Egyptian actress Muna Zaki appears to have the best shot at playing the role of Suad Hosni in a new TV series on the late star's turbulent life, according to local papers.
The press has even dubbed Zaki the new "Cinderella" - a name once reserved exclusively for Hosni.
"I don't know who gave me that name or why," Zaki told Al Ahram Weekly. "Soad Hosni was so talented - she was inimitable. There can never be anyone like her."
Still, being compared to the stellar Hosni must have its advantages, if only because it underlines the affection Zaki arouses in her audience. "That is perhaps the only merit of being an actress: to gain people's love," she added.
The 22-year-old actress was recently awarded the state's second-class order of merit in arts and sciences for her role in Ayam Al Sadat, a film documenting the life and rule of late president Anwar Al Sadat. Zaki played the role of Sadat's wife, Jehan, as a young woman who, flouting the rules of the social game, falls in love with and marries a penniless political activist, on the run from the police and not even a looker.
She insists on the marriage despite her family's initial opposition, and finds that love does conquer all, although their bliss is bogged down initially in financial difficulties and political fights.
Zaki played the role with such spontaneity that Mrs Sadat told the press that she had seen herself on the silver screen.
Many actresses auditioned for the role, but only Zaki satisfied the rigorous demands of producer and star Ahmed Zaki (Sadat) and director Mohamed Khan.
"I couldn't believe it when I heard I had got the part." Zaki told the daily, adding, "I was overjoyed - and terrified. I spent hours with Mrs Sadat, asking her about all the details of her life with the late president. I scrutinized her photos and wardrobe, and spent long nights reading books about Sadat. I was especially interested to know why she married him when he was not handsome and had no money or career at the time."
Zaki found the answer when she found herself next to Ahmed Zaki in front of the cameras. "He was great. He made me feel like a lady, and I had an enormous crush on him. Jehan had heard of Sadat before seeing him. He was the man of her dreams, and she saw the great man in him. There is more to a man than looks or money: it is the character that matters most. Unfortunately, most women in Egypt do not realize that when choosing a husband."
Zaki was obsessed by her role - and the obsession seems to have left its mark on her. She got engaged to another young actor, Ahmed Helmi, a few weeks after the release of the Sadat film. "Ahmed is not well-off and is still starting his career, but his character is great, and I couldn't ask for more," Zaki explained. "I would have chosen Ahmed anyway. He is so understanding and supportive."
Ayam Al Sadat marks a turning point in Zaki's career, too. She is the youngest actress ever to have received the state award, and starred in a film that documents an important, controversial chapter of Egyptian history while developing a crush – Albawaba.com
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