Exclusive interview: Egyptian actor Maged El-Kedwany says "Fortune always smiles at me"
Although he's one of Egypt's most well-known actors, Maged never planned on being an actor as a child. (Image: Rottentomatoes.com)
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Egyptian actor Maged El-Kedwany is one of those artists that everyone knows and loves. He has 30 films to his name, special appearances in television series and roles in the theatre.
Starring in Ahmed Abdalla's Décor – in cinemas now – and shooting the new film by Mohamed Khan, El-Kedwany's name is identified with several critically acclaimed works. As he constantly proves his talent, he often meanders within comedy, serious and commercial scores whose titles speak for themselves.
"My role in the movie Décor turned to be a bigger success than I expected," in his modest tone, El-Kedwany commented to a French-language publication Al-Ahram Hebdo.
"Faced with this kind of team, full of talent and harmony, working on a film soaked in great artistic taste, I let myself go, allowing my character's grief penetrate deep into my body. It was a very valuable artistic adventure."
Born in Cairo's district of Shubra, El-Kedwany was interested in arts since his school years. In the 1970s his parents left for Kuwait, where he obtained his Baccalaureate. Upon his return to Egypt, El-Kedwany enrolled at the faculty of fine arts, scenography department. This is when, for the first time, he began feeling passion for theatre.
"I must admit that as a child I did not think of becoming an actor," El-Kedwany confesses with a big smile.
“At the time, all I aimed for was to study scenography, an art field that was particularly attractive to me. But when, with my friends, I began going to theatre more, I fell in love with it."
Together with his colleagues, El-Kedwany worked on scenography for several plays staged at the university. This experience allowed him to indulge unconditionally into this fascinating world, as he kept spending most of his time behind the scenes.
"In 1990, I met Samira Mohsen and Ashraf Zaki, who at the time were teaching at the High Institute of Theatrical Arts in Cairo. It was Ashraf Zaki who encouraged me to pursue academic studies at the Institute, a school which gave me an opportunity to get closer to Egyptian and international literature and in particular theatre plays, even if I studied them from an angle of scenography. It is then that I realised that becoming an actor was more than just a dream; it became a passion," El-Kedwany comments.
Since his first year at the Theatre Institute, El-Kedwany's name began surfacing across the artistic field. It became even more apparent when his teacher, actor and director, Karam Motawea gave El-Kedwany a role in a play titled 727 starring Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz and later on cast him in Shabboura (Fog) and Ballo.
"I will never forget the sincere support that actor Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz offered to me and other young actors. I really enjoyed this experience, and it helped me a lot whenever I stepped on the stage again."
At this point El-Kedwany decided to take acting as his profession. While he continued to play supporting roles, he was also involved in several scenography projects.
At the time however, El-Kedwany played mainly in theatre until director Ismail Abdel-Hafez chose the young actor for a role in the television series Arabesque. Alongside his appearances on television, El-Kedwany launched his film career.
The year 1996 saw the release of the resonant Afareet El-Asphalt (Asphalt Ghosts).
"Fortune always smiles at me," El-Kedwany comments.
"I remember when Oussama Fawzi was preparing his film Afareet El-Asphalt and searching for a young man that would play role of a mentally handicapped. He chose me from several candidates and after many tests. He gave me a chance to break into the world of cinema which from this point took my complete attention."
The first noteworthy major appearances of the young actor were 2002 comedies: Harameya fi KG2 (Thieves in KG2) directed by Sandra Nashaat, starring Karim Abdel-Aziz and Hanan Turk, as well as in El-Ragol El-Abiad El-Motawasset (The Mediterranean Man) directed by Sherif Mandour where El-Kedwany acts alongside the well established names such as Ahmed Adam, Ezzat Abou Aouf and Somaya El Khashab. This was soon followed by El-Kedwany's role in Nashaat's Harameya fi Tayland (Thieves in Thailand, 2003).
It was in 2005 that El-Kedwany landed his first main role, in Gayy fel Sareea (Right Away) where he starred alongside the young actress Riham Abdel-Ghafour. This time however, El-Kedwany was not as lucky and the film failed to create an impact.
The following year, El-Kedwany appears in yet another film, an action thriller, directed by Nashaat, El-Rahina (The Hostage) where he plays a young Egyptian expatriate in Ukraine. The character pretends to suffer kidney failure, to gain bread and sympathy.
"This was a completely different role and a new challenge. The scenario was very well crafted and filled with protagonists. I had 14 scenes in which I had to attract the viewers' attention."
El-Kedwany's resurgence came in the 2008 film Cabaret, directed by Sameh Abdel-Aziz, where he takes a tragic role of Khamis Hamed.
"With Cabaret I felt I was re-starting my acting career. As if the beast of a tragic actor that was dormant within me for many years finally had a chance to roar and express itself."
Though focusing mainly on comedy, El-Kedwany manages to surprise the audience with many nuances in his performance.
The funny thief in El-Eyal Herbet (The Young Have Escaped), the ridiculous psychiatrist in Had Samea Haga? (Anyone Heard Anything?) or the kind burglar in Maqlab Haramiya (The Thieves' Trick), serve as examples of El-Kedwany's versatility as a comedian.
It is in the early 2010s that El-Kedwany probes more serious and darker characters. Still in 2009, his face is on the poster of Mahmoud Kamel's drama Ezbet Adam (Adam's Farm), where he takes role of a villain.
And it is with the La Tarago Wa La Esteslam (No Return or Submission, 2010) that his image as a comedy actor is complemented with the discovery of many other qualities, even if in 2012 he returns as a comic in spirit yet resentful police officer in the drama Saa'a wi Nos (An Hour and a Half).
He gives a serious and very humane image to the role of an investigator who looks into cases of sexual abuse, in film 678 (2010) or a host of talk shows tackling AIDS issues in 2011 drama, Asmaa, starring Hend Sabri.
Finally we find him in Abdalla's Decor, where El-Kedwany becomes a man hurt by his wife's illness.
As he expands his artistic repertoire, El-Kedwany begins to give voice to several characters, in several animated series that run on television such as Halawet Shamsena (Our Beautiful Sun). He also appears in several TV commercials.
Successful on the screen, El-Kedwany keeps his family out of the limelight.
"Since the beginning of my career, I decided to have a calm and peaceful life with my family. My wife and two children prefer it this way as well. They do not want to become famous while I do not want them to become [media] targets just because their father is an actor. My family is my refuge which I will always try to protect."
With Décor still in cinemas, El-Kedwany has already finished working on a new film Qabl Zahmat El-Seif (Before the Summer's Crowd) directed by Mohamed Khan with scenario by Ghada Shahbender.