“I was able to show the liveliness and humor of urban and Egyptian Egypt”

Knight of the Moon is one of the most anticipated series of the year! Twenty-four hours after it went online, the trailer already had 75 million views. Available this Wednesday at Disney +, Moonknight, The 6-episode miniseries, based on the Marvel comics of the same name and created by Jeremy Slater, follows Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac), a discreet employee of a museum gift shop, a victim of memory loss and persecuted. by strange visions. He discovers that he suffers from a dissociative identity disorder and that he shares the same body as a mercenary, Marc Spector.

To stage its blockbuster with a backdrop of modern and ancient Egypt, Marvel Studios has relied on Egyptian filmmaker Mohamed Diab, best known for his film. Women on the Bus 678 which deals with the sexual harassment of women in the city of Cairo. Meet the director who fought with nails and teeth to direct this story of sketchy superheroes.

What made you want to do this series? Are you a fan of Marvel, “Moon Knight” in particular?

I’m a fan of great intimate films, like Denis Villeneuve. I learned English from American movies. He had made international films, presented at festivals. I moved to Hollywood three years ago. My wife, Sarah, and I had written and sold two science fiction movies. But when my agents told me Knight of the Moon, I said to myself, “It’s all me, the drama it contains, the Egyptian part, present and past.” I challenged myself to do things I had never done before, such as action, comedy, and horror. Moonknight, It is the dream of every director. What I liked most was the character with his duality. We all have a form of duality, the person inside and the outside. With Mark and Steven, he’s very clearly separated, but I can identify with them. That’s why I fought for this job. My wife and I wrote a two-hundred-page tone that talked about everything. Once I wrote these two pages, I knew it was the best way to do it Knight of the Moon. I was born to do this!

What was it about those 200 pages that convinced Marvel to give you the reins?

These famous pages had it all, starting with photos of me as a child near Egyptian remains. As a kid, I used to go crazy. He had also made films on the issue of identity. I had detailed how I could develop this story: how I saw Mark, Steven, the villain, Layla, and so on. I talked about Egypt, the fact that we don’t see Egypt as it is in the movies we see. I showed how beautiful real Egypt is and what beautiful places I wanted to film. I talked about editing, how I wanted to stage the action, my acting credentials. We also talked about art direction, visual themes, how it could reflect Mark and Steven’s feelings on screen. In almost every scene you can see a shadow or something that reflects the idea of ​​duality, but also sometimes the feeling of being caged. It had 5 or 6 titles of Egyptian music, able to attract the western public. Not that old Orientalist Arabic music.

Are you talking about how to represent the duality of the character, do you have any references in mind, like “Fight Club” or “Total Recall” for example?

I watched all the movies that had a connection to duality, to learn. Then I disconnected completely. No references should be seen. We have our own version of duality. Blinking, memory lapses, disorientation … He wanted us to really be in the shoes of someone with a dissociative identity disorder. The disorientation that the viewer feels is what Mark and Steven feel.

And how did you work with Oscar Isaac on this duality?

Oscar saw my movies and called me. The first thing he said to me was, “What are you doing in this project? I told him that for me, making intimate films was not reserved for small budgets. We talked and had the same vision: “Let’s do a character study.” The same thing happened with Ethan. . [Hawke, qui joue le vilain] Each actor has been the best defender of his character. We all had ideas about her appearance, her hair … Oscar is the one who has contributed the most. He had the idea of ​​accent, for example, which makes it easier to distinguish them. On set he has forgotten all the theories we’ve talked about, as soon as he’s Mark or Steven, his behavior changes, he’s a completely different person.

May Calamawy plays Layla El-Faouly. What does it mean to you that an Egyptian-Palestinian actress plays such an important role in a Marvel series?

It was very important to me that all the Egyptian roles were played by Egyptian actors. I thought of May as soon as I read the script. I even called her to ask if she was free to film before she was chosen, I had a feeling she would. May is very involved. I think he will be a big star after the show. It’s already for me. Now the world will know her. This is not the last time you will see May!

What pitfalls have prevented your sensitivity and Egyptian culture from being represented in Egypt?

Two or three things. First, show Egypt as it is. I was able to show urban Egypt. Although Cairo is one of the largest cities in the world, it is always shown with a pyramid in the desert! Then we have a strong female character, as in all my movies. Egyptian women are not what you think. Although difficult for them, they are strong and not submissive. The strongest person in my house is my mother. Finally, I had the opportunity to show Egyptian vivacity and humor. I was really looking forward to sharing this with the world. It is a small step in the right direction to show Egypt as real as possible. I hope that next time we shoot in Egypt and can show even more about Egyptian culture and people.

“Moon Knight” is the latest screen appearance of actor Gaspard Ulliel, who died in January 2022 of a ski accident, how was the collaboration with him?

It’s always so surreal to talk about him in the past. Does not make sense ! We met in 2011 at the French premiere of the film Women on the Bus 678 at the Montpellier International Mediterranean Film Festival. He attended the screening, loved it and we talked. When I found out they took me for Knight of the Moon, I immediately thought of him for this role. We contacted him. I always thought I had everything Hollywood needed. He could have been a Hollywood star. He had the physique, the talent … I thought the series could be an important step for him. He arrived on set with great humility, as if it were the first day of filming, when I know how important it is in France. I liked his questions and worked with him. He did an excellent job. I finally told him that once the show comes out, even though the role is small, Marvel and Marvel fans would love to see it again. He will live with us forever through his films, and I am glad to have been a part of his small legacy.

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