Interview with ‘Escape Plan’ star Faran Tahir: ‘There was a boyish competition between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone’

Noel Phillips

escape plan poster header 300x173 Interview with Escape Plan star Faran Tahir: There was a boyish competition between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester StalloneThey may have not been active lately, but their star power still stands. If you thought the undisputed kings of the action genre Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone’s fighting days were numbered, then think again.

“There was a boyish competition between the two of them,” Faran Tahir says admiringly about the two former box office rivals. “There was no ill intent just a sense of competitiveness – which was really fun to watch.”

This is why he was particularly thrilled when he was asked to join the cast for Escape Plan, the prison break action thriller about a security expert who must find a way to escape from “high-security” federal prisons.

“One day I was leaving a shoot when I saw several messages on my phone saying, ‘They have put the cast together and want to start as soon as possible.’ I must admit, it was fun and challenging,” he says of his role.

Stallone is the true lead of the movie. He plays Ray Breslin, an expert on security prison protocols. His job is to break free from the toughest jails, testing the security for faults, while aided by his team on the outside: right-hand woman Abigail (Amy Ryan) and technical mastermind Hush (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson). He accepts one last job before retiring – which is to break out of the world’s most high-tech prison, but things go wrong, of course, and Breslin is betrayed and locked inside.

Schwarzenegger stars as Emil Rottmayer, an inmate who Breslin befriends in order to plot his escape. The movie promises plenty of action, and all the trappings of a satisfying fistfight between Rambo and the Terminator. All the same, it was the perfect platform for Tahir to flex his bulging muscles – he plays Javed, the leader of the prison’s Muslim population, who also shared plenty of on-screen time with both Stallone and Schwarzenegger.

“In this day and age of superheroes, flying men and spaceships – it is refreshing to go back to the very basics of filmmaking. I think that is the charm of this film – people will like it because it is something that hasn’t been around for a while,” says Tahir. His encounter with his co-stars was in the form of him channelling the persona of a tough-talking convict.

But beneath the layers of roughness, there was an elated sense of bloodthirsty rivalry between muscle-bound action heroes Stallone and Schwarzenegger.

“They were almost encouraging each other to do better, but at the same time I was extremely impressed with their performances.” Tahir also learned that despite their old age, they showed no signs of slowing down.

“There were times when we had to do some intense scenes, but there were never any complaints or stunt doubles. It was a pleasure watching the two men,” the actor deadpans. While he relished the collegial atmosphere, Tahir finds it unbearable to picture himself incarcerated, or even in the position of his character.

“I would like to stay away from all prisons. If I can help it I won’t be going near one – not even for a visit – or anything anytime soon,” he laughs.

The son of a well-known theatre family in Pakistan and India, Tahir’s parents are distinguished actor-writer-and-directors. A graduate of University of California, Berkeley, he has followed closely in their footsteps. He chooses his roles carefully as he talks about his desire to evolve. His journey, by contrast, somehow seems more undetectable—and all the more remarkable for the abrupt speed of his arrival.

“I need to make sure I show as much variety as I possibly can. There is a business side to this and when you do something really well, I think there will always be room for growth and that’s why I do film, theatre and television.”

We’re talking about what’s changed for him now. In 2008, he played terrorist leader Raza in Iron Man, Captain Robau in J. J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek movie, and most recently President Patel in Elysium alongside Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. “Those sorts of movies do have an effect on your career and your future. We did Elysium about two years ago and it finally came out this year.”

A working actor for two decades, Tahir is now finding himself picking up roles in major blockbusters. Though the rest of the cast is less A-list, most of them have a background performing in smaller productions. In terms of pairing, Escape Plan is an actual powerhouse. Stallone and Schwarzenegger are as gifted as they are famous.

But now that starring alongside two legendary screen heroes from the 80s and 90s has been crossed off his list, Tahir can now await for Hollywood to take notice. “When I did this movie I knew it would be on my bucket list. It will be one of those moments that I will remember very fondly.”

Escape Plan is out now.

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