Last year the Empire UK magazine visited the set of The Mauritanian in South Africa, and that report features in its latest issue. Check out the scan on our photo gallery:
A transctiption to those who need it:
[ON SET REPORT] On location of the shocking true story about a man put through a gruesome 14-year ordeal
Where? Cape Town, South Africa
When? 28 January 2020
Why? Because Kevin Macdonald (Touching The Void, The Last King of Scotland) has assembled a killer cast including Jodie Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tahar Rahim to tell the true story of Mohamedou Ould Slahi. After being falsely aligned with al-Qaeda, Slahi was detained for 14 years at Guantánamo Bay without charge.
What did you see? Guantánamo Bay. Well, a pretti intimidating replica, built from the ground up with Slahi’s input. “If there’s any misbeheaving, you will be put in a detention cell,” jokes the first AD, and Foster advices slapping on some sun-screen while having her lipstick reapplied. With temperatures hitting the mid-20s at 10am and uniformed extras wilting over their pastries, it’s not a bad shout.
What was being filmed? The day starts with Foster’s character Nancy Hollander — based on the lawyer who helped to free Slahi — visiting this cell with her colleague Teri (Shailene Woodley). “I’ve only played a real person once in my life before,” says Foster, savouring the shade under our marquee. “I’m always worried about the limitations that come with that, but Nancy’s got there bright nails and lipstick and is just a hoot.” [i]Empire then joins Macdonald in the Guantanamo medical centre where Rahim, who plays Slahi, arrives in his prision jumpsuit with bruises painted on his face. He has a quick smoke before going to have his head shaved for the next phase of Slahi’s story. “I usually refuse this kind of role, especially in America,” says Rahim. “But this was something different. When I read the script, I cried twice.”
What’s it all about? “When I met Nancy, she said this may be the first Muslim man in an America movie that people really get to know,” says Foster, who took the role because she was so enamoured with Slahi’s story of resilience. “He befriended all the guards,” Macdonald explains. “One named their son after him, another went on holiday with him. It’s a testament to how amazing he is.”
Why is The Big Lebowski relevant? While detained, Slahi watched the Coen Brothers’ classic many times after resonating with its story of mistaken identity. “He knows every line and every song in that film,” says Macdonald. Rahim even included a rewatch in his reseach process. “Of course, he fell in love with The Dude,” he says.