DUBAI: Twenty years ago, Mohammed Imam went to see his father to tell him something that had been close to his heart for a long time: he wanted to become an actor, too. His father, Adel, arguably the most popular actor in the Arab world, replied bluntly, “Son, you are making a mistake.”
“He told me not to do it! As we sat there, he told me it was very, very difficult. In a way, it’s the hardest job I could have chosen. He told me to choose something else,” Imam told Arab News. “But what could I do? It was my passion. I told him, “I love it.” And I went against his wishes. I had to follow my heart.”
Imam no longer regrets this decision now. How could he do it? This Egyptian actor has become one of the region’s hottest actors over the past two decades, boasting nearly 12 million Instagram followers and starring in so many major action films. only Ramadan comedies – while giving in some films the reply to his beloved father.
It is addressed to Arab News the day of the grand premiere of his latest film, 3amohom (“Their uncle”), in Dubai. The city is already covered with posters presenting him, an image of himself that he has sculpted in a sustained way during a year to become a real star.
The comedy action film, in which he plays a boxer who discovers a counterfeit printing press, and which has already had a successful launch in Egypt, is set to become the actor’s biggest hit in the Gulf, knowing that he plans to turn to Saudi Arabia, with red carpets to be rolled out upon his arrival in Jeddah and Riyadh.
“I am completely sincere when I tell you that this is the greatest pride of my career so far,” says Imam. The fact that I’m going around the Arab world to launch this film is something I’ve always hoped to have the chance to do one day.
Saudi Arabia is now at the center of the concerns of Imam and the entire Egyptian film industry, knowing that the emergence of the Kingdom as a cinema market has transformed not only the marketing of their films but also their entire conception.
“We are no longer just thinking about how things will go in Egypt. From our first meetings, we think about how our stories will be received in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Gulf. It’s great, frankly. It encourages us to work harder in all aspects of filmmaking, and pushes us to make even more films,” says imam.
It is an important summer for Egyptian cinema. “3amohomwill hit the screens alongside another big hit, the historical epic “Kira & El Ginwhich seeks to break the records set by its director’s previous film, “The Blue Elephant 2.” It is directed by someone Imam knows well, Marwan Hamed.
“I wish good luck to my old friend. Our two films fill cinemas, and rightly so,” says Imam.
Imam somehow owes his career path to Hamed. The director had entrusted him with the main role in the hit film The Yacoubian Building in 2006, against a superstar – his father Adel –, despite the fact that Imam had only a few television appearances to his credit.
“After playing in this film, I spoke to my father again. He told me that he really liked me in my role. Since then, he told me that he liked all my films. He always tells me how proud he is of me, even now,” says Imam.
That’s not to say Imam’s rise to fame was easy. In a way, Imam still lives in his father’s shadow, knowing that while he enjoyed privileges as Adel’s son, he also had to work really hard to prove he deserved his fame.
“It’s very difficult to become an actor when your father is the greatest actor in the world. It was a very, very important struggle in the beginning. Little by little, people understood that I liked cinema, that I didn’t do it just because my father is a great actor,” explains Imam. “Even today, I always try to do my best and meet people’s expectations.”
It is not surprising that Imam’s love for cinema began on the set of his father’s films, observing not only his father, but the dozens of people around him who were all concentrating on the various activities to make the film a success.
“I was amazed by what I saw. I wanted to join them immediately. I immediately had the feeling – from the age of four – that I wanted to be an actor”, explains Imam.
Like his famous father, Imam excels in comedy – something he doesn’t take for granted.
“Comedy is harder than anything else, to be honest. It is very difficult to make the Egyptian people laugh. It is very difficult to be accepted. I thank God that after having played in many comedies, people started to appreciate me in this register”, entrusts Imam.
For 3amohomHowever, Imam did not want to rely solely on humor. He had always wanted to play the role of a boxer, and although the film only included a few boxing scenes, Imam trained as if he were to step into the ring.
“I trained intensively for eight months. It was one of the toughest challenges I have ever given myself. And because we shot on and off for a year and a half, I had to keep myself in that peak condition the whole time. Not to mention keeping my bleached blonde hair – which I’m not sure my head has forgiven me,” Imam said.
“The training came in handy outside of the boxing ring, of course. It was a very difficult shoot. In one scene, I had to fight with twenty different people. I had never gone so far beyond my limits.
Although he plans to do more action films – especially comedies – because he thinks he does well in fight scenes, there is still one role that Imam dreams of playing more than any other: that of his father in a biopic of Adel Imam.
“I think I could do it. I really intend to try,” says Imam. “There is another side of him that people don’t see: the father. The man I know best. Really, I love him so much. I really admire him. It’s my idol. I wish I could tell that story myself.”
This text is the translation of an article published on Arabnews.com