It's been almost 10 years since Egyptian actor and certified heart-throb Khaled Abol Naga made his debut. He has since collected more than 15 best actor awards from Egypt and across the Middle East and at international film festivals.
From his first leading role in the Egyptian film A Citizen, A Detective And A Thief in 2001, Abol Naga has been known for his versatility in the kind of roles he picks while proving to be an adept scriptwriter. He also produced the critical and commercial success, 2009's In The Heliopolis Flat, which was screened at the Dubai International Film Festival, in which he also stars, and the in-production indie film Microphone, a daring and fictional story based on the real lives of each of the actors who feature in it.
Currently serving as a jury member at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, tabloid! gets up close and personal with the actor.
Who were you most excited to see at the ADFF, and why?
Mahmoud Lotfy, a young Egyptian filmmaker, the actor Khalid Abdullah, and director Elia Sulaiman — my president at the Jury of New Horizons.
How many times have you visited the ADFF?
Many times, I have lost count.
How has your experience at the festival been so far?
It's been good. I can't really say anything until the jury work is over. It's important that the festival's management set and revise their objectives every now and then. I believe this is happening in Abu Dhabi; changing the name of the festival demonstrates that well.
Your tweet during ADFF's first day said you were suffering from sleep deprivation?
It's a jury thing. We watch 17 films in seven days — you do the maths.
Any plans to act or produce alongside UAE stars or producers?
No, but I'd consider it. I'm also in the midst of preparing a few ideas for the UAE.
What changes would you like to see in the Middle East film industry?
I'd like to see a united Arab cinema, where there's more "integration" of efforts, with less segregation. Enough with importing the Hollywood style, that doesn't help encourage originality and creativity of the emerging filmmaking talents.
What are your expectations for the Arab film industry?
I have great expectations [for] Egyptian and young Arab filmmakers. My preference as a passionate filmmaker and film-lover is to do good art through capturing the "now" moment in a true and honest way. I also consider stars in the classic Arabic cinema as inspirational gems who must be visited and re-visited.
What are some of your biggest challenges as an actor?
From the industry side, my biggest challenge is to find original roles. It requires a lot of "reaching out". You also have to be in control of sending out the right message about yourself as an actor.
The artistic challenge involves shaping your own character, while working with the screenwriter, the director, and other people acting with you. You have to work on becoming the character's best friend and confidant.
What message would you give aspiring Arabs who would like to follow your footsteps as one of Egypt's most prominent stars?
I'd tell them: "Please don't try to follow any of my steps, and for the love of art, never try to be a star. Instead, be free to follow what your heart tells you to do. Trust me, you'll eventually be the best you can be, simply by being "you".
Getting personal with Khaled Abol Naga
What do your friends call you?
My Egyptian friends call me "Kal" and family members call me "Dodi". My friends in the film industry call me "Naga" and my foreign friends just call me "Khaled".
We heard that Egypt's most good looking actor is single. Is that true?
The answer is in my new movie, MICROPHONE, which is based on a true story of all the characters. If you want to know the answer, go see the movie.
What are some of your hobbies?
Acting, filmmaking, travelling, among many others.
Who's the most influential person in your life, and why?
I have a few of those, Dr Mahmoud Al Lozy, my acting teacher is one. He's a great actor and friend. An influential person is anyone who has enlightened me without intention, by simply allowing me to be myself.
Who's your favourite designer?
My favourite designer is the one that fits my image at any given moment. Yohji Yamamoto is one.