A Prophet Interview: Tahar Rahim
A Prophet is a new cinematic prison masterpiece by veteran film maker Jacques Audiard and starring newcomer Tahar Rahim, winning Best Film at the London Film Festival, the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes. Oscars nods surely can’t be too far behind.
We spoke to Tahar Rahim about the film’s success, working with such a celebrated director and the film’s comparisons to classics like The Godfather and Goodfellas.
It’s such an epic movie, how did you prepare for it?
I saw movies, documentaries, photos and I talked to ex-prisoners: that was something that helped me with the second half of the movie. But in the beginning to create the character we used every kind of method with Jacques and we talked about, we tried to understand the character as a good person at the moment: what’s happening when he’s in that situation. If it happened like this, why did he do that? If it happened like this, why did he think like that, why did he work like that? Why did he walk and talk like that?
And then step by step with the whole crew and team on the set and the actors, something happens and I did some research about homeless people, because Malik is a homeless person.
How did you go about showing the passage of time as a character because he gets older as the movie progresses? Did you play him differently as he got older?
Yeah, yeah because you have to. But I don’t think about time and the age but his experience. He learned from his experience and that’s what makes him change?
What was it like working with Jacques Audiard?
He’s got a reputation for pushing his actors quite hard. How did he get the most out of you?
He’s pushing you but it’s like he’s living the moment with you. When he touches you, he’s very motivating, he’s always here with you. It’s like you’re naked and he’s naked too if you can understand? You do the work together.
Malik’s haunted by ghost of the first person he kills. What bearing do you think that has on his character?
Just like that, the way you feel when you’re guilty. It makes you think about things differently and act differently.
The film’s doing very well internationally. Are you surprised by its success?
Yeah I’m surprised. And I’m happy! It’s crazy…it’s not just the success, people are almost involved in it, it’s crazy, you can’t understand that…but I’m very happy.
It’s a lot of pressure because you can’t really believe what they’re saying. Press! I’ve made just one movie. It makes me afraid really. I want to say, please, just give me a chance to make a mistake. I’m happy too, but it’s a weird thing.
You said you watched films and documentaries? Earlier this year we saw Mesrine. Was that one of the films you watched?
I saw Mesrine – good movie but it wouldn’t have helped with this. I remember I saw Pixote: A Lei Do Mais Fraco which is an amazing Brazilian movie. It’s a long time ago, so I don’t remember exactly what I saw.
It was more documentaries of young people in prison around the world, things like that. I was trying to get that in my head.
How do you feel about the comparisons between this film and films like The Godfather and Goodfellas?
Happy. So, our movie is in the same place of those movies; I can’t imagine that! But the comparison with me and those…actor monsters, I don’t have any of that passion.
Did you think that while you were making it or did you think that after you’d been around the world?
The humanity of the movie doesn’t surprise me because it was so human and so good in the shooting and what is surprising is this: you can catch image, you can catch sound and…love. What is very very strange is that the movie has caught the mood of the movie, this humanity. It’s amazing. It’s magic, no?
Do you think that the violence is representative of a lot of prisons in general?
Yes, it’s a violent prison. But I think you can kill someone in prison but there is something, an inquiry, whether they find you or not. There isn’t real violence everyday, but it’s a wild world and yes it’s violent.
Have people been very receptive of the film in France?
Everyone says, “oh it’s so realistic!” And Jacques always says “Have you ever been in prison?”
Can you tell us a little about your next film, Eagle Of The Ninth?
It’s an adaptation of the book. This movie is between something commercial and intimate. I play the baddie in the movie. I play a barbarian like everyone in this area, but he has a different logic. It’s a love story, about the new generation, about making an example, about the fact that he’s a prince, but he’s going to be a king.