In “A Hologram for the King” a beautiful doctor (Sarita Choudhury) and a wise-cracking taxi driver (Alexander Black) help an American businessman (Tom Hanks) who’s trying to close the deal of a lifetime in Saudi Arabia. The film celebrated its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 20. The screening was held at BMCC and an intimate party followed at White Street. Tom Tykwer wrote the screenplay, did the score and directed the film. He is one of the most influential and renowned contemporary German filmmakers. Some of his previous works include “Run Lola Run” and “Cloud Atlas.” The film is now playing.
Shaina Moskowitz: Tell us about your look in the film.
Alexander Black: I worked closely with an amazing makeup artist and they really brought that look to life. That makeup artist his father was the one that did the makeup for “Lawrence of Arabia.” They worked hard to put that look together.
SM: Talk about working with Tom Hanks on this.
AB: He’s very easygoing, very relaxed. He was such a nice guy, very down to earth. Whenever I messed up, he made it seem like it was his fault. Really, really fun loving, childlike, really cool guy.
SM: What do you have to do in terms of research to immerse yourself the Saudi Arabian culture?
AB: I traveled to Saudi Arabia and I would record people like this, just to get the way that they spoke and to learn to speak Arabic in the Saudi dialect. I worked closely with a dialect coach. Pretty much that’s it.
SM: How did you include your style of comedy into this drama-comedy film?
AB: I’ve been told that my style of comedy is somewhat awkward, and my character is very awkward in the sense that you really don’t know what he’s thinking, you don’t know what he’s going to do next. I think that just came naturally. I tried to infuse it in as much as possible.
SM: Your chemistry with Tom is fantastic.
AB: Thank you so much. I think that’s because he’s so charismatic that it just happened naturally, the chemistry. He’s a really cool guy. He jokes on set and he’s also able to be very present. I think his talent is him being so present and in the moment, it’s kind of like a magical quality.
SM: This is also your first feature film after being in stand up comedy, so how was that transition?
AB: The transition is different. I think stand up comedy is the most difficult thing in the world to do. Not that this was easy, but I think nothing is as difficult as stand up, so different in that sense. Slightly easier, I would say.
SM: I love this movie by the way. Those wonderful water scenes, did you do that?
Sarita Choudhury: Yes. I’m a good swimmer and so is Tom Hanks. They wanted to use doubles and then they realized we’re both totally at ease, so we did them.
SM:You spoke a lot of Arabic in the movie, what was that like?
SC: Hard and great. I had to go to school. I’ve been obsessed with anyway that culture so for me it’s a natural leaning.
SM: Can you speak about collaborating with Tom the director and what you admire about him as a writer and a filmmaker?
SC: I love Tom Tykwer. I loved “Run Lola Run,” it was one of my favorites. He’s obsessed with camera and lighting and all that. He’s also strict as a director which I need. I’m very loosey goosey and he’s like no, together. For me it’s the perfect match.
SM: How about Tom Hanks?
SC: So easy. I have to pinch myself. It was a lot for me and great.
SM: You were so natural together.
SC: When you meet him he’s so at ease and he kind of demands that you become normal. Every time I was with him I was like, “He’s a normal guy.” Then I just decided I’m just going to watch him. I put away my shyness and I was just going to watch him hold the space around him. I literally felt like someone had given me a Christmas present. I felt so privileged. When you talk to Tom it’s almost like you’ve got an old friend with you. He looks directly at you and it’s very easy to be personable with him.