Mem Ferda has returned to the big screen once more, with the new stylish and slick film Plastic: a movie that saw him team up with BAFTA nominated director Julian Gilbey for the first time.
We caught up with the charismatic actor to chat about this latest film, as well as the many other projects that Ferda has in the pipeline.
- You returned to the big screen last week with the new film Plastic, so can you tell me a bit about the film?
Plastic is based on true events, and tells the story of a group of University students who become credit card thieves in order to supplement their incomes.
They accidentally Rip-off a notorious crime boss, Marcel, which results in them owing a much bigger debt and raising the stakes. Desperate and afraid, they decide to target big spenders in Miami, to be able to pay back the huge debt owed to Marcel.
Marcel decides to send his reliable right-hand man Tariq (played by myself), after them. As the students do a daring jewellery heist to meet Marcel demands: things drastically spiral out of control.
- Plastic sees you take on the role of Tariq, so what was it about the character and the script that sparked your interest?
First and foremost, I have wanted to work with Julian ever since his first film Rollin with the Nines, which was nominated for a BAFTA.
After this, his next film was Rise of the Footsoldier: which I was going to be involved with, but unfortunately never materialised.
So, Plastic was the perfect opportunity for me to get to work with this phenomenal director.
When the script came through and I read the role of Tariq, it was the perfect role for me in terms of action and characterisation.
The casting director was Jeremy Zimmermann, and I have always wanted to be cast by him in an action flick. Luckily, for me, everything fell perfectly in place. I thought ‘Wow, let’s do this’.
- I was going to ask you about Julian Gilbey, as he is an up and coming filmmaker. So how did you find working with him? And what kind of director is he?
Julian has done extraordinary work and he’s no longer an up and coming filmmaker! On the contrary, he is one of the most exciting, knowledgeable and talented directors in the UK at the moment.
He has a lot of energy, which is quite contagious, and is very inventive in creating his vision of a scene. He works extremely hard and makes the actors also work as hard, you really have to dig deep both physically and psychologically. His action takes, are not for the light-hearted.
There is a scene in Plastic where I get riddled with bullets, fall through a window, and plummet two storeys down. Julian really jacked things up, using full load gunpowder, so the bullet explosions are real, and the fall, well, I survived - just!!
- As well as an upcoming director, Plastic features a young cast - so how did you find working with this new talent?
It was great. They are all rising stars. Ed Speleers was a child star, and Will Poulter recently bagged a Rising Star Award. Sebastian De Souza is a fresh new talent, lovely to work with, whilst Alfie Allen was very comical all of the time: he is getting a lot of success with Game of Thrones.
Emma Rigby, I wasn’t aware of, as I’ve never watched an episode of Hollyoaks, but she was such joy to work with and I did see one episode of Ripper Street where she was very impressive. She has a very bright future ahead of her and is a lovely person.
- Plastic opened in the top ten at the UK box office, but how have you been finding the response to the film so far?
It has been fabulous. The premiere went really well: we had a really good reception from fans and blistering reviews. Not much else anyone can ask for really.
A lot of the success is down to the producers. Terry Stone has the Midas touch when it comes to choosing projects to put into production. His catalogue of films, to date have all been winners.
I am really excited for Plastic, I vouch a bet it will make the top 3 in the DVD charts once it’s out.
- We are also going to be seeing you star in Breakdown this year, can you tell me a bit about this project?
Breakdown, which I am quite excited about, is with Craig Fairbrass, James Cosmo, and Emmett Scanlan and is directed by Jonnie Malachi.
Looking at some of the footage that Jonnie has shot, it looks spectacular. Audiences are certainly in for a treat.
The film is essentially, about a contract killer who is haunted by visions of his violent past. He reaches breaking point, as he is forced to defend his wife and child from his employers, who want him to come back to serve them.
I take on the role of Hakan Abaci, who is a wealthy businessman and head of a Turkish crime syndicate. Craig Fairbrass’s character is hired to come after me and capture and torture me: This results in a gut-wrenching and truly horrific torture scene.
It enabled me to really rummage the darker, deeper, recesses of my mind. It was very challenging, which I love.
- How did you find working on a torture scene such as that?
Normally, I am not the victim in a film; I am usually the guy who administers the punishment. However, this time around I am the victim. It was a nice contrast to be able to do that. It was refreshing to be able to play the victim role for once.
It was really demanding. Physically I was restricted, as I was tied to a chair, and had blood in my mouth. Craig had his hands around my throat and was throttling me: there were times when I couldn’t breathe properly. However, all this really added to the performance. I really went there and was brave with it as was he.
There was only one way to play that scene, and it couldn’t be pretend. Purposefully, I didn’t get any sleep on the run up to working on the scene: I limited my sleep to three or four hours a day for two of three days before we shot that scene.
I also didn’t eat much either. I wanted to put myself in a position of what state someone would be in mentally and physically if someone were being tortured: I wanted to look dishevelled and shaken by it all. Hopefully, that will come across.
- We are also going to be seeing you star in My Hero this year, can you tell me a bit about this project?
Sure. I felt it was time to change direction with my career. I make very careful choices now. I have built a career out of playing the tough guy, these indestructible characters going from one film to another kicking ass (laughs).
I wanted a change from that: that is part of the reason why I did My Hero. Here I play a very different type of character. A Cockney florist, Simon Flowers: It enabled me to have total freedom, an English role, which I liked the idea of, as I didn’t have to do any dodgy foreign accents. We filmed in sunny Margate and it was small cast and a small crew.
I had some really challenging moments with the role, just wait and see. Fans of my work will note how different I am in this film.
The writing by Nate Wiseman is molten gold and first time director Rob Osman does a beautiful job with it. Arclight Films have picked it up, so hopefully it will be a smash. I’m looking forward to it.
- You have enjoyed a career that has spanned almost twenty years, so what do you look for when you are choosing a role? And how has that process changed as you have got older and more experienced?
As mentioned, I want to try more challenging roles as I get older! What I am looking for at the moment, are roles that go against my type. Comedy roles, horror roles, period dramas, romance, roles that go against what I have made my name on.
If you do something well and you enjoy it, what more could you ask for? However, I really want to challenge myself even further.
I’m currently signed to do five feature films all as a leading man. So I’m very fortunate.
One of the films is a trilogy entitled Rat Catcher. Very much in the vein of the Bourne films - the films have a continuing theme but each standalone within their own merits as complete. They will be powerhouse action thrillers, with next level indie film standards.
I did think I was perhaps approaching an age where I should maybe (dare I say) slow down a little. Then I thought [email protected]£$% that, when I see Liam Neeson at 61 and Kevin Costner at 59 getting out there.
Why not Mem, I’m a spring chicken in comparison, (laughs)? I am quite excited about this prospect, and I am shaping up for this action thriller as we speak. Ultimately, I have done a lot of character work, but now I want to show off what I can do as a leading man.
- We have seen you do a lot of producing in recent years, how much is being behind the camera something that you enjoy?
I am enjoying it, actually. I didn’t think that I would. The acting was going ok, but I really wanted to challenge myself even further.
I have got a Master’s in Business Administration, and I was like ‘why don’t I try and turn my hand to this and become a producer. It has been good. I have produced and co-produced quite a few films now.
I’ve reached out to the American market as well, with some of these low budget horror films that I have produced. I find it quite easy to work with them. They are very efficient.
I like the idea of negotiating and speaking with distributors, sales agents, and getting involved with legal agreements etc. You make creative decision on what you feel will be successful as a film: it is a lottery ultimately.
It challenges me to think about the cast, what sort of markets the film will appeal to, and then seeing the fruits of your labour when you have got the film out there in the public domain.
- Would you ever go one-step further and move into the director’s chair?
Not really, directing is something that hasn’t excited me. Producing is where the money is as well, to be honest (laughs).
- Finally, what is next for you going through the second half of this year?
I am in negotiations for a lead role in a film called The Executioner at the moment: that is an action film currently in development with Stealth Media with Ross Boyask directing.
In addition, I have a project called The Gunfather, which I have been trying to develop for a while. There are quite a few things in the pipeline.
Plastic is out now.