Shaun Toub (Crash) brings the pivotal role of Rahim Khan to life in the big screen adaptation of The Kite Runner directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland). Based on the bestselling novel by Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner is set in Afghanistan and tells the story of childhood friends, Amir and Hassan. When their friendship is put to the test, Amir betrays Hassan which causes a rift in their relationship that will take 20 years to mend.
Interview with Shaun Toub
Did you feel any added pressure being a part of a film based on such a popular book?
“We felt the pressure. We all did because we were making something that is so loved. Actually, we talked about it when we were in China shooting it. We were like, ‘We’d better get this right because a lot of people are going to be upset if we don’t.’ And you’ve seen it happen when the people love the book and then it comes out and they go, ‘Aagh!’ This was one of the rare cases that the author of the book loves the movie.”
Was Khaled Hosseini on the set during filming?
“He came actually to visit once, to China. He came and visited and he was beside himself – and he really does love the movie.”
Were you able to pick his brain about your character?
“I was already in it; I was deep in it. I think, you know, this was truly Marc Forster’s vision and I wanted to follow the director’s vision. There’s a lot of times where you have your own thing and you bring a lot more into the character, but this was one of the cases where I felt like he had such a vision. This was his dream and I had to trust it.”
Was the process collaborative? Did Marc Forster allow you freedom with the character?
“Absolutely. I need to have that. He is very much collaborative and I am open to it. I have no ego about it. I think it’s idiotic not to want to get as much information as possible, so I’m always trying to pick my directors’ brains and see where they think this guy’s supposed to be and where he’s supposed to go and where is he coming from, and what they are thinking. Sometimes they have a whole vision of what the finished product is, so not always do you know by just reading the script what he’s thinking. And if there’s something that I feel strongly about, I have no problem saying it. I’m always open to discussing it.
Marc is a great director and I have full trust in him that he knows what he’s going to do. And I tell you, when I saw the film, it was magical. I mean, my character was an interesting character for me to do because naturally I’m very hyper and energetic. A lot of the roles I do there’s a lot of intensity in there and Rahim Khan is such calm, stable man. He’s very angelic. He’s a calm force in this family.”
Rahim Khan’s really the heart of the film.
“Absolutely, he’s the heart and soul of the movie. And for me, the difficulty was to find that energy and keep it in check, to make sure it doesn’t rise because he’s always tranquil. He’s very quiet, he’s very calm. He’s an amazing mentor to have in a child’s life. He’s the one who finally, as his last good deed of life, he offers Amir the redemption, to make him okay for life.”
It’s difficult for the audience to forgive Amir for what he does to his best friend as a child.
“Yeah, that’s what it is about, that character. People after that don’t forgive him. I offer him the only hope for some humanity and some redemption, so the character doesn’t come across as a complete a-hole.
Even after he tries to redeem himself, some people still don’t like him. That is what great writing does, that is what a great movie does. It’s okay to not like him. Someone said…an Afghani actually watched the film and someone told him, ‘You know, it’s too hard, the thing with the Taliban and the kid and the rape scene and all this and that.’ And he just said, ‘That’s life.’ That is what happens. That is life. You can’t sugarcoat it. You present it as good and bad in every culture. This is not only an Afghan story, it’s a story that happened in Afghanistan. But the reason people are so in love with this the book and the movie and responding so well is because anyone from any culture can really understand it.”
This story could have taken place somewhere besides Afghanistan.
“Everyone can relate to it. It could be set anywhere. And we have it going on here. You don’t think this goes on here? There is goodness and ugliness everywhere. And that’s just who we are as humans. Sometimes we don’t want to believe it or look at it, but that’s just life.
It’s a human story it’s universal. That’s why you go in the audience and it’s amazing that you see people from every culture, and they react the same way. We have shown it to an Italian audience, got the same reaction. We’ve shown it to Americans, we’ve shown it to whites, blacks, Hispanics, Middle Easterners - it gets the same reaction.”
How difficult was working in China?
“It was a rough shoot. Where we were in China wasn’t easy. We were in a very remote area of China, not Beijing or Shanghai. It’s still difficult there, but just imagine we were seven hours away by flight from Beijing. We were four hours away by driving from the Afghani border. We were south of Mongolia.”
Wasn’t that scary due to how unstable the region is?
“Yeah, it’s interesting that things have changed so much, too, because when you started filming The Kite Runner, when the casting process started, Afghanistan was doing so much better. Things were looking up. At one point even we considered shooting there, but the Afghanistan of 30 years ago doesn’t exist anymore because of war. That’s the sad reality of war, that that Afghanistan is gone. It’s destroyed so they couldn’t even find Afghanistan of 30 years ago in Afghanistan. That’s why they went looking elsewhere.”