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A Star is born
Published in Daily News Egypt on 14 - 12 - 2006

Khaled Abol Naga talks acting, Egyptian cinema and future projects
Cairo: For years, the name Khaled Abol Naga conjured up images of the tall, handsome jeune premier who played roles defined by his looks.
This impression was cemented by his hugely popular TV show Eshar Ma ana (Spend the Night with Us) and his first adult shot at acting in Leh khaletny ahebak (Why did you make me love you?).
The 40-year-old star s subsequent performances represented a build-up process to establish one of the most versatile careers of any young actor in Egypt.
We met up with Abol Naga a few hours after the terrific reception he received for his role in Canadian movie Civic Duty , his first venture in international films.
Exhausted by non-stop interviews for more than two hours, Abol Naga was nevertheless, convivial, down to earth and highly sophisticated. Dressed in a kaki suit and a brown shirt, he got right into the conversation.
Born in 1966, Abol Naga started his career at the tender age of 10, when he starred opposite veteran actors Naglaa Fathy and Hussein Fahmy in Genoun El Hob (Madness of Love) in 1977.
He put his acting career on hold to study telecommunications engineering, returning to the limelight through modeling. His exceptionally successful career in fashion consequently led to another massive triumph as host of the popular TV show Eshar Ma ana .
Soon, and after acting in numerous plays at the American University in Cairo, Abol Naga s re-launched his acting career in 2001 in the legendary Egyptian director Dawood Abdel Sayed s Mowaten we Mokhber we Haramy (A Citizen, a Detective and a Thief).
His subsequent diverse roles helped develop one of the most eclectic resumes among contemporary Egyptian actors, reaching the peak of his talent with his role as an Arab living in Muslim-phobic America in Civic Duty.
Abol Naga s acting technique is quite different from his colleagues. He explains that there are two types of acting techniques: Method acting where an actor employs his own personal emotions and history to influence the portrayal the character he's playing; or the classic method by which a performer delves into the character he s playing without bringing in his own experiences.
For him, his acting is a mileage of different techniques, and my main concern is to make the audience forget the real me.
Most of Abol Naga s characters are ordinary men with conflicts anyone can relate to. His natural style render each of these ordinary characters different from the other and each equally believable.
His new film Mafeesh Gheir Keda (None But That!) is a major departure though. In this musical, he plays a music video producer in a film.
A big fan of musicals, Abol Naga ranks Chicago and Hedwig and the Angry Inch among his recent favorite films of the genre.
His performance in "None But That has surprised many critics.
[Critic] Dr Rafiq El-Sabban didn t even recognize me on screen and kept asking where's Khaled Abol Naga? he says with a satisfied grin.
Apparently, one of the features that drew him to the film was the unfettered style of the film. The whole film felt very loose, even the choreography which I designed myself.
His inspiration for the role may shock many. It s Saad El Soghayer, he said, referring to the notorious Egyptian folk singer famous for his vulgar lyrics and stage shenanigans. The guy s so uninhibited and I admire him for that.
It s remarkable how fresh Abol Naga looks every time he s on screen given his rising stardom and constant media attention.
I don t believe in overexposure, I believe in the right exposure, he said.
This right exposure includes a new popular TV show and an educational/entertainment radio program on BBC where the multitalented star impersonates different characters, including a British old lady called Auntie Camille that he considers his favorite.
Most of Abol Naga s films have received critical acclaim rarely achieved in entertainment movies in Egypt.
He believes that it s the commercial films of low artistic merit starring the likes of Mohamed Heneidi and Mohamed Saad that form the backbone of our industry, he said. We re one of the very few nations where the Egyptian film surpasses the American film in the box-office and without these films we wouldn t have a real movie industry.
According to him, the problem with Egyptian cinema is not these films, it s the film industry as a whole. What we have now is just potential and that s due to our producers who lack any vision, he said. I can t do a project on my own and unless we have professionals who have a clear vision, we won t move beyond the potential phase.
When it comes to critics, Abol Naga has a different take on the constant, sometimes unjustified negative criticism. There's a state of stagnation that not only characterizes art in Egypt, but every other field as well, including politics, he said. And not just Egypt, this state of stagnation is the hallmark of the entire Middle East.
Abol Naga has already finished shooting three films to be released in the next couple of months. The most interesting of those is director Mohamed Khan s new feature, one that Abol Naga describes as "a social horror film .
And of course there s Civic Duty that is yet to be released commercially in both Egypt and the rest of the world.
Very few films screened in the Cairo International Film Festival cross over to the mainstream audience. But Abol Naga believe that Duty, with the right release date and proper marketing, can break the bad omen cast upon artistic hits of the festival.
As for the global potential of the film, Abol Naga also believes that it has a pretty good shot at breaking Europe and America.
Judging on his performance in Duty, many critics touted Abol Naga as the next Omar Sharif. But will he live up to the challenge?

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