Amr Waked, a young and up-and-coming Egyptian film actor, shooting a joint BBC/HBO docudrama in Tunisia about Saddam Hussein, faces censure by his union, and a ban from ever working in Egypt again if he doesn't drop out. Waked plays Hussein's son-in-law, and the Israeli (who is said to be of Iraqi origin), Yigal Naor, plays Saddam. Waked claims he had no idea that Naor was an Israeli when he signed the contract, and has told his union reps (in an obvious effort to dissuade them from forcing him to quit) that the film is pro-Arab and anti-U.S. foreign policy. Not surprising, considering the production companies involved.
Although quitting would constitute a major breach in contract, and the actor has told his union that there would be severe consequences, the union is not backing down, and has said it would help him financially if he did quit. I'm going to assume that most actors just want to act, they could care less about politics or anything else (except for the few of us who do care), and being forced to make a decision like this is despicable. Either way, whatever he decides, he's committing artistic suicide. If he quits the film, this young actor (who was also seen in SYRIANA, with George Clooney and Matt Damon) faces being blackballed in Hollywood. If he doesn't, he faces never being able to work in Egypt again.
And why unions involve themselves in such matters, in the first place, is a bone of contention for us, in this country as well. That is one of my major gripes with my unions. They should concern themselves with matters only related to actors, not dabble in politics. I resent having my dues being doled out to political causes that I do not agree with. But at least our unions don't dictate who we can or can not work with. Ashraf Zaki, head of the Egyptian Union for Actors said
"The position of the union is clear in its rejection of normalization [with Israel] and requires that members abide by this position."In spite of the 1979 Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel, there is still great antipathy for the Israelis and reluctance to expand and normalize relations.
How pathetic and sad, when religion and nationality become factors in artistic endeavours.