Pakistan-born, American-raised Saad Siddiqui eventually found his way to Toronto where he attended various acting schools and earned a degree in political science from the University of Toronto. So when his latest film, Inescapable, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, it was quite the accomplishment for the dashing young actor.
Inescapable follows a Syrian man, Adib, as he journeys back to his homeland after his daughter goes missing in Damascus, Syria. Upon his return, he must deal with his secret past and encounter the chaos of the Middle East that he’d left 30 years prior.
Siddiqui plays villain Halim in the gripping dramatic thriller that stars Alexander Siddig, Joshua Jackson and Marisa Tomei. Distributed by Alliance Films in Canada, the film is set to hit theatres in 2013.
Saad has also appeared in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, NBC’s Covert Affairs and CTV’s The Listener, where he worked with director Kari Skogland.
He filled me in on his expert background in martial arts, his experience performing his own stunts for Inescapable and the importance and relevance a film of this nature has in society today.
1. Why should people see this film?
Inescapable is about a father’s search for his daughter in the midst of the chaos that is erupting in the Middle East during the start of the Arab Spring.
I think it’s a compelling story that will bring awareness to the conditions in Syria and how some freedoms that we enjoy in Canada are not available to people in Syria. Sadly, the real conditions in Syria have deteriorated since the time our story takes place. People should see Inescapable because they will get to see the different kinds of Arab men that really exist.
Hollywood, at times, has a tendency to stereotype Arab men as terrorists and as being evil. (Director) Ruba Nadda does a wonderful job of showing that Arab men can be loving parents or people who take their jobs seriously and want to protect their country just like citizens of the U.S. or any other country.
2. Ruba Nadda told us Inescapable had been sold to the States during her visit to the Tastemakers Lounge. How did you react when you heard the news?
We were all ecstatic when we heard the news. Inescapable has been sold to the States and IFC will be in charge of releasing/distributing it. IFC released Ruba’s last film, Cairo Time, which went on to have great success in the United States.
There was a lot of interest in the film after the press and industry screening at TIFF. Ruba and the producers have a great history with IFC and I am very happy that they will be bringing Inescapable to the States. I feel confident that the film is in good hands.
3. You have an extensive background in martial arts: you hold the rank of master in taekwondo and a black belt in several other styles of martial arts. What initially drew you to this sport, and how did it help you with this role?
I really got involved in martial arts after my father’s death in 1995 when I was 12 years old. There were a lot of mixed feelings inside me after his passing and I did not know how to manage them. Martial arts provided me with an opportunity to expel those feelings in a positive manner. It allowed me to find structure and discipline in my life again.
I would train with my Master for hours on a daily basis in order to prepare myself for tournaments around the United States. And then I began to win state and national championships each year. Looking back at it now, it’s funny because I was at a crossroads in my life after my father’s passing, and I didn’t know it then since I was only 12.
If I hadn’t chosen martial arts, who knows where I would be now? I would never have gained discipline in my life, never seen all my hard work pay off with gold medals and I would probably still be full of anger because of his passing. The work ethic I learned from being a martial artist at a professional level bleeds into everything I do in my life, especially acting.
Once Ruba learned that I am an expert in martial arts, her creative light bulb went off and she began to tweak the script to add in more fighting and action scenes. It was also great to be able to add my input into the fight choreography that we created for Alexander Siddig and I.
4. Do you have any memorable moments from shooting you can share with us?
Alexander and I crashed our cars (Mercedes) into each others and that will always be memorable in my mind. Boys and their toys, huh? Ha ha.
We didn’t have a huge budget like other films, and so the majority of our stunts had to be done in one take and by us actors. Alexander drove his Mercedes in reverse right into mine, and then dragged mine straight into a store while I am shooting my gun at him, and then the store crashes down onto my car.
It was a thrill and also a bit nerve wracking as we didn’t know what the crashes would feel like since we didn’t have a take to practice them. The scene looks great in the film and we walked away with no injuries.
5. What are you working on next?
I just finished working on a video game with Ubisoft. I have a few projects lined up for later this year and next year; one that may take me to another continent again, and use my weapons and martial arts training, but at the moment I am sworn to secrecy. Check back in a few months.
More than 12 years ago, Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski launched rock-it promotions, a full-service public relations firm. She has had the opportunity to work with Helen Mirren, James Brown and more, while rock-it promotions clients include the Drake Hotel and Fashion Design Council of Canada, among others. Visit www.rockitpromo.com, www.onthefourthfloor.com or at @rockitpromo