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29 October 2014
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House Of Saddam
Igal Naor plays Saddam Hussein

House Of Saddam, a compelling drama for BBC Two, charting the rise and fall of a dictator

Igal Naor plays Saddam Hussein

Igal Naor first heard about the role of Saddam while on set in Morocco, shooting the film Rendition.


"I emailed the casting director four photos of me, with a moustache that I took from the make-up department, and a few hours later I was invited to London for a meeting with the director and producer," he says.


"The meeting lasted four hours, and that was the beginning of the journey."


When he landed the part of Saddam, Igal looked forward to the opportunity to play such a complex character.


"Saddam Hussein was one of the most dramatic and fascinating characters in recent history – as an actor I was thrilled by the challenge of playing him," says Igal. "And I thought the scripts were brilliant – very special and brave."


In his preparation he was careful not to imitate Saddam, rather he sought to get into the mind of the man in order to understand his behaviour.


Igal explains: "From the first moment, I knew that I didn't want to 'impersonate' Saddam in any way. I was searching for his soul, his feelings, the way he thought. I read a few books, watched some footage, looked at photographs."


Igal's research into the man he was playing took him to many sources, from seminal biographies to those who had known Saddam well.


He says: "I read a few books but was most influenced by Said Abu Rish's biography of Saddam.


"I also read books about Stalin and Mussolini - two leaders whom Saddam admired and wished to emulate. The life of Stalin seems to have been a huge influence on him in terms of his goals, leadership, ideologies and outlook.


"I also read a few books about the origins of the Ba'ath party and its founder Michel Aflak.


"I spoke to two Iraqis who knew Saddam personally. One of them was at school with him and the other knew him at University in Egypt where Saddam studied Law. I also met a few Iraqi exiles who told me their personal experiences with the regime."


The heat and humidity of Tunisia were a challenge to all the actors, and Igal remembers one scenario on set in particular, brought on by the shooting conditions.


"When Uri Gavriel (Chemical Ali) arrived for his first shooting day, it was after a long flight and a six-hour drive from Tunis Airport into the desert.


"We were shooting in a dry valley covered with white stones and the heat was 52 degrees celsius. Uri was given shoes with plastic soles and in the middle of his first take he started shouting that his feet were burning.


"When he lifted his legs we saw that the plastic had melted; he was hopping and jumping all the way back to camp, which was about three kilometres!"


On set in Tunisia Igal experienced something of what it might have been like to be Saddam Hussein himself.


"We were shooting a few 'walkabouts' that Saddam used to do in the streets of Baghdad, with hundreds of extras and a lot of ordinary Tunisians," he says.


"Every time I got out of my trailer, people were coming to me as if they had never heard of Saddam's death. They acted as if I was Saddam himself; calling me by his name, asking for my blessing and wishing me victory in the war. I checked with the production whether someone asked them to do this - the answer was no."



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