Mostafa Shaban, Up-close & Personal

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Mustafa tell us how you became an actor?
When I was a little kid I was known for imitating people and big actors, with their different dialects and all, quite well. Back when I was in school and university I used to be on the acting team. I graduated from Cairo University with a BA in Mass Communications. During my college years I acted in two movies, one called "The Captain" and the other one was "A Girl from Israel". After I graduated I continued working in advertising, which was my major at college. I started as an assistant director while I was still in my last two college years until I became the assistant director of the late Sameh El Bagoury. He was the one who helped me direct my first spot. I continued working in the advertising field besides the acting to gain financial independence in case acting would turn out not be my bread and butter. My father is a business man so he encouraged me to earn my living through advertising rather than taking a fulltime acting career that is not known if it would lead anywhere. I kept this up until my appearance in the series "El Hag Metwally". I started getting good roles in promising series and films so I left advertising and focused on my acting.
We saw you in many movies always in different types of roles. How do you pick your roles?
I love to challenge myself very much, when I get out of one role I always look for the complete opposite. I heard that during "Mafia" people were somewhat confused thinking how come this soft or sensitive boy from "Hag Metwally" will play the role of a top notch police sergeant and be believable. I was quite happy actually when I heard this as it was a great drive and motivation for me to prove what I have in me. I have a certain concept I accept or pick my roles with, I rather wait for fulfilling roles than many small roles. I believe I deserve better so I used to decline small role offers. I know this might sound weird to others but my dad always used to tell me to believe in myself and do what you want to do. So either I could have accepted small roles and waited for my break through or what I did just wait for the right roles. In both cases it could have just ended up with my shattered dream. It’s like Roulette set your chips on a big thing rather than setting many chips on many things.
After "Mafia" I did "Ahlam Omrena" (Our Dreams) with many press headlines of the return of romance and the like so I was quite pleased to do "Fatah Enak" (Open your Eyes) right after that to appear again in a different role. My new film is a surprise I can just reveal that it is a different type of action movie.
Which is your favorite film?
I love them all but I find the most difficult one to be "El Naama wel Tawoos" (The Ostrich and the Peacock). The topic addressed in this movie is very delicate for our society yet so important to be discussed. The lack of sexual education and awareness is very high and affects all social classes equally. People need to know that sexuality is not about looks or appearances but about attitude and the state of mind and upbringing. The role was very challenging for me. When I read the role I wanted him to be the nice guy from next door, the typical funny Egyptian guy that we meet everyday, not with any physical faults or the like. I am sure that around 80% of the people we meet have these kinds of problems in their sexual life and marriage, if not more. Once I was at the cinema and a older man came up to me with his daughter and her fiancé. He told me that he saw the movie yesterday and brought his daughter and her fiancé today to watch the movie again. I also saw many girls watching the movie. The movie discussed sexuality and did not include a single kiss, so I believe it was a very funny and decent way to convey an important and delicate message.
This movie has been to many festivals and I won several awards for this role, may be this is why I enjoyed this one the most and consider it one of my most important roles.
Tell us about your acclaimed performance in the series of last Ramadan "El Aamil 2001"? To step in the shoes of the great Mahmoud Abdel Aziz in "Raffat El Haggan" is not easy, where you afraid of the comparison?
You know what encouraged me to do "El Aamil" is Raffat El Haggan and its great success. It was a good drive and encouragement for me. When I was in school in Dubai my knowledge of Egypt was somehow very poor, by watching Raffat El Haggan I learned much more about my home country. My dad used to let me stay up late on schooldays to watch the series. I just loved it and wanted to be like Raffat El Haggan. I don’t know if you have noticed but all my movies have always a certain patriotic notion towards Egypt. I am proud to be Egyptian and have great loyalty to my home country.
After "Hag Metwally" I wanted to so something different yet up to the same standard if not better. Through some connections we were able to get access to some of the files of the real case of "El Aamil" and Amr Tolba. The government was very cooperative and allowed us to review some more data and files regarding this case. The research phase took almost a year until we had a story and a scenario. I was very proud to play this role to the extent that my joy was bigger than evaluating my acting performance. It filled me with pride to play Amr Tolba, he was a real hero not some vagabond off the streets, where being sent on a secret mission to Israel would be the scoop of his life. No, Amr Tolba had his family, university, fiancé and a complete life to live. This is a man with so many things to lose and chose to be an agent for the sake of Egypt, this makes him a real hero
We saw you with different female acting partners, who was your favorite?
All of them were great. Nour was amazing as well as Lekaa El Khameesi, we acted together on stage in a play three years ago. Mona Zaki and I had great acting chemistry as well as me and Nelly Karim and Razan. Each one of these very talented actresses gives positive chemistry to the set and the movie.
Who would you like to act with?
I always wanted to act with the legendary Ahmed Zaki. When he was sick and I used to visit him and tell him that I want to act with him. I worked with almost all of the "older" generation except for the late Ahmed Zaki and Adel Imam, who I would love to work with.
What do you think of the current situation of Egyptian Cinema?
I think the current situation has improved extremely, I mean look at where we are now and where we were five years ago. Back then we had only 70 cinemas and the annual film production was five films a year. Apart from that our films were not accepted in may festivals due to the mono sound and the low quality of the picture. After the trend of box office hit comedies with Mohamed Henedy and the late Alaa Waley-El Din, producers were encouraged to invest more in filmmaking with the younger generation like Ahmed El Sakka, Karim Abdel Aziz and Hany Ramzy. This economic revival created new and younger actors to appear on the screen and more movie production with better quality.
Today we have Dolby Surround and no budget constraints to shoot action films with proper stunts and the like. It is a continuous progress and I am quite satisfied with it.
I received an award from Malaysia, France and Italy, which is a good sign for our films being awarded abroad. "Fatah Enak" for example is the first Egyptian movie to be played in four commercial theatres in London and next month it will be played in France. The movie "Tito", was played in Australia. So we’ve started to reach out abroad. However, Egyptian cinema will never be international simply because we’re not America. An American movie is an international movie because America is the world. This is a fact that we can’t change. I rather take my movie abroad than act in a small role abroad. Yet if it is a good movie and role I would surely go for it. I was offered an Italian, French and Greek film before. But it wouldn’t be impressive for me if I were in a foreign film with a role that is not good for me.
What is it with you and horses? I mean I saw so many photos with you and your horses.
I love horses and I own a stable. My first hobby is fishing and hunting, I love the wildlife and being outdoors. I breed horses and spend much time with them, it’s my favorite hobby.
Do you have any films or series that you are working on at the moment?
I can’t reveal anything about my new movie but I just finished a movie with the Lebanese singer Maya Nasri. I play a bodyguard with a little bit of action and romance, a love story with some suspense. I also did a voice over in "Tutu wa Pyjama" a cartoon that will be shown soon.
What were the most influential moments in your life that really shaped you in a certain direction? Who are your role models?
Not a single person can shape your life; it’s a combination of many different persons and situations that shape a person. When I worked with Mohamed Sobhy on stage I learned many things and while I was working with Yousef Shaheen I learned other things, both shaped certain things in me. Yousef Shaheen helped me to decide if I should open an advertising agency or focus on acting. He told me to put all my efforts on one thing to succeed.
What do you recommend to any young actor that is struggling for fame? What is your advice?
I am too young to give advice to anyone but all I can say is patience and determination is the best way to reach anything in life. I mean at some point you will reach something you won’t be standing in the same spot.
What are your dreams for the future?
There is no such thing as the ultimate dream. One always should strive for more. When I was young I dreamt of being famous, then after "Hag Metwally" I realized this is not my ultimate target. Then I wanted people to trust me and be credible for them. Then I wanted my films to make good money and at the same time attend festivals abroad. You always want to dream bigger and this is a good thing.
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