French-American-Moroccan actor Said Taghmaoui has revealed exclusively to The National that he expects to step into the shoes of the latest Bond villain when the movie goes into production soon – shooting is scheduled for December, although the recent departure of director Danny Boyle could cause delays.
Taghmaoui told The National on the fringes of the semi-final judging round of the International Emmy Awards, which took place in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night: "I'm supposed to do the next James Bond, playing the lead bad guy."
Taghmaoui admitted that, like producers and fans alike, he has been left a little in the dark by Boyle's shock departure over "creative differences". However, he is clearly hopeful that he will soon be squaring up against outgoing Bond Daniel Craig, as planned: "I was cast by Danny Boyle, and just now he left the project, so of course there's some uncertainty," said the star, who was most recently seen on screens playing Wonder Woman's sidekick Sameer in Patty Jenkins' 2017 DC smash.
“We don’t know who the director will be, and the producers don’t know if they’re going to go Russian or Middle East with the baddie right now. I literally just received a message saying: ‘If they go Middle East, it’s you. If they go Russian, it’s someone else.’ It’s the story of my life. Always on that line between something that could change my life and something that disappears.”
Taghmaoui is an Arab actor who, so far, has largely managed to sidestep the "Middle Eastern baddie" roles that plague so many Arab actors in Hollywood. Admittedly, he appeared as an Iraqi torturer in 1999's Three Kings, but equally his roles in films such as La Haine – one of the first French films to accurately portray life in the Parisienne projects – and as a superhero's sidekick in Wonder Woman have impressively avoided Middle East cliches. It's a topic Taghmaoui is happy to address, and he admits that Bond could be seen as a regressive step: "I know that [Bond] could be seen as a big cliche, and I'm always fighting. I refuse so many roles because you fight to get something, you go and audition, and then in the end you have to refuse it because it's just not good. That's how you start your journey."
Conscience is clearly something that Taghmaoui takes seriously, and something he admits is in short supply in Tinseltown: "It's tough to have a conscience in Hollywood, so that's why we're going create Aliwood," he laughs. "You always have to sacrifice a little bit. You want to do your job, you want to show that you can play different types of characters, and artistically it's great to play bad guys. It's the stereotype and the cliche that's the problem. Actually playing a bad guy is great, but you have to watch out for the cliche and the propaganda."
Although the actor, like many in his profession, loves the opportunity to get his teeth into a bad-guy role, it's clear that he operates a strict vetting procedure on the roles he accepts – a procedure that Bond has clearly passed: "If you knew how many movies I refuse because of my conscience, honestly," he says.
“I really train to win. I come from a boxing background, and in everything I want to win. When I go into this room to audition, I’m there to win every time. I’m very disciplined and determined about everything I do, but then I win a lot of castings that I refuse. I’ve lost a lot of money, and a lot of fame, that way, but every night I sleep like a baby. I have absolute faith in my conscience.”
With this in mind, Taghmaoui also reveals that he is in the process of getting his first film as director off the ground, and it’s no surprise to learn that he plans to use the platform to address some of the issues surrounding Hollywood’s representation of the Arab and Muslim communities: “It’s about time for me to go behind the camera after all these years, and obviously I want to talk about something that I know,” he says. “I know myself pretty well, so it’s going to be the story of the journey of a ghetto boy from the French ghettos to Hollywood movies. I want to talk about so many things in society from my own experience, and do it with a conscience.”
"There is a lot of cliche and stereotyping, and you always have to try to be real – at least that’s what I try to do. There’s always a danger, but there are also always people with good intentions and people with bad intentions. I believe that directing will be the beginning of changing things with the world, for me. I’m very happy you asked, though, because, yes, I want to defend my people and culture and my religion, but, yes, we also need more love and understanding and tolerance – and less politics.”