Anil Kapoo talks about working on the hit show
24 just kicked off its new season with a special two-night, four-hour event this past Sunday and Monday and one of the new faces you'll be seeing this season is that of Anil Kapoor. Kapoor plays Hassan and you might recognize the Indian actor from his wonderful turn as the eccentric game show host in last year's Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire. Kapoor recently held a conference call to discuss his role on the new season of 24 and here's what he had to say.
I've seen in the episodes so far that Hassan's a very standup guy. Will we get to see over the course of the storyline what the problem is with his marriage and why he's having an affair?
Anil Kapoor: He is not exactly, actually it's not an affair, but it's a kind of relationship, which he feels is kind of like minor relationship and intellectually he believes that it's more of a friendship, which there is possibility that might develop later on into a relationship, but it doesn't.
Will we see more details about his marriage?
Anil Kapoor: Yes, you will see the details of his marriage when the other episodes develop and progress after the fourth episode.
So you think that his relationships then with these women is a big part of his character?
Anil Kapoor: Absolutely, because he is a normal person and he has his gray areas, which makes this character very human and very real. So these are the gray areas and yes of course he has these relationships and he has his problems with the relationship with his wife and he has this relationship with this journalist.
I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about what it's like to work with Kiefer Sutherland and Freddie Prinze, Jr.?
Anil Kapoor: Working with Kiefer, because I'd heard so much about 24 and Kiefer and I expected him to be of ... when he comes on the shoot. I thought he's working the last eight years on the same season, but I never felt that he had done eight seasons, I felt that he was exactly working as if it was just his first season, and his commitment towards his excitement was as if he just started shooting for it. I never really ever felt that he had already been shooting the same role, by the same people, but the enthusiasm and excitement was something which I was really taken aback with his kind of commitment and professionalism. It was wonderful to work with him and he gets so much, when he does every, whatever he mouths, every line, every performance, which when gives when he ... it looks as if he's Jack Bauer and not Kiefer Sutherland, he's completely into the skin of Jack Bauer. He's become more Jack Bauer than he's Kiefer Sutherland now when he's on the set.
Was he welcoming to you in any ways since you just started, how was he welcoming, did he offer any advice?
Anil Kapoor: There was a mutual kind of, the first time when he met me he said he had seen Slumdog Millionaire and he loved my work in the film and that eased my and gave me a lot of confidence, because coming from Kiefer, the words of encouragement. And he paid me compliments obviously to relax me and I felt that there is a certain kind of mutual, there's a certain kind of respect which he has for my work, which I've done in India as well as in Slumdog Millionaire. When two actors meet and then there is a mutual respect for each other's work, it makes work much, much easier. So he never made me feel as if I'm an outsider. It was I think thanks to him, because he's a much senior person in terms of where America's concern. I might be working in India, but this is only my second stint as a performer in the United States of America, but he never made me feel like that, that I was an outsider, so that was really great. Working with Prinze was, I could see that he was very eager, very curious, and very, very hardworking, very sincere, and a very handsome guy, very good looking, and he fits the role, and I think he adds to the show and he adds to the show. I think his addition to 24, I think 24 is going to really gain a lot from his addition to the show and his participation of the show, and whatever he's playing in the show.
I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about thoughts on whether or not this will be the last season of 24, because I know there's been some talk or if you think that it will continue on?
Anil Kapoor: I'm sure, I hope, and I pray to God that ... but I think Kiefer or Howard Gordon would be the right people to really answer this question.
I spoke with you last year when you were doing press for the DVD release of Slumdog Millionaire and you said that that movie in many ways represented not just a new chapter in your career, but it pretty much gave you a new career. And so now that you have another major step in this career, how is it working for you? Is it everything you hoped it would be? Are you enjoying it the way you hoped you would be?
Anil Kapoor: It's gone beyond my expectation to be honest with you. I felt that after Slumdog Millionaire, I don't know how people are going to accept me in the west. But I can see that everyone has been very encouraging and it's been very, very positive, and especially working on 24 was very educating, very inspiring, and I again I feel the director, the writers, and the entire atmosphere in the working atmosphere, the work ... was as good or even better than what I had experienced in Slumdog Millionaire.
I'm just wondering if you had any concerns about going on 24, to be honest most India or minority actors on there, play terrorists, and your role's a much more positive view and I imagine a very standup guy. Did you have any of things going into that, going to the role?
Anil Kapoor: That was one of the first, when I heard the role, I really got very inspired when it was not just your bad man and I felt that this was a guy who really stands up on his own and stands up for his conviction and what he believes in. And it is a very strong character and there are all the layers involved, a lot of complexity, and very, very human, very real, and really today. I'm very, very fortunate that being from India and I was lucky to get this opportunity to do this role of Omar Hassan and very, very fortunate that it was 24, which is a kind of ... season, and this writing. I've never seen this kind of writing in any of my, I've read a lot of scripts in India as well as internationally, but this writing of 24 is really very special.
I just wondered now after 24, do you have any plans to keep kind of trying to work in the U.S. whether in TV or movies or would you be interested in spending more time focusing on your film career in India, which is very big out there?
Anil Kapoor: I feel of course, to be honest with you as an actor, every actor today especially in today's, the way the world is where the communication is so easy, I think it's very, very, it's not very difficult to juggle both the worlds. And I think wherever and anywhere in the world, any part of the world, where the material is exciting I'm going to go for it especially if it's from the west end, because you see this is for me, it's much more challenging because I'm performing in a different language; and mostly I've been doing films in my local language, which is Hindi, and now here I get an opportunity to speak in English, which is my first language in India. And I had a problem when I was working in these films where the directors and writers would feel, I would have difficulty working over there because I would think in English, but now I'm finding it much more exciting, much more easier for me to work in films made in the west. So it's a great phase and an exciting phase in my career, and even the second experience has been wonderful, absolutely terrific.
Do you think that, what are some of the differences that you've noticed, filming in the west versus kind of a typical Indian movie or an Indian series, are there very many differences or is it the same once you get on set?
Anil Kapoor: I think it's the same once you get on the set. Obviously the work and value system are different work culture, slightly different, but otherwise it's the same, because show business all over the world is the same. The other thing is I can say is the scale over here in the west in the Hollywood films is much larger, because you see the number that they're very big in terms of budgets where the kind of money which you spent on every episode or every feature film, and obviously the returns are much, much bigger. The maximum returns which you can have in an Indian film, which is a huge success, it's obviously less than a hundred million dollars, and here films are made in the budget of $150 million to $350 million and they go up to $1.5 billion. So definitely the scales are much bigger, that's the only difference, otherwise I think films made in our country, also in India also are now you will feel it and you will see it in the future that are of an international level.
I was wondering if you could perhaps tell us how you first became involved in 24 and getting this particular role if you don't mind?
Anil Kapoor: I feel it's thanks to Slumdog Millionaire, I think because they saw that the Slumdog Millionaire was such a huge success, critically as well as commercially, and it swept all the awards. And obviously, a matter of fact everybody was talking about it. Where it was connected to the film and especially my role really, I never really expected this role, this kind of appreciation for my role and I got rave reviews. And I'm sure people on 24 had seen my work and liked my work and that's the reason I was given this offer and I grabbed it. The offer came to my agents and I had met a few people at the Fox Studio and it was like kind of a casual meeting and where that there was a topic, which we'll discuss about 24, and that would if Anil becomes a part of 24 and that's what it is, and I just left after this conversation. There were some common friends were sitting together and I was meeting Mr. Reilly from Fox, and that was the first meeting I had at Fox, and then after that, then the offer came to my agent, and I was in 24.
Now if Slumdog Millionaire didn't happen, would you have tried out for a part like this?
Anil Kapoor: I don't think this would have really happened if Slumdog Millionaire would never happen. Yes, I don't think so. I think it's thanks to Slumdog Millionaire that I'm in 24 and it couldn't have been a better follow up, 24's a great follow up after Slumdog Millionaire. I play something which is completely opposite to what I've done in Slumdog Millionaire, which is always exciting for an actor when you do something completely different and something completely opposite in terms of a role. And so for me after the first time of really doing television, I've never done television in India, I've always done over a hundred feature films, so for me it was really something which was new, fresh, exciting, educative, and I really loved every moment of it.
Was there anything in particular that you did to prepare for this role?
Anil Kapoor: Yes, I did. A matter of fact it was I think the most exciting part was the preparation for this role. I really loved the preparation, for me it was like I was playing this leader of the president of fictitious country, which is supposed to be a middle-eastern country, and I supposed to be the president. So obviously and I went through a lot of all the leaders of the world, past as well as present, and I went through all the speeches, the body language, and how to speak. I read a lot of books on the UN and on the peace treaty and all about nuclear disarmament and the IAEA and what does IAEA do, what does NATO do, so all kinds of academic things which are usually discussed during the time of the UN. I just wanted to be very familiar to whatever happens. So I read all these books and especially there was one book which are the speeches of all the leaders and all the leaders and all the people were wanting to know their price, that was a very, very inspiring book for me and the speeches really made a lot of difference. Leaders who give speeches after winning the Nobel Prize for peace, that was a very, very, and sometimes for an actor you just need something, one takeoff point for them to start preparing for the role. So that's really helped me, and otherwise for me even speaking English had a dialogue coach ... who was of great help and we had long sessions. I had long sessions with him during this entire show and he was of great help for me to speak the way this character would speak. What we have done is not really gone a typical ... but at least in dialogue, because this guy is a British, he's educated in Britain and he's a modern guy, so we had a little bit of British accent to this role. A Middle Eastern well educated in Britain how he would speak, so that I think which my writers and directors told me, that this is what I should follow and that's what I did, and so these kind of preparations I did. And obviously there is a certain ... I have tried to change my voice in this show also, which if you see all my other films, which I've done earlier especially Slumdog ... in the western world that people only exposed to my work in Slumdog. And you'll find a complete change in the way I look, the way I walk, the way I talk, and my voice quality and all the grains are completely different to do that role in this show which I've done.
I found myself wondering during the negotiation part, you and the U.S. President, boy, they were very willing to find a middle ground, and do you find yourself wishing that the real life would be a little like that with our leaders?
Anil Kapoor: I think it is this way now. If you see the world leaders today, that's what it is, and that's what is great about 24 that they always distinctively predict what's going to happen in the future. And at the moment, yes, that's what is happening, most of the leaders of the world are taking the kind of part, which the President of the United States and 24 and Omar has to take, and that's a very healthy way of looking at the world for world peace. And I think that all the leaders of the world are doing at the moment, all the so called great leaders whom I look up to, leaders like Obama, and ... from India, so I can really at least vouch for them that they're taking this kind of a part.
I was wondering could you tell us a little bit about any other projects that you may have in the works?
Anil Kapoor: At the moment, I am working in two productions in India, one is called No Problem, which is a complete mainstream Indian film, a commercial film, and where I play, it's a comedy and I play a role of a cop; and then there's another production called I Shall, which is based on Jane Austin's Emma, and these are two films which are almost in post production and they'll be releasing this year. And the next, which I'm going to do is I'm going to start two more productions, and I'm looking at scripts sent to me by my agent. So very soon I'm going to decide which film I'm going to do, and otherwise was something which I really committed, and as soon as I go back I'm doing ... I'm doing a play as soon as I go back, which is going to tour all over the world.
There's a large Indian community in America that are they going to be surprised to see you in this role if they're very familiar with the work that you've done in India and what would you say to your fans who are excited to see you outside of kind of the regular stuff that you've been doing?
Anil Kapoor: To be honest with you, I've never really, my fans all over the world have never expected something regular from me. I do regular stuff, but I keep on surprising them from the time that I started my career in 1978 and I became a mainstream successful leading man in 1982/1983, from that to 2010 I've always surprised and people expect something different from me. So I'm sure they're going to be expecting and they're not going to be surprised when they see me in 24, because that's what they expect from me, and that always I have kept on raising the bar and more than anything else trying to and sort of becoming a bigger star. I always wanted to be a better actor and that's what I've tried to do, and I've taken these kinds of risks, and that's the reason I did Slumdog also, and that's one of the reasons I did 24 also. So I think they will be very, very happy when they see me in 24.
Anil, I wanted to find out what has made a career in this industry rewarding for you so far would you say?
Anil Kapoor: I think every bit of it has been very, very rewarding. I've been very fortunate and very lucky from the time I faced the camera, and it's always been in terms of satisfaction, in terms of financial stability, in terms of meeting different kind of people all over the world, in terms of in education. I'm not a very academically educated person, but I think whatever ... being educated is through people and through people when I worked with, and the work which I've done in films and cinema. So it's been very, very rewarding to me. I think I wouldn't be speaking to you if I was only in films.
You can watch Anil Kapoor as Hassan on this new season of 24 on Monday nights on Fox.