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How Egyptian superstar Mohamed Emam still lives under the shadow of his famous father

DUBAI: Twenty years ago, Mohamed Emam went to see his father to tell him something he had held in his heart for a long time: He too wanted to become an actor. His father, Adel, arguably the most popular actor in the Arab world, replied bluntly: “Son, you are making a mistake.”

” He told me not to do it ! As we sat there, he told me it was very, very difficult. In some ways, it’s the hardest job I could have chosen. He told me to choose something else,” Emam told Arab News. “But what could I do? It was my passion. I said, ‘I love it.’ And I went against his will. I had to follow my heart.

Egyptian director Marwan Hamed (right, wearing glasses) and the cast of ‘The Yacoubian Building’, Hend Sabry (left), Adel Emam (second from left) and Mohamed Emam (second from right) at Cannes in 2006. (Provided)

Emam does not regret this decision anymore. How could he? The Egyptian actor has become, over the past two decades, one of the region’s biggest talents, with nearly 12 million followers on Instagram and headlining both action blockbusters and Ramadan comedies, some opposite his beloved father.

He speaks to Arab News on the day his latest film, ‘3amohom’ (Their Uncle), is slated for its star-studded premiere in Dubai. The city is already festooned with posters of him, a version of himself he sculpted intensively over a year to become a bona fide action star.

The action-comedy, in which he plays a boxer who discovers a printing press for counterfeit money, has already had a huge opening in Egypt and is set to become the actor’s biggest opening in the Gulf, as he plans to turn his attention next to Saudi Arabia, with red carpets in Jeddah and Riyadh awaiting his arrival.

“I am completely honest when I tell you that this is the greatest pride I have been in in my career so far,” says Emam. “The fact that I’m touring the Arab world to open this movie is something I’ve always hoped I’d get the chance to do one day.”

Saudi Arabia is now at the center of the concerns of Emam and the entire Egyptian film industry, as the emergence of the Kingdom as a cinema market has transformed not only the marketing of their films, but their entire conception.

“We don’t just think about how things will go in Egypt anymore. From our first meetings, we think about how our stories will resonate in Saudi Arabia, and in the great Gulf. It was amazing, honestly. It encourages us to work harder in all aspects of filmmaking and pushes us to make even more films,” says Emam.

It’s a huge summer for Egyptian cinema. “3amohom” opens opposite another blockbuster, the historical epic “Kira & El Gin,” which aims to break the records set by its director’s previous film, “The Blue Elephant 2.” It is directed by someone Emam knows well, Marwan Hamed.

“I wish good luck to my old friend. Both of our films are filling theaters, and rightly so,” says Emam.

In a way, Emam owes the trajectory of his career to Hamed. The director cast her in the lead role in the hit 2006 film “The Yacoubian Building”, opposite a true megastar – her father Adel – despite the fact that Emam had only minor TV credits to his name at that time. that time.

Mohamed Emam with Hend Sabry in ‘L’Immeuble Yacoubian’. (Provided)

“After making this film, I spoke to my father again. He told me that he loved my performance. Since then, he has told me that he loves all my films. He always tells me how much he is proud even now,” says Emam.

That’s not to say Emam’s rise to fame has been easy. In some ways, Emam still lives in his father’s shadow, knowing that while he had privileges as Adel’s son, he also had to work really hard to prove he deserved the limelight.

“It’s very difficult to become an actor when your father is the greatest actor in the world. It was a big, big struggle at the beginning. Little by little, people understood that I love cinema, that I don’t do not that just because my dad is a great actor,” Emam says. “To this day, I always try to do my best and please people.”

Adel Emam (center) with his children, actor Mohammed Emam (right) and director Rami Emam (left) in Alexandria August 30, 2008. (Supplied)

Unsurprisingly, Emam’s love of film began on the set of his father’s films, watching not just his father, but the dozens of people around him all focusing on different tasks to make the film a success.

“I was amazed by what I saw. I wanted to join them immediately. I immediately knew in my heart – from the age of four – that I wanted to be an actor,” says Emam.

Like his legendary father, Emam excelled in comedic acting – something he doesn’t take for granted.

“Comedy is more difficult than anything else, to be honest. It’s very difficult to make Egyptian people laugh. It’s very difficult to get them to accept. I thank God that after doing a lot of comedy, people like me in this role,” says Emam.

For “3amohom,” however, Emam didn’t want to rely on his mind alone. He had always wanted to play a boxer and although the film only featured a few boxing scenes, Emam trained as if he was slated for a first fight.

“I trained very intensively for eight months. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done to myself. And because we filmed on and off for a year and a half, I had to keep myself in that peak condition the whole time. Not to mention keeping my bleached blonde hair — which I’m not sure my head has forgiven me for,” Emam says.

“The training came in handy outside of the boxing ring, of course. It was a very tough shoot. In one scene, I had to fight 20 different guys. I had never pushed myself to that degree.

Although he plans to do more action movies, and action comedies in particular, as he thinks he thrives in fight sequences, there is still one role Emam dreams of playing more than quite different – to play the role of his father in an Adel Emam biopic.

“I think I could do it. I really intend to try,” says Emam. “There is another side of him that people don’t see: the father. The man I know best. Really, I love him so much. I really admire him. It’s my idol. I wish I could tell this story myself.