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Elyas: The incredible true story that inspired this action movie with Roshdi Zem

Elyas: The incredible true story that inspired this action movie with Roshdi Zem

What is it about? Elias, a former special forces soldier, lonely and paranoid, becomes the guardian of 13-year-old Noor and his mother Amina, who are from the Middle East. While the ex-warrior and the young girl get to know each other, a mysterious commando targets them. Elias will stop at nothing to save her.

The birth of the project

Elias was born thanks to Matias Rubin. In 2022, a producer asked Florent-Emilio Siri if he wanted to make an action film. At the time, the filmmaker did not know if he still had something to say in the genre he had already studied: Also, I’m always a bit skeptical because there aren’t many French actors who can – and I say this in quotes – do action movies.

“These are very physical roles where you have to play extreme and varied emotions. It’s not easy at all. Very few actors get it. Then Matias told me about Roshdi Zem on the main role. And that changes everything for me. I’ve been following Roshdi for two decades and I always wanted to work with him, but we never got the chance., recalls the director. He adds:

“Not only is he a great actor whose humanity we can feel in every interpretation of him, but above all he has a presence like Steve McQueen or Lino Ventura, which I admire immensely and which is a must for an ‘action’ movie.”

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A simple story

When he thought about Roshdi Zemi’s film, Florent-Emilio Siri recalled a story about the forced marriage of very young girls: a 12-year-old whose mother, a princess married to an emir, fled to England because her daughter. Intended as the adult heir to a Middle Eastern throne: “I find this event unbelievable and the courage of this mother is very touching.”

“Then, I came across another article that tells of another young princess, a prisoner of her father, who had run away from home for about ten days before being put on a ship off the coast of India. The commando that took her home similarly kidnapped another princess in the middle of London in the 2000s, put her in a car and drove her back to the Middle East.

“We haven’t heard from him since. I thought it would be a good starting point to introduce fiction for the cinema. And slowly, between these stories, the desire to work with Roshdi Zem; the desire to be associated with action films. I took my idea to Matthias Rubin, who also discovered, That it was a good starting point and he gave me carte blanche.The director recalls.

Roshdi Zem

complex character

Florent-Emilio Siri wanted to work on an action hero who was complex and not just an excuse for action. A character with a real problem who isn’t gratuitously brave from start to finish: Little by little, the idea emerged around trauma, conspiracy and paranoia, inspired by films I love, such as Scorsese’s Taxi Driver or other conspiracy fiction, such as Pakula’s Murder or Polak’s Three Days of the Condor.The filmmaker specifies.

Handling heavy weapons

If Roshdi Zemi did not train more than usual for the needs of Elias, given that sports are part of his lifestyle, the actor devoted a lot of time to handling heavy weapons: “And it took me a long time. It’s not that simple. The slightest gesture, if it’s a little clumsy and laborious, destroys your work. These weapons are very heavy, and even if they are demilitarized for the needs of the film, they carry their weight, and then the soldiers no longer use the weapons as before, they They meet the enemy.

“So we have to put it all together to be as close to reality as possible, learning to load and reload as quickly as possible by checking the cartridge case, the cartridge, assembling and disassembling the gun… daily training that may not even be. useful not in the film but which appreciates your character”he recalls.

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Find Noor

Finding an interpreter for Noor was a real challenge. Florent-Emilio Siri wanted to find a rare pearl and began to look for it in Egypt, Morocco and Algeria, because this character comes from the Middle East. The director recalls: “But nothing came out. We started searching in France. The problem with the role is that Noori is 13 years old in the story. The problem is that 12/13-year-old girls don’t have enough maturity to do it. They have more maturity to play such a role, but there was a character The risk of “sexuality”.

“Because at 14/15 they have the look of young girls. So that would create an ambiguity that I didn’t want. And then my casting director, Marie-France Michel, had a genius instinct. She passed the tests. In Paris and crossed Jane By chance, he already knew, but who had nothing a priori of the Middle East. He suggested that such a test be done immediately. I cried when I discovered his essays. There were four scenes to go through. He learned them in twenty minutes before listening. There was an emotional scene and it made me angry.”

“He’s talented. He had no trouble learning Arabic phonetically with a Middle Eastern accent. Full of emotion. He understands all the feelings as an adult. He’s already an actor: a great actor. Naturally talented. Presence, photogenic, intelligence, relevance.

Source: Allocine

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