Edgar Ramirez an ideal choice as Carlos the Jackal
Jenny Barchfield • The Associated Press • May 24, 2010
CANNES, France — 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
"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. 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 the infamous
1975 assault on Vienna's OPEC headquarters that
made him a celebrity, through his capture in Sudan
Ramirez — the son of a Venezuelan military attaché
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 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 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."
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