"Godfather" meets Macbeth in Saddam Hussein drama

Mon Jul 28, 2008 6:13am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - The Israeli actor playing Saddam Hussein in a new television series once narrowly escaped a missile fired by the late dictator's army.

But for Igal Naor, taking the lead role in "House of Saddam," the BBC/HBO dramatization of Saddam's 24-year rule airing in Britain from Wednesday, it was not about revenge.

Instead, the 50-year-old from near Tel Aviv believes his experience of the conflicts and complexities of the Middle East, and his childhood effectively raised as an Arab in Israel after his family left Baghdad, gave him the edge over other actors.

"In the street everyone spoke Iraqi. It was a 'little Baghdad' around Tel Aviv," he said of the neighborhood where he grew up that was dominated by Iraqi Jews who left Baghdad after Israel's founding 60 years ago.

"I could understand much better than, say, a British actor or an American actor about what this man is and the environment he was living in," Naor told Reuters by telephone.

"This is my area, the Middle East, Iraq. I can understand things like the special need for honor, pride. I live in an environment of war and blood."

He recalled how a missile fired by Iraq at Israel in 1991, during the first Gulf War triggered by Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, landed close by.

"As an Israeli, he was an enemy," Naor explained. "In 1991 a missile he sent to Tel Aviv fell 50 meters from my house with one tonne of explosives. Luckily nothing happened to us."   Continued...

<p>Ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein reacts in court during the Anfal genocide trial in Baghdad December 21, 2006. REUTERS/Nikola Solic</p>