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The Eagle - Tahar Rahim interview

The Eagle's Tahar Rahim

Interview by Rob Carnevale

TAHAR Rahim, who shot to international prominence in A Prophet, talks about playing the Seal Prince in Kevin Macdonald’s Roman epic The Eagle and coping with the freezing Scottish conditions, the physical element and speaking in an ancient Gaelic tongue.

Q. What appealed to you about playing the Seal Prince in The Eagle?
Tahar Rahim: Everything. Everything was seducing. The style, the make-up, the clothes, speaking in ancient Gaelic, being in those locations and working with the team – with Kevin Macdonald and those actors.

Q. What did you think when you first saw yourself? You’re barely recognisable…
Tahar Rahim: I don’t really like seeing myself. So, that was strange. And hearing me with this language and a different voice was also strange.

Q. Did you mind having to shave your head?
Tahar Rahim: No, I don’t care. When you have to work, you work [laughs].

Q. What was the make-up process like? I gather it took an hour each day?
Tahar Rahim: It was an hour every morning. I had to shave my head, put on the clothes. It could get frustrating… I mean when you’re in it for eight hours a day, your skin keeps getting a little bit more red and you burn a little bit.

Q. How did you take to the Scottish weather and its rugged environment?
Tahar Rahim: One time! It was cold, very cold. It also rained a lot and was very windy up on that hill in the village. There was also lots of wet mud, so that made it tough. But I only had 18 days whereas the rest were there for months.

Q. Did that help to inform your character – the savage element of him?
Tahar Rahim: Everything helps. But if it would have been warm it would have been ok too! I would have played him the same [laughs]. But the location certainly helped.

Q. How physically demanding was it? You’re running in a lot of natural environments… Is that more perilous?
Tahar Rahim: I don’t mind running and there wasn’t actually as much as it looks. It was broken down into a moment here and a moment there, so that was OK. Happily, I can still run well at 29 years of age. As for running in that environment, I tried not to think about it. You just go for it. I had an afternoon of choreography for the last battle scene though.

Q. Are you pretty handy with a sword?
Tahar Rahim: Yes. I like it a lot. I was like a kid.

Q. How was working with Mark Strong, who you share a fight scene with?
Tahar Rahim: That was great! I really like working with Mark. In fact, we were just doing another movie together.

Q. Black Gold?
Tahar Rahim: Yes, he’s playing my father in that. But he’s a great actor and a great man. I really love to play with him.

Q. Did you spend much time with Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell? And did the harsh environment help you all to bond more as a team?
Tahar Rahim: They were great, too, although we didn’t have a lot of time to hang out together. They were always very busy. But it was a good mood on the set and they were always friendly whenever we did get the chance. But this was a very good team to be a part of. Everybody, from the director to the supporting crew, was together.

Q. Did the Scottish locals take you for a night out? I gather it was more dangerous than the stunts!
Tahar Rahim: Oh yes, I remember that. They did one in the village with violins. It was nice.

Q. How did you tackle the Gaelic accent?
Tahar Rahim: I worked a lot with a coach. She taught me how to pronounce the words. It wasn’t easy because I’d never heard of it before, of course. And we worked a lot around this…. I kind of did it the old fashioned way. I heard her talking, talking, talking and tried to make something that could exist and sound believable. But we were working on it during the whole shoot.

Q. A Prophet catapulted you into the international spotlight as an actor. How has life changed for you since the release of that film?
Tahar Rahim: My professional life has changed completely. Now, I’m cool and I can read scripts. I can be more choosy. I can talk to people more when on set and meet more people.

Q. What can we expect from Black Gold?
Tahar Rahim: I hope you’ll be happy with it. It’s a big epic movie set in the ‘20s in an Arabic world. I think it’s going to be a good story and a good movie.

Read our review of The Eagle

Or read our interviews with Jamie Bell and Channing Tatum