Understanding the Devil
Dominic Cooper is a rising British film star.
Having made his mark in popular movies like ‘Starter for 10’ and ‘An Education’, until the movie ‘Devil’s Double’ – which opens in UAE cinema’s on Thursday – he had been confined to supporting roles.
He more than makes up for that here though, as he takes on not just one leading role, but two.
Cooper plays Uday Hussein, the sadistic ‘Black Prince’ son of Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein and also Latif Yahia, the soldier forced to be Uday’s body double or ‘fiday’, which translates roughly as ‘bullet catcher’.
It is story of fast cars, endless money, easy women, corruption and wanton violence. So gruesome were the acts Uday committed on a regular basis that some could not be featured in the film. It also meant Dominic was not immediately able to sink his teeth into the role.
“I just despised the man,” says Cooper. “There was nothing I could see in him that I could latch on to and like. It was beyond my capabilities to get into the mindset of a man who did the things he did.” To find a way into the character, Cooper looked at the father/son relationship between Saddam and Uday.
“I read all about him and his family, what he wanted to achieve and where he saw himself,” Cooper reveals.
“I imagined the rejection he must have felt knowing that, even as the eldest son, his father didn’t want to give him any power whatsoever because he didn’t trust him. Uday was brought up in such a brutal environment and met his need to make an impression, to make a name for himself, in very sick ways as he couldn’t accomplish it politically.”
The film is based on the book written by the real Latif Yahia, who survived years as the unwilling servant to Uday. Yahia was on set to consult during the making of the film and found it a cathartic, if also overwhelming, experience.
“In a way, something was relieved out of me, the sadness that I had before,” he says. “My story is being told and it’s a release. It wasn’t until I watched this movie being made that I was seeing for the first time really clearly and objectively the kind of life I’d had.
“I had to take some valium to be able to watch some of the scenes, especially the shootings.”