry, how he cries, and so on. I would work on the character, and then I would play it for Mr. Farhadi, and he would guide [me]. This is how we created Rahim.
So you both decided that Rahim is, as Farhadi has put it, a “simple character in a complex situation”?
We were both in agreement that performing Rahim as a simple introvert is much harder than playing him as an extrovert. Since Rahim is a simple character, we had to add some key elements to his character to catch the audience’s attention. Rahim’s eye contact is the most engaging part of his role, so the audience could feel his anger and feelings through his eyes, behind the façade he had built to the outside world.
He is apparently passive in the face of so much turmoil.
I don’t really see Rahim as a “passive” character, so to say. I think he just accepts the challenges that life throws at him, but then he really shows effort to find solutions for the conundrums that he faces. However, he might not always be successful at it.
How would you describe the essence of Rahim and the choices he makes?
Overall, I consider Rahim a conscientious person. He really tries to keep his conscience clean and even though in the film we see him struggling sometimes, he still doesn’t want to lie to get out of a sticky situation — even when he has every right to.
In Farhadi’s words, “A Hero” is about how the media sometimes creates heroes out of ordinary people, and sparks lots of expectations for these instantly heroic figures. Do you agree?
I definitely agree with Mr. Farhadi’s words. In a way, it is part of the media’s job to “create” stories, or in this instance, “heroes.” The film shows how heroes are needed in a society, or how people tend to make someone out to be a hero and then later dismantles him or her out of envy. But I think for a society to survive it does not only need one “hero.” One needs to be his or her own hero. In a way, we must all be our own hero and help each other in becoming one — if that makes sense.