IN CONVERSATION WITH TAHAR RAHIM
A Mag sits down with the French-Algerian actor in Paris to talk upbringing, acting and how at 35 he’s already an old soul.
Photography MARCEL HARTMANN Styling MARCO MANNI
Though impeccably manicured and elegant, Tahar Rahim’s polite façade masks a man who seems more familiar with the dark. After all, his defining film roles – from a petty criminal rising through the ranks of prison society in A Prophet to a dry-cleaner with dubious family troubles in The Past – all suggest an inclination towards iniquity.
“I am fascinated by characters who have given up the hope of being good, who have become lawless,” he says. “I want to explore this condition, to express myself in a world I do not know, to love a character you do not like.”
Rahim’s French-Algerian heritage meant a childhood in Belfort, a city in northeastern France, and vacations to his parents’ homeland in North Africa. He describes himself as being bored in Belfort, although this restless period was a formative one. “This is where my love for this world offered me an opening, forced me to dream,” he says. He began staging short plays with his childhood companions, revealing, “I could pretend very well that I was mute… or epileptic by creating a lather of aspirin in my mouth.” These thespian tendencies were honed by acting classes and film school in Montpellier; “one does not become an actor overnight,” he says. Eventually, he moved to Paris.
Although he has played Arab heroes in Free Men and in Black Gold – as an Algerian immigrant turned French resistance fighter and a desert warrior, respectively – he is wary of being defined as a role model for Maghrebi communities in France. First and foremost, he is an actor – regardless of ethnic background. “Algeria is half of my culture,” he says when asked what the country means to him. “Just like Belfort – it is where I discovered my first emotions.”
At just 35 the actor already describes himself as an old soul. “I was much more youthful six years ago,” he confesses. In the world of film, where one is made younger and older, lighter and darker by the demands of each role, Rahim remains undeniably himself.
Tahar Rahim will next be seen in Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s latest, La Femme de la Plaque Argentique costarring Mathieu Amalric; and Katell Quillévéré’s Réparer Les Vivants in which he co-stars with Emmanuelle Seigner.
Article from A Mag Issue 83, “In Conversation with Tahar Rahim” by Fifi Abou Dib