A wanderer and an immigrant — that’s how Pakistani-Canadian actor Saad Siddiqui described himself in a recent interview with The Express Tribune. Siddiqui is part of Canadian director Ruba Nadda’s latest film Inescapable, which stars Oscar-winning actor Marisa Tomei, Sudanese-British actor Alexander Siddig, and Oded Fehr from the Mummy series.
The film was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), where Nadda’s last feature film Cairo Time won the award for Best Canadian Feature Film in 2009.
Born in Pakistan in 1983, Saad Siddiqui is a versatile actor with many American and Canadian credits to his name. He has most recently appeared in the films Inescapable and Cosmopolis, the television series “Covert Affairs” (NBC) and “The Listener” (CTV). Siddiqui has a degree in Political Science from the University of Toronto, and has attended various acting schools in Toronto. He is an experienced martial artist, holding the rank of master in Taekwondo and a black belt in several other styles.
Siddiqui was in college when he caught the acting bug. “I loved watching both Bollywood and Hollywood movies growing up,” Siddiqui says. He adds that his knowledge in Political Science helped him a lot in preparing for the role of Halim in Inescapable. “I knew a lot about people and how they interact with others and it gave me a lot to use when I was developing characters.” Inescapable follows a Syrian man, Adib, as he journeys back to his homeland after his daughter goes missing in Damascus. 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 Halim, the villain in the gripping dramatic thriller.
The film that gave Siddiqui a chance to show his dark side also allowed him to make use of his degree and his martial arts skills. However, according to the Canadian actor of Pakistani descent, this role wasn’t all that easy to portray and acting in general is a very tough profession. He realised early on that it was like a marathon and not a sprint and that it would take time. “I knew it would happen if I never gave up and God would help me if that’s what he wanted,” he adds.
On his Inescapable character and taking the role, Siddiqui says, “When I received the script for Inescapable, even though Halim seemed like the villain in the script, I never judged him.” The actor believes that in order to play any role, the actor should understand the character’s actions, and understand his motivations and why he is the way he is and why he does what he does. “I loved playing Halim and researching why his perspective is what it is. And I was also very happy that I was playing a lead opposite such an amazing cast which included an Oscar winner Marisa Tomei,” Siddiqui claims proudly.
He also feels honoured that Hollywood and Canada believe in him. “[They believe I am] versatile enough to play roles of any skin colour and of any nationality. As an actor, that’s what I want. I am always open to playing great Pakistani and Indian roles too, but I don’t want to play stereotypical characters.”
The 29-year-old feels great about being a part of TIFF and said to be one of the leads in a movie with an amazing cast and to be selected to have its world premiere at the largest venue in Toronto, The Roy Thomson Hall, was a dream come true. “TIFF is truly a people’s festival and it has become one of the favourite places for actors to attend from around the world. As an actor, it is always great interacting with other fellow actors, directors, and producers whose work you have enjoyed watching. It was also great to reunite with the cast of Inescapable.”
Siddiqui is also happy to have met a few well-known actors at the festival, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Diane Kruger. On working with Hollywood directors like David Cronenberg, who directed him in the Robert Pattinson-led Cosmopolis, he says, “The last three Hollywood directors I have worked with are all wonderful and great. I really enjoyed working with David Cronenberg and Ruba Nadda as I have watched their films over the years. I know Ruba really well now and filmed a whole month with her in South Africa and it was an amazing experience.” The actor adds that, “the story of Inescapable was so important to her to make, I saw how dedicated she was to it, and It was a pleasure for me to help bring it to the silver screen. I would love to work again with Ruba and David.”
He also enjoyed working with Pattinson, calling him a “very talented actor and a very kind and caring human being”, before recalling how welcoming he was when they first met on set and how enjoyable the experience was.
When asked about his future plans, Siddiqui kept his lips sealed and refused to share any details. “Sworn to secrecy,” he says. “I have several very interesting projects lined up with great directors. I am not allowed to speak about them at the moment, but Inescapable has brought a lot of attention to me and my skills and work. As an actor, all you can hope for is to continue to do great projects that bring you the right attention.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 21st, 2012.