London, Asharq Al-Awsat- BBC Two has produced a four-part series entitled ‘The House of Saddam’ based on the rise and fall of the former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the personal lives of those around him. The drama is due to air on July 30 for one month.
Commenting on the new series, Kate Harwood, head of the BBC Drama Series and Serials said, “This is an electrifying account of how one man used fear and violence to divide and rule both a nation and his own family. It is a bold commission for BBC Two shot in Tunisia with a truly international cast.”
The role of Saddam Hussein is played by Yigal Naor, an Israeli actor of Iraqi descent, who featured in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Munich’ in 2005 and ‘Rendition’ directed by Gavin Hood in 2007. British actress Shivani Ghai of Indian origin (Bend It Like Beckham, Bride and Prejudice) plays Saddam’s daughter Rana whose husband, Saddam Kamel al Majid was killed by her two brothers upon her father’s instruction.
The four-part series is co-directed by Alex Holmes and Jim O’Hanlon. Holmes, who also contributed to the script, told Manchester Evening News, “When I looked into Saddam’s story it had many of the qualities of a Shakespeare history play or a gangster movie.”
Holmes added: “He and the people who lived within his orbit – including a rebellious son, a glamorous wife, a disloyal son-in-law, a devoted comrade – seemed to become increasingly disconnected with reality as the years went on, and their actions more incredible to the outside world.”
The research process took over two years before the script could be written. Unlike Shakespeare, who wrote plays about the most notorious English tyrants long after they or their victims had passed, Holmes and his team investigated many of those who personally knew or worked with Saddam.
The choice of Yigal Naor to play the former Iraqi president however was a quick decision to make.
Naor told Manchester Evening News, “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.”
“From the very 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. 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.”
The series was shot in Tunisia and Naor told Manchester Evening News, “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.”