"Warriors" director tackles Saddam Hussein's son

Mon Jan 24, 2011 11:29am EST
 
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By Daniel Miller

PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - Lee Tamahori has shot two independent films in his nearly two-decade career as a director, and both have brought him to Sundance: He made his first trip in 1995 with his feature directorial debut, "Once Were Warriors," a violent tale of domestic abuse in a Maori family in his native New Zealand.

Since then, he's directed mainstream fare such as "Die Another Day," "Along Came a Spider" and "The Edge." This year, Tamahori is back at Sundance with "The Devil's Double," which tells the story of the body double of Uday Hussein -- the brutal son of Saddam Hussein. The film is based on the life of Latif Yahia; English actor Dominic Cooper ("Mamma Mia!") plays both the disgusted Yahia and the nefarious Uday.

HOW DOES IT FEEL COMING BACK TO SUNDANCE AFTER NOT DOING AN INDEPENDENT FILM IN SO LONG?

Tamahori: When I actually had the chance to make an independent film like I did 15 years ago it was great. You get drawn into it and it's great. There's a great camaraderie where you are in with a bunch of directors much like yourself. There's newcomers, upstarts and people like that. I seem to miss that. Once I climbed into the system you get a whole different frame of reference and a way of doing things. I'm very happy to be going back with a film that has been chosen to be in Sundance.

DO YOU HAVE ANY FOND MEMORIES OF YOUR FIRST TRIP TO THE FESTIVAL?

Tamahori: The funniest moment I remember is I had no idea (what was going on) because it was my first film festival ever. I was sitting there not knowing what was going on and kind of getting carried away, and I thought, "I need a drink, I need to get out of this." I went to this bar and I was the only person in this bar at Sundance because everybody else was on the streets and hustling and everything else. Then a guy comes into the bar and sits right next me and says the same thing, "Quick, I need a drink." I look at this guy and I go, "You're Tim Roth, aren't you?" He goes, "Yeah," and I go, "Hi, I'm pleased to meet you." So I meet Tim Roth because both of us were both exhausted by the process and badly in need of a drink and we were the only two in the bar and struck up a conversation. It was very funny at the time.

LET'S TALK ABOUT DOMINIC COOPER'S PERFORMANCE IN THIS FILM.

Tamahori: It's a breakout performance if I do say myself. From the beginning I always said this film stands or falls on the credibility of the actor that plays both these parts. The whole story is irrelevant if this guy does not have both the talent to pull it off with the two characters, or make the audience believe that we are watching two different characters rather than one actor playing two roles. There have been versions of this before, but not a lot.   Continued...