Saturday, October 16, 2010

Venezuelan actor brings "Carlos" movie to UK

Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez seems all set for international superstardom. After playing a CIA hitmen hunting down Matt Damon in "The Bourne Ultimatum" and Keira Knightley's love interest in "Domino", the versatile actor is back on cinema screens in the UK from October 22 as the notorious Venezuelan terrorist, womanizer, and OPEC hostage-taker Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, AKA Carlos The Jackal.

"Carlos The Jackal - The Man Who Hijacked the World" by French director Olivier Assayas, was originally screened as a three-part, 5-hour, made-for-TV biopic.

The stripped down cinema version focuses on the 1970s heyday of the infamous revolutionary - when for a brief period his daring exploits, playboy lifestyle and cool but ruthless execution of terror plots made him the poster boy of international terrorism and one of the most wanted men in the world.

Born in Caracas in 1949, Carlos was named Ilich by his staunchly marxist father, who named his two other sons Lenin and Vladimir after the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilich Lenin.

After being sent to Russia to study he was expelled from the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow after only a short period and travelled to Beirut to join the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and embark on a life of international terror.

He chose his code name "Carlos" himself but the nickname "The Jackal" was given to him later by the Guardian newspaper after Frederick Forsyth's novel "The Day of the Jackal" was found in a bag assumed to belong to him.

The French director says he knew Edgar Ramirez was perfect for the part the minute he met him.

"His father was a Venezuelan military attache, so he travelled a lot growing up", says Assayas, "if I hadn't met Edgar Ramirez and immediately realized he was perfect for this part, I wouldn't have made this film".

The film has won rave reviews from the critics, with Time Magazine saying "you won't find a more explosive and ambitious film this year" and the latest edition of Variety magazine listing Ramirez as one of its "10 Actors to Watch" off the back of it.

The film was well-recieved at the London Film Festival on 16 October, with an animated question and answer session with Ramirez in which he gave a very informed introduction to the life and crimes of the infamous, yet enigmatic Carlos, who started life as a pampered idealist but ended up an embarrasment and a liability for the Soviet bloc and Middle Eastern governments that had employed him as a terrorist for hire.

In the end, after 20 years as one of the most wanted men in the world, by the 1990s Carlos cut a pathetic figure as an unwanted revolutionary under the protection of the Sudanese government. In 1994 he was confined to a dingy flat in Khartoum and urgently needed an operation to a varicose vein on one of his testicles when Sudan decided to hand him over to France.

In 1997 a French court sentenced him to life in prison for the murder of two policemen and he is currently in solitary confinement in Clairvaux prison.

Edgar Ramirez, meanwhile, will soon be appearing as another Latin American anti-hero in the eagerly anticipated "Killing Pablo", in which he plays the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar.

"Carlos" opens in select cinemas across the UK on 22 October in both the 160-minute short version and the marathon 330-minute long version.

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