By Zainab AbdulAziz & Marwa Magdi Imam
Unlike his menacing onscreen persona as Servees in Diamond Dust, Mohamed Mamdouh has a kind and quiet demeanor and likes to keep a low profile. The steady and dependable actor has amassed over 40 titles since he exploded onto the Egyptian cinema scene in 2009, and counts many of Egypt’s leading actors as his friends. Cairo West Magazine caught up with Mamdouh for a chat about his most recent role in the thriller Gunshot.
CWM: Tell us a bit about your role as Khaled in Gunshot
MM: I believe he is the most complex character in the film, and the person with the biggest burden. Khaled is a simple but tough man; he works as a laborer in a gypsum quarry which is a backbreaking job. Initially, in the first script, the film didn’t go into the details of his job but I changed that with director Karim El Shenawy to add more dimension to his character. We wanted to choose a job that reflects his personality, a tough man who wasn’t born yesterday.
I haven’t given much thought to specific differences, but each character I’ve played has differed greatly in what motivates them and how a personal perspective comes into play. What I liked the most about Khaled is the level of sacrifice he is willing to make for his family, and his brother specifically. He gave up everything and was willing to even be labeled as a criminal to protect his brother’s reputation. He married a woman he doesn’t love to protect her honor. I found him to be a very rich and honorable person.
What was it like working with Karim el Shenawy on his first feature film?
Karim is an actor’s director, meaning he loves actors and knows how to work well with them in terms of preparation and work on set. For a first feature film, this is a bold choice.
You often play hard characters that are tough to handle, would you like to play a different kind or more sensitive role?
As long as the character feels new and authentic to me, I’ll be pulled towards that role. I also have to feel that I can contribute something exciting to the portrayal. When I’m reading a script, I have to feel like I believe this person on the page, and feel like I have a connection. If I can inhabit a character and bring it to life in a way that the audience will feel that same connection, then I have created something truly authentic.
What were the hardest scenes to film in this movie?
Most of the hardest scenes I filmed were actually removed in the final cut! These were scenes I filmed where I was actually working in the gypsum quarry alongside other real laborers. There is all this residue flying in the air which is very harmful to their health and makes it hard to breathe. However, it was great for my own personal experience, to live life as these hardworking Egyptians do – I got to see how they eat, sleep, work.
The final scene was also challenging to shoot both in terms of the technical side and the personal side. It’s a long one-shot sequence and there’s so much going on, so in terms of technique, it was challenging to get it right. Also, emotionally speaking, there are fights going on between Ahmed el Fishawy’s character and Ruby’s character, in addition to flashbacks of tension between myself and my family members, so it was a lot to take on.
You’ve worked with some of the biggest names in show business, what are some of the more memorable moments in your career?
My most memorable moment on set is actually a funny story. The first time I ever met the late Mahmoud AbdelAziz on the set of Ibrahim el Abyad, I didn’t even recognize him. He was extraordinary in this role, he transformed into this terrifying character and was so forceful on set with anyone who came near him. I arrived on set, so excited to be playing a role as one of his sons, and so star struck that is this my first movie and I’m acting with such legends like Mahmoud AbdelAziz, Ahmed el Sakka, Hend Sabri and Amr Waked … I remember sitting next to him, not noticing at all who he was, and the director Marwan Hamed walks up and says, “Mr. Mahmoud, how are you?” and I extended my hand, but he was actually addressing the other Mr. Mahmoud sitting next to me, and that’s when it clicked. Needless to say, I was in shock to have been sitting next to one of my acting heroes without knowing it!
Anyone in particular you would like to work with next?
I’d love to work with all of Egypt’s directors and work alongside everyone and anyone, but I suppose it would be wonderful to act alongside Yehia el Fakharany or Mahmoud Hemeda, two actors I admire very much.
What projects do you have coming up?
My next project is the sequel to Welad Rizk coming out in 2019, which will reunite me with the original cast and director.
You are famous for being one of the toughest stars on screen, but what scares you the most?
Creatively, there is always fear present. Every acting job is a test, and if you look at it this way, you’ll either succeed or fail. If you fail, you’ll be dissatisfied with yourself. There is also the risk of losing your audience’s belief in your work and that is the scariest thing.
Your favorite part of the day?
If I’ve slept well, I love mornings but if not, I’m a night owl.
I’m not really into social media and apps, I don’t hate them, but I think they take more importance than necessary.
Best movie you’ve seen recently?
The Legend of 1900 with Tim Roth. It’s a fantastic movie from 1998.
Favorite actor or actress?
Jack Nicholson, Nicole Kidman and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Tea of Coffee?
Tea with mint!
Sequoia… before it closed.
Best piece of advice you ever received?
It’s more of a prayer my dad always says and I picked it up from him, “I ask God to make me a better person and decrease my bad habits or traits.” Basically, to calm me down and not drive people crazy!