Actor Tamer Hassan has worked with his share of the industry’s big hitters and the star of ‘The Business’ and ‘The Football Factory’ is embarking on a 90s-set movie project based on Ibiza’s rave culture with Danny Dyer, someone he knows better than anyone, or so he thought.
South East Londoner Tamer has had parts in the likes of crime thriller ‘Layer Cake’ alongside Daniel Craig and he is in the midst of filming the sci-fi film ‘Our Robot Overlords’ with British acting great Sir Ben Kingsley. In amongst his current schedule is a project that has given him the chance to delve into an era that Balearic revellers of yesteryear, and perhaps the present day too, will instantly connect with. Working alongside his long-time friend and co-star of ‘Dead Man Running’ as well as the Nick Love films ‘The Football Factory’ and ‘The Business’, Danny Dyer, Tamer speaks of the major role he has in the upcoming picture that centres upon the euphoria that ignited such venues as the world-renowned club Space.
“We’re working on a really music-based film on Ibiza in the 90s and it’s driven by the anthems, the clubs and the DJs of that time. I write, direct and produce it and it’s my directorial debut too.’’
It is not the first time Tamer has headed for alluring surroundings to help put together a film backed by a distinctive soundtrack. 2005’s ‘The Business’ was described by director Nick Love as a ‘fairy tale’, but this time Snow White was traded in for Tamer as ‘The Playboy’ at the head of a British firm of expatriates on the run in 1980s Spain, with a nightclub, girls, guns, drugs and cash for company. On his way up in the film is ‘Kid Frankie’ (Danny Dyer), a young Londoner who goes from delivering a bag to Tamer’s character and driving him around, to the top of the business.
So many people still watch, quote and love the film today and as well as the dialogue and meticulous prop and costume detail, the music, which includes Duran Duran, Rick James and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, has Nick Love written all over it. Love, director of the cinema adaptation of ‘The Sweeney’, is not involved in Tamer’s Ibiza project but with Danny Dyer along for the ride it is likely to draw intrigue from fans of the two’s past collaborations. Tamer has been best friends with Dyer for many years now but music conjured up a moment recently that suggests he may have one or two more hidden secrets!
“It’s funny, just the other day I was with Danny in the car and I put the video of it on Keek. He’s always been into the Kasabian / rock-type music and we love Amy Winehouse as well but there was something he put on the other day.
“I’m sat there thinking ‘this ain’t a bit of me’ and then all of a sudden he drops some 2Pac. I looked at him like ‘what you doing?’.
“It was the most bizarre thing, all the years I’ve known him he’s never been into that kind of music and then he pulls 2Pac from nowhere.’’
Rated to this day as one of the best poets in hip-hop to pick up a microphone, 2Pac would have celebrated his 42nd birthday last weekend. Almost seventeen years after his death, the ‘All Eyez On Me’ artist still influences those inside and outside of music and Tamer names him amongst his favourites too.
“Well being my age I like anything soul, as well as r&b, rare groove. Pharrell, Kanye West, John Legend, I’m a big fan of those and growing up I was big into 2Pac, Snoop (Dogg), Biggie (The Notorious B.I.G.).
“There’s not really anyone I dislike and with me being an entertainer I think you have to respect anyone who’s putting themselves out there.”
When we went back to the first record Tamer ever bought he recalled one originally released in 1979 before enjoying a renaissance in the early 90s with some help from DJ Pete Tong, himself synonymous with the aforementioned Ibiza scene.
“I think the first one I bought was ‘Dancing In Outer Space’ (Atmosfear) and it was on white label.”
Tamer has had a varied background in many respects, taking on the running of a boxing club (also going undefeated as an amateur fighter), nightclubs and restaurants, as well as non-league football team Greenwich Borough, where he was player, coach and owner. His acting career has included stints on EastEnders and The Bill, as well as the movies ‘Kick-Ass’ with Nicholas Cage and ‘Clash of the Titans’ with Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, and the social opportunities have crossed over into music too. There is however one entertainer Tamer has always marvelled at who he had the chance to meet and he recalls the experience when discussing his favourite ever gigs.
“I know Kano, Dizzee Rascal, I love Kasabian, those boys are great and I know Tom (Meighan) and Serge (Pizzorno) well. Through acting you get in contact with a lot of musicians.
“Best gigs, there’s been a few – Simple Minds, Talking Heads, U2, back to ones like Shalamar and Soul II Soul. The best festival I’ve been to I’ve got to say is V.
“My all-time favourite gig though was Michael Jackson at Wembley. I got to go backstage and shake the man’s hand and from where I was in the crowd I saw first-hand how incredible a performer he was.”
In the past decade, Tamer has had a stream of career ventures on the go but it would not be inaccurate to say that 2004’s ‘The Football Factory’ helped him break through. On the DVD extras there is a documentary on the set of the film with director Nick Love and the cast and crew and Tamer comes up with his own tagline for the picture, illustrating his relatively rookie status at that time by saying: “Starring Tamer Hassan like you’ve never seen him before, because…you’ve never seen him before!”
In the film, Tamer plays Fred, the top boy in the Millwall firm who come up against the Chelsea hooligans containing lead character Danny Dyer as Tommy Johnson and the immediately recognisable Frank Harper’s Billy Bright. There are a number of interlinking plots that precede the climactic fight scene and this includes Tamer’s character looking for Tommy Johnson in revenge for Johnson’s cousin Rod (Neil Maskell) attacking his brother with a cricket bat.
‘The Football Factory’ has its share of violent moments and the theme does not win favour with everyone for obvious reasons but if you have the type of humour required for Nick Love’s films it appeals. Tamer picks out his favourite moments from being on set and tells the story of how he helped Danny Dyer prepare for their scene together.
“In ‘The Football Factory’ my character was very prominent but was probably in only eight or nine scenes in the whole film, but yet was so menacing. There’s two scenes that stick out for me and one was under the bridge with the two firms.
“Danny’s character’s getting a kicking and there was a polystyrene brick used, but the scene got shot four or five times so it wasn’t easy for him! He just took it in his stride and got on with it though and that’s what he does.
“There’s a scene where we’re looking for Tommy Johnson (Dyer’s character) in the pub and we walk in the toilets and he’s there. We ask if he’s seen this Tommy Johnson and when we ask his name he says ‘Dorian’, so I end up letting him go.
“Before we shot that scene we were running through what we were going to do and Danny said to me ‘are you gonna hit me in this?’. I said ‘I might do’, and I just walked away.
“If you watch that scene you can see in his eyes he doesn’t know whether I’m going to or not! So when my character lets him go and tells him ‘you’ve had a touch’, there’s a little bit of real-life truth in that.”
A year after ‘The Football Factory’ came another link-up between Tamer, Nick Love and Danny Dyer. In ‘The Business’ there is Cockney rhyming slang, a corrupt mayor, Colombians and Carrera sunglasses, all with the backdrop of the ‘Costa del Crime’ in Spain. Tamer portrays Charlie, the South Londoner living the fantasy of the playboy on sun-soaked beaches.
There is the ascent of the organisation the main characters are involved in before the subsequent fall from grace. Nick Love always says how Tamer loved playing the rise of his character but it is one of the moments in the film when things have badly declined that sticks in his memory. Tamer and Danny Dyer’s character are lay awake on sofas at an associate’s (Eddie Webber) house after being denied access to their lavish properties by the Mayor once he discovers they have been importing cocaine. Tamer reflects on how the sentiment of the circumstances at this point resonated with him enough to evoke some heartfelt emotion.
“The scene where we’re on the settee and we’ve lost everything. I think in life you have these high points and you have these low points where you’ve overstepped the mark and every man can relate to that.
“I was so engrossed in it and the part where I cry is real because of that.”
There is also one more scene he picks out as being particularly noteworthy and he gives his take on what it was like filming the picture, especially with Nick Love being irritated by one or two things in the searing heat.
“Probably the best scene for me is towards the end after everything’s gone and Charlie and Frankie are back in the nightclub for what’s supposed to be a reunion party. I ask him how I look and he says ‘reem Charl, you look reem’.
“People seemed to love the ‘Making Of’ insight on the DVD as much as the film. It’s hard work but there’s definitely a fun side to it all and I think you see that in the feature.
“Being on a set with Nick, it’s not like any other. I don’t think it’s as bad now but on ‘The Business’ his OCD was insane.
“He had a thing about people eating crunchy sweets and he hated it. He’d walk around with a fly swat all the time as well.
“He’s an incredible director to work with though and his pain threshold considering some of the stuff me and Danny have done to him is something else! Three months in Marbella with the sun, Porsches, Mercs, the girls, the clubs – it doesn’t get much better.’’
As ‘The Business’ ranks as one of my all-time favourites it just wouldn’t have been right to speak to Tamer without mentioning his character’s opening scene. With Danny Dyer on the premises to deliver his bag, Tamer can be seen at the far end of the bar moving to the rhythm of ‘All Night Long’ by Mary Jane Girls. However, he has female company ‘concealed’ while he is dancing!
“I don’t think you can get much of a better entrance than that! Danny’s character walking in looking at this geezer behind the bar with slicked-back hair and I’ve got to do this pretend dance with the woman hidden away.
“I think it was more fun for her than me!”
Besides music there is a very strong football theme to the interviews on this site and Tamer has played in many celebrity charity games, as well as the ties with Greenwich Borough mentioned earlier, his friendships in the game with Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole and others, and his love for Millwall. Last season, Millwall reached the FA Cup semi-final and ultimately survived relegation from the Championship by two points in an extraordinary year for high point tallies of struggling teams in the league.
“I’m happy for us to be where we’re at, I’ve only seen us in the Premier League once (from 1988 to 1990) and back then it was the First Division. I try to get down to The Den when I can, I was at Wembley and it was lovely to see us there, I had a Q&A in the programme as well which was a great honour.
“At one point we were flying last season and had a chance of getting promoted. I flew out to LA and when I came back we were in with a chance of going down!”
There is no denying the level of esteemed company Tamer has been in on his films in recent years and he has recently been in Belfast working on ‘Our Robot Overlords’ with Sir Ben Kingsley, the Oscar, BAFTA and two-time Golden Globe winner. The movie is set for release in 2014 and also stars The X-Files’ Gillian Anderson with robots from another galaxy taking over Earth. Tamer, who worked on 2011’s ‘The Double’ with Richard Gere and Martin Sheen, as well as Morgan Freeman on ‘Unleashed’ in 2005, explains how he fits into this film and his feelings on those he is alongside.
“It’s been phenomenal and it’s great for me to do a different genre as well. It’s a kids’ hero film and I play the good guy.
“I’m toe-to-toe with Sir Ben Kingsley in this one and that’s a great honour, I loved getting the chance to work with Bob Hoskins (‘Unleashed’) and I feel the same about working with Sir Ben. I think our scene’s in a week or two and I’ve been very fortunate with the actors I’ve worked alongside in the past.
“Working with Jon (Wright) the director’s been great in this and Gillian Anderson too.”
The endeavours never stop for Tamer and he splits time between working away and being at home in Los Angeles. What he always brings to a role is the reality that comes from his own life experiences as opposed to being classically trained. I wanted to place him in a dream scenario in which he could select any individuals living or dead to play his arch nemesis, his love interest and his right-hand man. Tamer awards the first of these roles to an Oscar-nominated English actor who passed away in January 2011 at the age of 64 after winning widespread acclaim from so many across his profession.
“My nemesis would be Pete Postlethwaite because he was brilliant. So quiet but so menacing and there’s a scene in ‘The Town’ when he’s picking thorns off a rose telling people (Ben Affleck) what he’s going to do to them.
“Love interest – Marilyn Monroe. It speaks for itself, one of the all-time most beautiful women…or maybe Sophia Loren.
“My right-hand man – Robert De Niro.”
He has his elite choice of cast taken care of so now there just remains for Tamer to take on the regular site question to conclude the interview. In most cases this works by asking the footballer interviewed on here to choose a 5-a-side team (including themselves) of their best career teammates. With Tamer though I adapted it, so here is his line-up of four people from his industry who he would select in a team of five players alongside him.
“Well the thing about actors is most of them aren’t that good at football! Can it be TV personalities as well?
“I’ll go with Jeff Brazier at centre-half. Midfield, I’ll say Ralf Little.
“I’ve got to go with Danny (Dyer) up front, he’ll cry his eyes out otherwise. Just need a keeper…Michael Madsen, 6 foot 6!”