In A Hologram for the King, the latest from Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer, a troubled American businessman (Tom Hanks) finds himself in Saudi Arabia on a business trip that becomes something more akin to a vision quest. A big part of that transformation has to do with unexpectedly meeting a doctor named Zahra, played by Sarita Choudhury (The Hunger Games, Homeland). The film recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and will be going into a wide release; while she was in New York, Choudhury spoke to DuJour about filming the adaptation of a Dave Eggers book, working in Morocco and filming her favorite scene.
This film takes place in Saudi Arabia, but you filmed in Morocco. Did you enjoy working there?
I’ve never been happier! I’d never been to Morocco, and I feel like I look Moroccan, so I felt finally I could look at another face and feel calm. It was like family, and that was interesting to me because I had never felt that in my life. Even though I’m Indian, when I’m in India I don’t feel like I look Indian—I’m taller, my shoulders are broader—so when I was in Morocco, I was like ooh, they would look at me in that friendly way. There were always like people would just come up to me in the street and just put their arms around me.
Your character is a doctor who ends up in a complicated—and somewhat forbidden—relationship with a patient. Why did this part catch your interest?
I’ve always been interested in this kind of situation. Because I’m Indian—half-Indian, half-British—a sense of culture clash is a constant in my life, but the problem is that it is not often brought to screen. So when I read this script, I just thought finally.
And did the experience unfold the way you had hoped?
It was awesome. I mean, Tom Tykwer is highly intelligent and a storyteller, so being around him felt like I was at university And then there’s Tom Hanks, who is not only so personable, but is another true storyteller. It was a good feeling.
What’s your favorite memory from the making of the film?
There’s one scene in which I take Tom’s character swimming, and we actually shot part of that in waters that had never been touched off the coast of Egypt. The military wouldn’t let people enter this particular area, but they’d given us permission. In the book, it’s such an important moment, and I couldn’t believe I went from lying in my bed reading a book to that water; we were actually doing this scene, it just felt like the miracle of being an actor. That was like a dream come true.
What is it you most hope audiences take away from the film?
I’m the wrong person to ask! The problem is that when you’re in a movie, you’re just so shocked to see yourself, you don’t get used to it—for me, I miss a lot of the movie. I can’t be objective at all. I wish I could answer that question, but I think I need to see it like three more times.
l go from there.