Interview with Rez Kempton and Martin Delaney: The dynamic duo on James Gandolfini and new film Amar, Akbar & Tony
In Amar, Akbar & Tony, the soon to be released coming-of-age comedy by Atul Malhotra, Rez Kempton and Martin Delaney both play estranged brothers from different cultural backgrounds, whose characters detail the struggles of life in multicultural London. Both have raised their profiles on the big and small screens — Martin recently starred in the Oscar nominated Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s thriller about the CIA’s hunt for Osama Bin Laden, while Rez has appeared in countless dramas including Spooks and Bart Layton’s Banged up Abroad. After wrapping up filming earlier this month, I found the two leading men decompressing over at the Bafta headquarters in Piccadilly, London.
Do you remember your first day on Amar, Akbar & Tony?
Martin: I remember having to do several scenes where I had to smoke a joint. Not a real one, of course, but I just remember feeling slightly ill and turning green every time I had to take a drag.
Rez: When we saw those takes back, they looked amazing [laughs]. Looking back it was about very quickly getting into the rhythm and find your feet. My first scene was on the Southbank with Amrita Acharia – who was just great.
When you first read the scripts what were you looking for?
Martin: Essentially, you want to like the piece before you even like your character. I really believed in the script. I thought it was an interesting slice of West London culture. To me, it really felt similar to the life I had experienced in my early 20s and late teens. I just knew my character Tony was going to be a lot of fun to play.
Rez: You can have those movies with big Hollywood special effects which are great spectacles, but the films that really standout and stand the test of time are the ones with good characters that people really care about.
Playing a character seems to be a bit like an illusion, but is it best to know less to avoid disrupting this illusion?
Rez: It depends a lot on the role you’re doing, but there was an instance where I played someone who actually existed and to make it as credible I went and spent the whole day with that person. It was for an episode of Banged Up Aboard, which is based on true stories and for that reason, I had to do a lot of research. In this movie, I play a Sikh, and because I’m not a Sikh, I had to go and study the religion. It was important to do that kind of research in order to understand and bring my character to life.
Martin: As a child, I could watch a movie that was 30 years older than me, and watching it now, it would still have an effect on me. That is what you call an illusion and manipulation of one’s feelings.
How far would you go to prepare for a role? Would you mind adding a few pounds or having a few teeth pulled out?
Martin: Well, Rez lost a lot of weight for this role [laughs]. He was on set everyday eating tuna and salads.
Rez: After having a chat with the director, I was told that certain things will happen to my character, which meant I had to lose weight. It is a job at the end of the day.
Tell us more about the bond between the two of you. You really seem to genuinely enjoy spending time with each other off screen.
Rez: When we were in the casting session for the selection process, I remember saying to the casting director, “I hope Martin comes on board because I think we would get on great.” So obviously, when he was confirmed I was really happy. All three of us get on really well and I think that’s credit due to the casting crew, the director and producers.
Martin, you recently starred in Zero Dark Thirty alongside the late James Gandolfini. What memories do you have of working with him?
We didn’t share any scenes, but we were at work at the same time, and I remember being on set with him. I can remember the wardrobe girl describing how broad his chest was and how she had to find this huge suit for him. From what I saw, he was this amazing presence, a real gentle giant and a charming person. There was a moment on set when he was shooting some of the CIA scenes, and Kathryn Bigelow was looking at the monitors checking the shots. She’s one of those directors who allow you to do your stuff until there is a problem, but in between one of his takes, James came around the corner asking, “Was that okay?” Kathryn replied telling him, “It was fine”. I wouldn’t want to call it insecurity – but it’s a question that any actor as good as him would ask. He was a top guy, a sweet man, and a real gentleman.
What have you learnt from working with someone who’s really good?
Martin: The people whom I have worked with tend to get left alone to create their own art – art is something that should not be restricted. I worked with Clint Eastwood years ago, and one of the reasons why he is a very chilled out director is because he was left alone for a lot of his career. Clint Eastwood just does his own thing which we all know and love. I remember someone asking him, “Why are you like this?”, and him saying, “I just do the casting because I trust the people who I have working with me.” That is a blessing for any actor who has worked with him because you get the feeling that he really believes in you.
So, Rez, your character Amar in this film is a lawyer whose life spirals out of control. Was the role or character at all testing for you?
It might sound strange, but I like it when things are difficult as it keeps me on my toes. For that reason, I had to be at work each morning with the determination to deliver.
Beyond the comedy, are there any lessons to be learned?
Martin: People can take away anything they want. I think some of the most interesting bodies of work are the ones that polarises an audience and causes a debate.
Rez: There could be a moment where you wept or laughed, but as long as you are able to take something away that is all that matters.
The film has such a great ensemble cast. Meera Syal, who has a cameo role, is listed as one of the 50 funniest comedians in British comedy. What is she like to work with?
Martin: She is amazing. I did some scenes with her and she came to the table with some great ideas. I can’t stand actors who come along and gets shut down because they can’t do anything else. Meera and I worked on some great things and the stuff she was doing were just incredibly funny [laughs].
How did you find Ace Bhatti? We all know his character on EastEnders had a tendency to set fire to B&Bs.
Rez: He was actually on his best behaviour and hopefully he will set our screens alight. All I will say is that you will not expect him to be in the role that he plays in this film. I am really pleased that he came along to help us out, but you are in for a surprise when you see him.
For more information about Amar, Akbar & Tony visit www.amarakbarandtony.comTagged in: Akbar & Tony, Amar, James Gandolfini, Martin Delaney, Rez Kempton, Zero Dark Thirty
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