Interview with Leila Hatami, star of A Separation

Star of Iranian Film Fest's Opening Film

Note: read our review of A Separation here.

You come from a family of filmmakers and as a young girl you played small parts in your father’s movies but you didn’t start with professional acting until your 1998 debut in Dariush Mehrjui’s Leila. Did you know you were going to be an actress some day since you were a child or did you have different dreams about your future? What made you finally decide to work as an actress?

I shared a passion for filmmaking from a young age due to my environment and the roles which my parents played within Iranian cinema; my decision was therefore second nature so to speak.

You’ve collaborated with famous Iranian directors such as Dariush Mehrjui, Masud Kimai, Abbas Kiarostami, Asghar Farhadi… How did they influence you and your thinking about acting?

I was raised and mentored by many of the known directors such as Mehrjui, Kimiai, and Kiarostami and I always felt in harmony with their directing styles. Therefore my taste in cinema was built upon their ideals and I felt total coherency while working with them. As a proffesional actress, I cannot say that any specific director has played an immense role on my acting; rather my performance is a result of years of exposure to cinema prior to and during my work as a professional.

You often play parts of mothers (or forthcoming mothers) who are facing difficult and important decisions about their child’s future, e.g. in Leila, The Deserted Station (Istgah-Matrouk), Low Heights (Ertefae Past) or recently in A Separation. Which of these parts was closest to you?

I was able to find a common connection with all of the roles which I played within the films as they dealt with very universal obstacles.

Although Simin in A Separation seems to be somewhat passive as she’s stepping aside at first, she is a very strong and active woman (as other women characters in Farhadi’s films) and it’s her who finally takes responsibility and decides to take action to secure her daughter’s future. Have you ever thought about raising your child abroad as Simin in A Separation did? You studied in Europe yourself…

I believe that it is very important for children to have the opportunity of choice and to be able to travel abroad in order to grow intellectually just like I did during my time in Europe.

Asghar Farhadi often talks about the importance of rehearsing before the shooting is started and you to be able to improvise during the shooting?

It all depends on the film and scenario. Improvisation is often liked by many actors but Farhadi’s rehearsals served as an opportunity for us to improvise within a very orderly structure. This granted us the necessary confidence to rightly fulfill our roles.

How long did you rehearse the opening scene of the argument between Nader and Simin in A Separation which is shot in one long take?

From what I recall, it did not take very long and we only rehearsed two or three times during the morning of the shoot.

Were you surprised by the big success of A Separation in Berlin and the positive response in other countries thereafter?

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I expected that the film would be successful in Berlin but I was stunned by the international recognition that it claimed thereafter, which is of course well deserved.

After the success of A Separation, has somebody offered you to work abroad? Are you interested in acting in foreign movies?

Well that is for you to discover in the future!

Have you ever had the ambition to direct yourself as your father and husband have? There are a lot of successful women filmmakers in your country…

To be honest I never felt the necessity to direct as there was always someone in the family to fulfill that role!

Is it true that you also make a living as a translator?

Not as a living but rather as a role that I highly respect and appreciate and follow as a hobby.

If you were given the chance to work with any director you want who would it be?

I wish to have the opportunity to work alongside the masters of cinema both domestically and internationally.

Thank you for you time!

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