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ifilm's exclusive interview with Ezzatollah Entezami

In an exclusive interview with ifilm, the crown jewel of Iranian acting history Ezatollah Entezami talks about historical drama series ‘Hezar Dastan’ and its late director Ali Hatami.

The renowned Iranian actor Ezzatollah Entezami, whose historical drama series ‘Hezar Dastan’ is airing on the ifilm Farsi and ifilm Arabic, in an exclusive interview with ifilm talks about the series and its late director Ali Hatami.

Born in 1924 in Tehran, Entezami started his career on stage in 1941. He graduated from theater and cinema school in Hanover, Germany. He has been acting in movies since 1969. Entezami’s meticulousness in accepting the roles he was offered has made him the most prominent actor in the history of cinema in Iran. He starred in whatever role he played. From the naïve villager in ‘the Cow’ to the powerful and cunning retired politician residing in a luxury hotel in Hezar Dastan, Entezami  acting was spectacular. This brought him the title ‘Mr. Actor.’ He has worked with almost all outstanding Iranian film directors, including Darius Mehrjui, Ali Hatami, Nasser Taqvaee, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Behrouz Afkhami and Rakhshan Bani-Etemad.

ifilm: Now that we have this interview, more than thirty years have passed since Hezar Dastan was finished and its producer Ali Hatami has been dead for more than twenty years. Yet the series is still widely popular. What is the secret of this everlasting popularity?

Entezami: What a pity. Ali (Hatami) died before his time. Ali was a great man and a good friend. Oh, what memories I have from the time we spent together. I really missed him. Time flies, eh! If  he had lived longer, our cinema could have learned more from Ali. His love of cinema and for people made him immortal.

ifilm: How did you meet him for the first time?

Entezami: Before becoming friends and working together, I used to see him regularly at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts. I knew his name was Ali Hatami and he was good at writing. That was all. Nothing more than that, until the time that I was playing in a film whan I was told he was looking for me. At the time, he wanted to make a film about Sattar Khan. He had me and Ali Nasirian in mind to play the main roles in the film. The project began and everything was fine at the beginning. Ali had written excellent dialogues. But long hours of filming were exhausting. Finally it was finished and he invited us to see the film. I don’t like my voice to be dubbed in a film and Ali had Sattar Khan dubbed. For the first and last time I enjoyed my my dubbed voice.

ifilm: Did the good memory of Sattar Khan lead to working with Hatami in Hezar Dastan?

Entezami: Yes, we all had played together on stage and known each other well. Of course Ali was thinking of an Italian actor to play Khan-e-Muzaffar, but a mutual friend suggested me to him. They contacted me and I went to Ali’s office. They applied makeup. It was a difficult task that took long hours. When finished, I was photographed. Ali approved the makeup and they began shooting. We got magnificent shots. But the Islamic Revolution (1979) happened and the filming stopped. In 1980, the filming resumed, but for some trivial matters, it stopped again. At that time I had worked with Hatami in a couple of films, until he decided to complete the series.

ifilm: It appears that Hezar Dastan production was in no way less difficult than Sattar Khan, wasn’t it?

Entezami: No way. It was difficult especially the makeup. I had to wear a heavy makeup and carry sponges under my clothes to appear fat. The weather was hot and I couldn’t sit down, because sweat would soak through the sponges and that looked bad. There were also problems near the end of filming process, so Ali had to wrap it up without me. A large portion of the series was censored. Long hours of filming were deleted. The deleted scenes weren’t considered important then, but today they regret it.

ifilm: We hear those who had worked with Ali Hatami, describe him as the poet of Iranian cinema. Do you agree with this?

Entezami: I’m sure there wasn’t nor will be anyone like him in our cinema.  I’m proud of all the works that I have done with Ali. The construction of  Ghazali Cinema Town was all his own idea. He supervised every detail. He brought all those wooden doors from far away villages to Tehran. He had costume designers, but he designed everything from the outfits to objects on the scene, himself. He loved and knew antique objects. Therefore his historic films and series are flawless in terms of dress, objects and setting. You cannot find one mismatch in all his works. He was a pure Iranian filmmaker.