Zero Dark Thirty's Fares Fares is not interested in playing bad guys

Ever since he burst onto the movie scene in the comedy Jalla! Jalla! (2000) 39-year-old Fares Fares has been one of Sweden's most popular actors. We chat with the Arab actor.

Fares Fares, centre, on the set of Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty. Altaf Qadri / AP
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Kaleem Aftab talks to Fares Fares, the Beirut-born Swedish actor who will soon be seen in the film Child 44

Ever since he burst on to the movie scene in the comedy Jalla! Jalla! (2000), the 39-year-old Fares Fares has been one of Sweden’s most popular actors. More recently, the Beirut-born star caught the eye of international casting agents. He played the CIA officer Hakim in Zero Dark Thirty and will soon be seen in the Cold War thriller Child 44 with Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman.

In his latest film Keeper of Lost Causes, based on Jussi Adler-Olsen’s New York Times bestseller, Fares plays Assad, the most prominent Muslim character in the current trend for Scandinavian crime fiction, a detective working in Department Q, which handles the files of closed cases.

Had you read Jussi Adler-Olsen’s novel before taking on the role?

I hadn’t. I got an email from the producer that said this is the guy and he sells a lot, more than 15,000 copies a day in Europe. We have so many such authors in Sweden.

Were you surprised when they asked you to do a film in Denmark?

In the beginning, when they asked me, I was hesitant. I spend my time between Stockholm and Los Angeles, and I was like, do I really have time to go to Denmark now? I also had a lot of issues with the character and how it was written in the beginning. Seven months later, I agreed to meet the director [Mikkel Norgaard].

Was it a struggle to learn Danish?

Danish is a difficult language. I went to a private language school for two months before shooting and I had a lot of help from my co-star Nicolaj Lie Kaas.

At the end of Keeper of Lost Causes, your character Assad is shown praying. It’s the only time that his religion is mentioned in the film but it’s a big part of the novel. Did you discuss this?

We talked about it a lot. There was more about his religion in the beginning. The character also felt like a cliché in my mind so I had to fight for that. I’m not a Muslim. I was born Christian. I’m not very religious and to put religion into something that doesn’t really have much to do with the story is not necessary. The prayer scene at the end is different, though; it’s just beautiful to have; it is just there.

A lot of characters you play have roots in the Middle East?

A lot of roles that are coming my way are Middle Eastern and I really don’t have a problem with that as long as I’m are playing a person, not a cliché. I have always tried to mix it up. Interesting offers are coming from that part of the world – but I am not interested in playing bad guys.

You’ll soon be filming a sequel to Keeper of Lost Causes. There are five novels in the series. Are you excited to play Assad again?

I love to work with those guys but I am stressed right now because I haven’t finished Child 44. And then I need to dive back into Danish but I think it is going to be easier this time because I do understand more now then I did before.

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