One of the many films to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was director Lee Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double. The film’s loosely based on the life of Latif Yahia and his interaction with Uday Hussein (Saddam Hussein’s son). Yahia is rumored to have been Uday’s body double and supposedly had plastic surgery to make his appearance even more realistic. In the film, Dominic Cooper plays both Hussein and Yahia and he does an incredible job playing both characters and brings each to life in a unique way. While the story of Latif Yahia was never proven to be true, Tamahori has taken the premise and created a new type of gangster film. The constant in every gangster film is eventually the cops will get involved. But in this story, Hussein is the son of the man who runs the country, and he literally has the freedom to do anything he wants. The other thing to know about Hussein in The Devil’s Double is that he’s a raging psychopath that tortured and raped young women, killed people without warning, and treated everyone around him like play things that were there for his amusement.
Again, if you’re looking for a factually accurate film about the fall of Iraq, this isn’t it. But if you’re a fan of gangster films, excessive violence, and a crazy story that’s never been told on screen, I definitely recommend The Devil’s Double. I thought it was great.
Anyhow, a few days ago I sat down with director Lee Tamahori and we talked about how the project came together, making the film look more expensive than it actually is, the gangster genre, casting Dominic Cooper, what it’s like being at Sundance, editing the movie, his next film (a Western based on the Witi Ihimaera book Bulibasha: King of the Gypsies) and a lot more. Hit the jump to watch:
Finally, before getting to the interview, here’s the synopsis I was given for the film, and here’s the link to my video interview with Cooper:
Baghdad, the playground for the rich and infamous, where anything can be bought – but for a price. This is Uday Hussein’s world and with his depraved lust for debauchery and immorality, he helps himself to whatever turns him on. When army lieutenant Latif Yahia, is summoned to Saddam’s palace, he is faced with an impossible request – to be Uday’s ‘fiday’ – his body double, or have his family condemned to death. In a world entrenched in betrayal and corruption knowing who to trust becomes a matter of life or death for Latif, as he battles to escape from his forced existence.
- How difficult it was to find financing
- 1:00 – Talks about working in the gangster genre
- 1:50 – What he was looking for in the lead role, and how Cooper delivered
- 4:30 – How they worked out the logistics of Cooper’s dual roles
- 5:20 – He learned tricks in the studio system to give a small indie film high production values
- 6:30 – The film is based on a true story, and yet a “complete fabrication”
- 9:25 – They are negotiating distribution at Sundance
- 10:30 – Talks about the editing process
- 11:40 – He loves film festivals, but has been too busy to enjoy Sundance too much
- 13:00 – Talks about his next film, a Western based on the Witi Ihimaera book Bulibasha: King of the Gypsies (they’re going to change the title)