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SHOCKWAVE: Shohreh Aghdashloo's devilish portrayal of Dina Araz in 24 Hits France



She was Interviewed by Télé Star's Frank Ragaine

Introduction & Translation by Darius KADIVAR



Loved or hated, Shohreh Aghdashloo seems to equally push the boundaries of provocation and glitter particularly for her bold film choices but also for being a staunch supporter of Iranian actors and artists of the Diaspora. She was to surprise and even divide Iranians with her frequent critical attacks on another exiled compatriot, the Iconic Diva Singer Googoosh, whose Star Status is hardly deniable but who she accuses of belittling the LA based Iranian Artist community. While the debate has mostly amused her fans or her detractors, it may be interesting to try and understand her approach as an actress whose Life and Art represent that of a new generation brutally confronted to the turmoil's of history and exile. 


Shohreh Aghdashloo, Oscars Ceremony Hollywood 2004
©Vadim Perelman picture



Aghdashloo's career resurrection is a miracle that could even inspire a script for a Hollywood movie. Born in Teheran in the 50's she was to achieve stardom in her native country before the revolution where she was considered as something of an Iranian Jody Foster if you will. She was noticed by photographers like Daryoush Radpour for her good looks and personality and was to work from an early start with such future greats as Abbas Kiarostami (Gozaresh) or Ali Hatami (Sooteh-Delan).  Like many other Iranian rising stars of the 70's some of whom she befriended and worked with like the confirmed Behrouz Vossouhgi, Aghdashloo's career  came to an abrupt halt with the 1979 revolution and the fall of the Shah's pro-western regime. Very much like during the French Terror under Robespierre, a cultural purge was unleashed against anything deemed as Taghouti aka Royalist. Night clubs and bars were shut down, beards became mandatory and many wearing ties or Eau de Cologne were often absurdly suspected as plotting against the new Islamic regime. American TV series were banned and the movie theaters were burned or shot down. Pop singers like Googoosh (who stopped singing for 20 years before being allowed by authorities to leave the country in 2000), Dariush, Aref, Vigen or Hayedeh to name a few were to stop performing and if lucky enough were to leave the country towards an uncertain future or second career in London, Paris or LA. Others lost themselves in political idealism during the revolution either to protect themselves or by militant conviction like singer Marzieh who joined the unpopular MKO (Peoples Mujaheddin Khalg) in Iraq to resist the Islamic Republic.



Behruz Vossoughi and Shohreh Aghdashloo
on the cover of Setaareh Cinema

(8 Mehr 1357 - 30 September, 1978)


In the midst of all this chaos, little place was left in Iran for an aspiring artists like Aghdashloo. After studying political science in London, in the early eighties she decided to migrate to the US appearing in plays written by herself or her husband actor Houshang Touzie. The latter  was noticed by Parviz Sayyad (Samad, Daiee Jan Napoleon) a popular actor/director before the revolution and who proposed him to play opposite him in Ferestadeh aka The Mission about an IRI agent set to assassinate a former SAVAK (The Shah's Secret Police) refugee in the US.  Shot in 1983 the film was a fairly critical success for revealing issues of moral ambiguity of a pious Muslim who is faced with the dilemma of how to serve Islam and yet be forced to assassinate a man he gets to know and appreciate. This courageous film was also distributed clandestinely under the veil in Iran on copied VHS tapes.


Aghdashloo and her husband have struggled hard to enhance the Iranian dramatic Arts in the US and particularly in California. She was also to host shows on Iranian TV stations in LA. She also participated in some of the most important films dealing with the Iranian Diaspora in the US such as Ramin Serry's Maryam or Babak Shokrian's America so Beautiful  which also were well received by both critics and viewers alike. However Shohreh Aghdashloo truly got noticed outside the Iranian community for an Oscar nomination in 2003 for the screen adaptation of Andre Dubus III best selling novel  The House of Sand and Fog. She plays the wife of a former general of the Iranian Imperial Army (Ben Kingsley) caught in a tragic and dark conflict with an emotionally unstable American woman (Jennifer Connelly).  Ever since she has succeeded in different roles in  Hollywood films with a taste for dark portraits or morally ambiguous roles like in the Horror film The Exorcism of Emily Rose or the upcoming Sci-Fi film X-Men 3. She has also narrated the Audio Version of Carmen Bin Laden's (half Iranian sister in law of the notorious hunted terrorist) auto biography Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia.


Fortunately in real life Aghdashloo also has a good sense of humor that drove her to do the voiceover's of the successful children cartoon Babak and friends: A first NowRuz with other Iranian stars like Parviz Sayyad and Catherine Bell.


Through an eclectic yet coherent filmography Shohreh Aghdashloo is certain to seduce film fans worldwide in a competitive profession where beautiful women are often typecast.


France is now discovering her as the infamous Terrorist Dian Araz opposite Kiefer Sutherland on French cable TV Canal Plus. Below is her interview with France's Top TV Magazine Télé Star (17 - 23 Dec 2005)  :



Shohreh Aghdashloo: "I Fled Iran and the Islamic Republic"


Shohreh Aghdashloo (53 years old) is one of Hollywood's most desired actors and one of the major heroes of the Thriller 24; A glory that does not make her forget her painful past ...


TELE STAR: Was playing a terrorist knowing that you are Iranian a problem?


Shohreh Aghdashloo: Yes of course it did. All the more that I did not wish to represent people from the Middle East as terrorists. It does not correspond to the reality. However once I agreed to do the role, I invested myself entirely.


TS: How?


SA: By watching several episodes of 24 (laughter). I have to admit I didn't know the series.  I wrote a small story and tried to imagine Dina's (her character) past, how she met her husband, their trips ...


TS: Yourself you fled Iran ...


SA: Yes, at the time of the Islamic republic. It was unsupportable, I could not accept a religious regime. I was a modern woman born in a family of intellectuals. It was out of the question to live suppressed. Back in 78, I took a car with two friends and we headed for Great Britain



TS: You were already an actress then?


SA: Yes and even considered a Star. But when I came to Europe, I abandoned my acting career and studied political science. I wanted to help my country to get out of the mess. I got a degree in international relations. I was about to work in a newspaper in England when a friend gave me a part in a play. We came to the US to present it and it was an immediate success. So I thought to myself that I could also be useful to my country by simply being an actress. I landed in Hollywood in 1987.


TS: Do you feel good here?


SA: Yes I do, and I live with my husband (Houshang Touzie) also an actor and our daughter Tara. I love making movies. I played in this Fall's box office hit The exorcism of Emily Rose and in X-Men 3. I also played in a movie which will be released next year with Keenu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.


TS: You still didn't say anything about Kiefer Sutherland ...


SA: He is an excellent actor and a gentleman, and Jack Bauer is an extraordinary hero. Since we know he will never die, everything is perfect!


Authors' notes: Aghdashloo is said to play in the screen adaptation of Azar Nafisi's Best selling book Reading Lolita in Tehran. No release date yet.




About the Author: Darius KADIVAR is a freelance Journalist born to an Iranian father and French mother. He works and lives in France.



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