by Said Faraj
Hello Global Grinders!
I have worked in this business for more than 20 years, but landing a role in Green Zone was an opportunity of a lifetime. Working with Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass was an honor, as well as a quick lesson in overcoming my fears and getting the job done!
We filmed in Morocco and London for four and half months, and it was there that I witnessed Matt Damon transform into a hard-hitting U.S. army officer. The ease in which he was able to get into character was amazing – but also convincing – which helped me to become the Iraqi officer that I was portraying.
My first scene with Matt is one I will never forget. The director yells, “ACTION” and suddenly I’m face-to-face with Matt, ready to say my lines and then….nothing. My heart is racing and mind is saying, “It’s Matt Damon! It’s Matt Damon!” I finally snap back to reality and realize Matt is repeating his line for me to jump back into the scene. My lines come back, and we’re off and running.
To this day, I still cannot believe I shared the screen with such an intelligent, kind-hearted, sincere actor. What a rewarding experience! On the other hand, Paul Greengrass took a more direct approach of getting what he needed out of us for a scene; he’d pull each of us to the side and tell us what he wanted us to do. For one scene, Paul instructed me to interrupt Matt in the middle of his line to make the dialogue more powerful, intense. Clearly, I thought this was a bad idea, especially since we’d just started shooting and did not want Matt to hate me for the duration of our time on set. Paul reassured me it would be fine, so I went ahead. After the scene was done, I asked Matt if my “interruption” was “ok” and he said that it was “GREAT!” Pheww….
During the making of Green Zone, I dislocated my shoulder, bruised my neck, chest and ankle, and lost my voice, but not once did I complain because I love being an actor. Working with Matt and Paul was indeed a highlight of my career. Every night, I would return to the hotel and say, “I have been blessed. Thank you, God!”
Sadly, when I returned home, a catastrophic illness struck my 9-year-old son Abraham in the form of an aggressive, stage four cancer – neuroblastoma. Once on cloud nine, I was now at the lowest point of my life. After traditional treatments failed for what was considered a terminal diagnosis, Abraham’s life was fading, but my family refused to give up hope. He was my life and losing him was not an option.
Eventually, what saved Abraham’s life was experimental treatment made possible by President Obama’s executive order regarding stem cell research. Led by Dr. Rima Jubran, M.D. at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, my son endured a series of experimental procedures for more than a year. By the grace of God and my family’s strong faith, Abraham celebrated his 10th birthday last month and was proclaimed cancer-free by his medical team!
In sharing both my professional and personal experiences, I hope this