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Matt Damon News Column
Green Zone casting, character and plot details
  • Actor Khalid Abdalla (The Kite Runner) has been cast in Green Zone, re-teaming him with United 93 director Paul Greengrass. Abdalla talks about his role and provides more details about the film in an interview at The Independent - excerpts:

    Having been cast as a September 11 hijacker in his inaugural feature film role in Paul Greengrass' United 93, he has subsequently played an Afghan immigrant and is now preparing for a stint as an Iraqi translator living in the Green Zone after the Allied invasion. "I've done September 11, then Afghanistan and now I'm doing Iraq. It's the War on Terror trilogy, the box set," he jokes.

    The Working Title film is an adaptation of Imperial Life in the Emerald City, the bestselling book by The Washington Post's Baghdad bureau chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran about the bungled American effort to reconstruct Iraq, based on meticulous research and eyewitness statements. The Green Zone, which begins filming in Spain this week and stars Damon as a disillusioned American captain opposite Abdalla as his Iraqi translator, provides a first-hand view of life inside Baghdad's fortified zone, with all its iniquities and excesses.

    Abdalla found out that he had won a part in The Green Zone just after returning from the Dubai Film Festival before Christmas last year. He had met his famous co-star a few months earlier, when he popped in to see Greengrass and the film crew as they filmed the spectacular scene from The Bourne Ultimatum that takes place at Waterloo Station. "I wanted to say hello, so I went to Waterloo and that's where I met Matt Damon, who I think is a brilliant actor whose collaboration with Greengrass has worked really well. This is the first time I'll be starring with a Hollywood cast and I feel excited," Abdalla says.

    He is currently growing stubble ("it's my last day to shave today" ) to play the thirty-something Iraqi who has a "penchant for Bryan Adams" and who was injured during the Iran-Iraq war.

    "After The Kite Runner, I was anticipating a project that had nothing to do with my ethnicity, and in every way it is incidental to this role in The Green Zone. My part is so brilliantly written, it has a richness of character and it's different from anything I've played before. The kind of typecasting I was more worried about is being cast in roles where the characters are 'still waters' and very intense, such as in my other films."
  • 8 comments or Leave a comment
    From: (Anonymous) Date: January 18th, 2008 09:46 am (UTC) (Link)
    I was wondering how they were going to dramatise a non-fiction book, and now this interview has provided some insight. For me one the most upsetting part of Rajiv Chandrasekaran's book was the thoughtless racism and cultural ignorance of the people who were appointed with the task of rebuilding Iraq. One example that springs to mind is the Moslem chefs having to cook pork and bacon (unclean animals) it wasn't much fun for them.

    I'm not having a go at Americans here, lets face it the British were just as bad if not worse when they had their Empire, but I hope that this aspect of life in the Green Zone is included in the movie version because it helps to explain why people like Paul Bremer III got things so wrong.

    Like others I've been puzzling why BAFTA consider Ultimatum a British film. Greengrass is British and so were some of the actors and crew, but the production money came from overseas and Universal made it so I'm really confused, it was also filmed in Spain, and Morocco but that doesn't make it a Moroccan film or a Spanish film either. Marcia
    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: January 18th, 2008 10:55 am (UTC) (Link)
    I think it was seen as a quasi-British film as it was a British director, a significant part was filmed in London, and all blue-screen work and interiors/stage-work was filmed at Pinewood. London was seen as the base, and most extras etc came from the UK.

    I thought it was a great interview with Abdalla, providing lots of info about the film and the first real info we've had about Matt's character.
    From: (Anonymous) Date: January 18th, 2008 11:24 am (UTC) (Link)
    You are right, but the same is true of many films made in the UK which aren't considered British, the Star Wars movies spring to mind as one example; I would just be interested to hear the rationale behind BAFTA claiming Ultimatum as British, just to satisfy my curiosity.

    I forgot to thank you for posting that interview with Abdalla. Marcia
    From: (Anonymous) Date: January 18th, 2008 08:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
    I think in the past, the criteria for being a 'British' film is that it came from a British studio with British money. Even if the film was made in the UK, if the money came from the U.S then it was a U.S. film. The balance now appears to have changed...at least with BAFTA. As Ultimatum was so successful they want it to be British, so they change the criteria. In the past, perhaps Atonement would not have been counted as British - as I believe the money didn't come from blighty! But prove me wrong someone...as I love that film! Jan
    mattdamoncolumn From: mattdamoncolumn Date: January 18th, 2008 11:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
    Here's an item from the Guardian which mentions the status of TBU (and it's another pretty amazing stat for Bourne):

    The British cinema business performed strongly in 2007 as tickets sales climbed approximately 8% on the previous year to £904m. Film Council data revealed that spending on UK production fell from £855m to £723m, partly due to the weak US dollar and the ongoing writers' strike. The No 1 film of 2007 was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on £49.4m, followed by The Bourne Ultimatum on £23.7m and The Golden Compass on £23.5m. All three are UK-US co-productions. The highest ranking pure UK film was Mr Bean's Holiday in fourth place with takings of £22.1m.
    From: (Anonymous) Date: January 21st, 2008 09:33 am (UTC) (Link)

    Inside the Actors Studio

    Sky will be showing Matt's episode on the Sky Arts channel on Friday 25th January at 6.05pm in the UK. Marcia
    From: (Anonymous) Date: January 21st, 2008 06:42 pm (UTC) (Link)

    Re: Inside the Actors Studio

    Thanks Marcia for finding this! I'd virtually given up on Sky Arts - I thought they were years behind! Set to record on digibox!

    Incidentally, I discovered a new channel on Sky called DIVA! Suspect it belongs to one of the US broadcasters. Anyway, it is showing Letterman so finally we can watch again over here in the UK. They are a few months behind and I guess will catch up due to writers strike at some point. I can't remember when Matt last appeared on the show.


    From: (Anonymous) Date: January 22nd, 2008 11:26 am (UTC) (Link)

    Re: Inside the Actors Studio

    My pleasure! Thanks for the heads up on DIVA too. M
    8 comments or Leave a comment