The Forgiven is a haunting and stark look at cultures and clashing ideals. Staring Ralph Fiennes, Jessica Chastain, and Mourad Zaoui, the film explores how one wrong move can shatter the life you hold dear, and how wealth can’t save you from guilt. With its premiere at the 2021 TIFF festival, the film is a touching and often bold take that is a must-see for the subject, performances and story.
Taking time away from his busy schedule for TIFF, Mourad Zaoui who plays Hamid, discusses his role in The Forgiven, his career, and what is next for his exciting career. Zaoui is no stranger to acting, and has been seen in countless films, spanning a range of genres. His leading man looks and charm, along with his acting skills, bring a sense of impact, emotion and style to all his roles. Currently slated to appear in Zanka Contact along with a new series based on Ancient Egypt, we got to discuss everything from his current work, to visiting TIFF for the first time.
CGMagazine: What drew you to The Forgiven, and how did you get this role?
Mourad Zaoui: I got contacted by my agent, and he said, here are three scenes, go take them, and we’ll see, and I booked it. Simple as that.
CGMagazine: What made you want to be part of this project?
Mourad Zaoui: Well, It’s a beautiful story. I love my character, and the cast is amazing. I love the entire cast. I love the director and admire his work. My character, Hamid is a beautiful Sufi monk, who is the moral compass of peace, who doesn’t judge anyone, who sees humanity and everything in everyone.
CGMagazine: You’ve been in countless movies and shows, have there ever been problems where you felt that you were typecast?
Mourad Zaoui: No, I didn’t have the feeling, I think what my previous manager told me, he said, Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with you. You do not have enough character to be able to play small roles, but you’re also tall. You’re more of a leading man, but you’re not there yet to get those roles. So that was my issue, according to Martin.
CGMagazine: Do you prefer to play the leading man or a character actor?
Mourad Zaoui: I’m attached to a couple of projects where I’m not playing like the typical Middle East role. So there was this TV show that I’m attached to that’s about Nefertiti. I’ll be playing General Horn. I’m also attached to where I’m playing a doctor who makes drugs for a big drug lord, interesting things in a way. The movie has already been shot. It’s premiering in Paris in November. It’s called Zanka Contact by the amazing Ismail Iraqi who was compared to both Argentina and David Lynch. I’m playing a character named Maraud.
It’s the story of a British-born Moroccan rock star who starts shooting heroin in his neck, loses his voice, was not a reasonable slide, loses his voice, goes to Morocco to hide because he had money problems with the mob and falls in love with the prostitutes. They both ran away from the pimp whom he was working for, and I got hired to catch them. But instead of only catching them, I started getting a bunch of people doing it for fun, just for shits and giggles. This sadistic, delightful character likes to torture and kill people. So it’s cool that I have these two movies coming out in the same year.
CGMagazine: What was the process of filming The Forgiven?
Mourad Zaoui: We’re lucky to have started filming before COVID-19 spread the way it did. And we’re also isolated. We were in two small hotels in the middle of nowhere. So we’re not in contact with the rest of the world. We were able to do most of the film before the world was under lockdown. So we had to stop filming 10 days before we were done because the cast and crew were going to be stuck in the Moroccan desert forever. So, they had to stop production and go back to England and the US. After some hiccups, we were done because we were isolated in the beautiful Moroccan desert.
CGMagazine: How have productions changed as an actor due to streaming platforms?
Mourad Zaoui: It’s great because we see more and more projects and opportunities. And hopefully, we’ll be on one of those platforms.
CGMagazine: What was it like to have this film be a part of TIFF?
Mourad Zaoui: A lot of people are going to hear the same answer, and hopefully, it’s not going to be redundant. So this is my first time in Canada and, well, my first time in Toronto. When I was a kid, I had two posters. One on top of the edge and the other in my room. In the winter, and the summer, I didn’t know where new felt that was. And I didn’t know what Canada was. For me, it was just like magical land because I’ve never seen something that gorgeous.
For me, Canada, Newfoundland were magical lands, where you could meet hobbits and unicorns. So just by being here, it’s a pleasure and an honour in itself. And being in TIFF, it’s the cherry on top. This is the biggest cinematic event of the year. And I’m just grateful. I have no words for it. I’m just happy to be here. I’m excited, happy and honoured, and I’m thanking Canada, and the City of Toronto.
CGMagazine: Thank you so much for your time. I’m excited to see the film because the entire production has been phenomenal.
Mourad Zaoui: Thank you, sir. Thank you so much.