Mem Ferda

Mem Ferda

Mem Ferda has enjoyed a very illustrious career to date that has seen him work in both movies and TV.

Later this year he will star in Pusher, the English interpretation of the Nicholas Winding Re fn movie.

I caught with Mem to talk about the movie, his role and what lies ahead for the actor.

- You are about to star in the remake of Pusher so can you tell me a little bit about the movie?

Sure. This is an English language remake of the original Danish cult movie by Nicholas Winding Refn which he wrote and directed back in 1996. Set in London instead of Copenhagen, it is about a week in the life of a drug pusher named Frank.

When Frank’s aspirations of making lots of money fast, spiral out of control due to a drug bust, he is thrown into a dangerous situation of owing large sums of money to Turkish drug dealers. Frank’s life soon descends into a living hell, as he slowly losses everything he ever had.

The film is a no-holds-barred, gritty and real, journey into the underworld of the drug pusher.

It will be extremely entertaining with flashes of humour, hard-core action, violence and a twisted plot.     

- You take on the role of Hakan in the movie so what was it about this character and the script that drew you to the project ?

First and foremost the script had me totally engrossed from start to finish, a real page-turner.   I like stories about people who are destroying themselves and are aware that they are doing it, yet knowing this, they still can’t prevent it from happening.   

As I read the role of Hakan its as though the air had been sucked out of the room, I was covered in goose bumps, the role just had to be mine. For me, the role of Hakan, depicted an accurate reflection and examination of how some immigrants come to the UK in search of a better life and find themselves entangled in crime because opportunities they had hoped for never transpired.

The character is very layered and complex, he is not your stereotypical villain. He is a victim of circumstance, trapped in doing a job as an enforcer when he’d rather have his own legitimate business as a pub owner.

I was confident I could do justice to the role, I hope people will embrace Hakan.

- The screenplay is penned by Matthew Read so how did you find out about the project? And how was the audition process?

I found out about the project in the conventional way, via my agent. The audition process was  tough, as they always are.

Being one of the five leading characters in the film, hundreds of hopefuls were seen, I was confident I’d be right for it, fortunately I was, and hence was offered the role.

I was also thrilled to learn that the rest of the cast were Richard Coyle, Supermodel Agyness Deynn and Zlato Buric, the original Milo.

- Pusher is a Danish cult classic so how much familiar were you with the Nicholas Winding Refn original?

I am a fan of Refn’s work and have had the Pusher Trilogy on DVD since it first came out.

I have watched it numerous times and I feel it translates internationally, appealing to many countries and cultures. There isn’t a city on the planet that is not affected in some way by an underground drug’s trade, so there is a universal message there which a majority can identity with.

It was fabulous to have Nicholas as an Executive Producer on this remake. I recently saw his latest film ‘Drive’ which is a magnificent piece of filmmaking.

- How much did you use that movie as a reference point as you were developing your character for the new interpretation?

In fact, being a fan of the story, I did also see a Hindi version of Pusher which came out in 2010. 

I always try to avoid seeing or being influenced in any way by adaptations of plays or previous version’s of a films.

It is important to form your own perceptions, which need to be organic and often instantaneous.

This new remake of Pusher is very different to the original. The characters are a lot more developed and we get to understand each of their journey’s and identify with each one more.

There is an atmosphere of tangible unease throughout the film because of the way in which the characters interact, making it more realistic and engaging for the audience.

- The movie is directed by Luis Prieto, this is his first English speaking movie, so how did you find him as a filmmaker?

Luis was wonderful to work with. He has such excellent vision, knowing exactly what he wants  in each frame. He is all about performance as well as having equal concern for the look and feel of each scene.

There is real value in building a partnership between an actor and a director and with Luis this was so easy to do.

I had seen his previous work ‘Ho Voglia di te’ and his award winning short film ‘Bamboleho’ so I was inspired and excited to be working with him.

I like to do a few takes and to try out different things to provide the director with a lot of material to work with and Luis allowed for this.

He would often say after each take ‘ that was beautiful, exceptional, wonderful, let’s do one more’. Wait till you see the results, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

- Richard Coyle, Bronson Webb and Agyness Deyn are all on the cast list so what was the feeling like on the set? Was it a fun project to work on?

It was a fabulous project to work on. Richard and I had worked together before on the Television series The Whistleblowers, so it was wonderful to be on set with him again.

He is extremely talented and a very hard worker, which helped a bundle, as we had strong, intense scenes to do.

Agyness is lovely. A very down to earth, warm, vibrant, friendly person. Aside from being stunningly beautiful she is a great actress and is certain to do very well in the film industry.

I didn’t share any scenes with Bronson, but we had a few drinks at the wrap party, he is wild and very comical and very gifted actor.  

- You have been in some great projects over the last twelve months or so including The Veteran and The Devil’s Double so how do you go about choosing your movie projects?

I tend to like stories that are thought provoking with intriguing characters and have an unforgettable element about them. I’d like a film to have a moral message at the end and to inspire the viewer.

A script will have an effect on me the first time I read it. If it doesn’t move me or excite me in any way then I will choose not to it.

- Ill Manors is another movie for you this year so can you tell me a little bit about that?

I like Plan B’s music. His lyrics have a rebellious spirit which appeals to me and when I learnt that there would be an album to accompany the movie I was eager to be onboard.

I had seen Ben’s performance in the movie Harry Brown, so I knew he could act. I wondered what he would be like as a director. He was unconventional, with a unique approach and had a strong idea of what he wanted.Ben was adamant about authenticity and realism, casting majority of the cast from close friends he had grown up with since childhood.      

The film is very dark, gritty and harsh. It is a hip hop musical, that follows five characters and their experiences on the East London streets.       I went to the screening last week, the public are in for a real treat.

- The film is the directorial debut for Plan B so how did you find working with him?

It was inspirational. The budget for the film was only £100,000.00, however, given this  mirco-budget, Ben has done a marvelous job, it looks super.

We got on very well together, and I look forward to us possibly working again in the near future.  I told him I’d love to be in his next music video too!

- You have also worked in TV as well as film so how do you find that the two compare?        

 I enjoy both. Television is much quicker in terms of the speed at which each scene is shot and the whole production process in general.

What is shown on television is ultimately controlled and limited by public taste. If a show does not achieve high viewer ratings it is more then likely axed.  Whereas in film one can push the envelope more in regards to subject matter. Budgets tend to be greater than in Television.

However, this is now changing rapidly with the advent of digital film making as opposed to celluloid. The making of a film is still generally a slower process.         

 - Despite your TV work how much is movies where you really want to be?

I adore film. You tend to follow a single protagonist on their journey. It is expected to be all consumed at once. I like the story structure of having a start, middle and end.

As a viewer you watch how the character overcomes obstacles etc. This appeals to me, both as a viewer and as an actor.  Whereas in TV you often have an ensemble set of characters, where even though you may have a central figure, the supporting characters tend to have far bigger roles in the story.       

 Television is very much a writer’s medium, where characters can have a long time (like in a series) to be fleshed out. Film on the other hand is more a Directors domain.

I wouldn’t want to be singled out as either a Television actor or a Film actor, I’d like to continue to do both.

- You have worked with some great directors on the movies that you have starred in but are there any filmmakers in particular that you would like to collaborate with?

Yes, I have been extremely fortunate and have learnt a great deal from each encounter.

I would love to work with Danny Boyle, I thought ‘127 Hours’ was simply fantastic. Darren Aronofsky is also tremendous and also Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

- Finally what other projects do you have coming up in the rest of 2012?

I’m due to star in a lead role in a Supernatural Horror entitled Parallel Hell. Written by Martin J Solloway and Produced by Phil Taylor.  I also have a screenplay in development with J P Rolls and Tim Jon.

Pusher is out later this year

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw     

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