'Carlos' screens at Cannes Film Festival
Friday, 21 May 2010

Edgar Ramírez with unidentified guest arrives for the amfAR Cinema Against AIDS benefit at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, during the 63rd Cannes international film festival, in Cap d'Antibes, southern France Thursday, May 20, 2010.

Edgar Ramirez was born to play Carlos the Jackal.

The multilingual Venezuelan actor plays the infamous terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez - also a Venezuelan polyglot - in "Carlos," a marathon biopic by French director Olivier Assayas that screened out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

"How many Venezuelan actors have the last name Ramirez, speak all sorts of languages and are exactly the right age to play the role?" Assayas said in an interview with The Associated Press. "When I met him, I wasn't sure I'd do the movie and my meeting with Edgar was a determining factor for me."

The movie, more than five hours long, provides Ramirez - a rising star who began his career in a soap opera - ample opportunity to flex his muscles as an actor. Slipping seamlessly among five languages, he delivers a remarkably three-dimensional performance that captures the many facets of the flamboyant gun-for-hire.

The 32-year-old actor said he immersed himself in news stories about Carlos and brushed up on contemporary history in order to better understand the context of his actions, and also spoke with people who knew him, including some of his many lovers. Still, once the camera was rolling, Ramirez said he went with his instincts.

"I took all of those investigations and I poured them into the character in Olivier's script and then I ran with it," Ramirez told The AP. "I trusted that at some point the character was going to speak to me."

And how he speaks.

Ramirez's Carlos is an alarming hybrid of revolutionary guerrillero, brutal assassin, playboy, unscrupulous mercenary and charmer with an almost magnetic charisma.

We follow Carlos from the beginning of his career as a terrorist, when he worked for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, committing assassinations in Paris and London, to his infamous 1975 assault on Vienna's OPEC headquarters that made him a celebrity, through his capture in Sudan in 1994.

Ramirez - the son of a Venezuelan military attache who spent much of his childhood in various foreign countries - delivers dialogue in Spanish, French, English, Arabic and German. Ramirez himself speaks all of those languages - and also Italian - in real life, except Arabic, which he learned phonetically for the role.

The movie was shot over seven months in locations on three continents, and the 300-page script was so complicated that Assayas had to pitch the project as a TV series in three parts. The first part was shown on French television the same day it played at Cannes.

Assayas, who also co-wrote the script, said he tried to remain as faithful as possible to the facts of Carlos' life, but gray areas in the terrorist's biography obliged him to take some artistic license.

"In writing (the script) you adhere to the facts and the true elements but when you start to film, it becomes fiction," said the director, who has won considerable acclaim for his 2004 drama "Clean" and the recent "Les Heures d'ete."

Neither Assayas nor Ramirez was able to meet Carlos - who was tried for the killing of two French counterintelligence agents and is currently serving a life sentence in France.

"It was too complicated," Assayas said. Still, the director says he has a sneaking suspicion of what Carlos would think of his film.

"I think he would find it intolerable to watch," he said.





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