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28 May 2010

Dominic Cooper on 'difficult' role of Saddam's son.

Dominic Cooper on 'difficult' role of Saddam's son

Dominic Cooper plays both Uday Hussein and his body double
Actor Dominic Cooper has spoken of the challenge of playing Saddam Hussein's son in Iraq thriller The Devil's Double.
The Mama Mia star has a dual role in the film, playing both Uday Hussein and Latif Yahia - a man who was forced to be his body double.
The film, directed by Lee Tamahori, finished shooting in Malta last month.
"It's quite a horrible part," admitted Cooper, who was speaking at this week's National Movie Awards.
"It was a difficult challenge, trying to understand who this guy was and why he did such unbelievably terrible things, and then to play this innocent guy who he forced at gunpoint to be his body double."
The film is based on Latif Yahia's biographical novel of the same name. Yahia was made to undergo plastic surgery to his teeth and chin to make him look more like Uday.
When the Gulf War started in 1991, he was sent out to the front line in order to give the impression that Uday was with the troops.
Cooper said of his role: "I do have to wear some prosthetics to change my face."
The film also stars French actress Ludivine Sagnier as Sarrab, Uday's concubine.
Tamahori's past projects include his Maori story Once Were Warriors (1994) and James Bond film Die Another Day (2002).

Latif Yahia interviewed by Stephen Sackur BBC HARDtalk THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE part 1

27 May 2010

Ireland; financial meltdown.

By; Latif Yahia

As my adopted homeland (that would be Ireland, and I have adopted it, it as yet has to adopt me) braces itself against the latest round of closures and redundancies, I’m taking a minute or two to look back at the good times and remind everyone that I was the harbinger of doom. Yes, it’s true that I did not say this publicly, but I did say it to several of my friends who in 2006-2007 looked at me and said “Yeah, right!”

Back then I knew Ireland would go into meltdown and said so, I think it was a heady mix of finding out that our properties were now like our personal banks and the banks treating us like we had our own personal banks that lulled us into a false sense of ‘Bill Gates-ness’, well that and the fact that we were all enjoying it so much and were encouraged to.

The Celtic tiger was roaring and we roared along with him in our BMWs, three holidays a year, new extension on the house and maybe even a bit of cosmetic surgery, because if your going to have a Bill Gates lifestyle, well, you have to look the part don’t you? We didn’t quite manage the private jet, but if we had been given just another year we might have worked our way to a two-seater helicopter to park on the front lawn.

So, with so much happiness and dreams being fulfilled why was I the harbinger of doom? Well, I have been around a while, I have seen life from the streets (I was homeless on the streets of Dublin for 21 days in 2000) to the dizzying heights of the super-rich, I have what you might call ‘A bigger picture viewer’.

Ireland’s boom was built on construction and foreign investment but we failed to keep ourselves competitive in the labour market and lost sight of our historical and cultural strengths. The hospitality industry was all but handed over to the immigrant population, I have no problems with immigrants I, as you all know am an Immigrant to Ireland. Suddenly, the Irish decided that there were certain sectors that they were too ‘posh?’ to work in, farming was another area that took a blow, imported meat was of course cheaper and had that all alluring ‘Imported’ tag. Let me tell you, I have eaten meat all over the world and I have never tasted beef and lamb as good as the Irish produce. So why, oh why, just because ye all got a few euros in your pockets did you give up on what was already the best the world had to offer in favour of something inferior to your own product because it had an ‘imported’ = ‘exotic therefore better’ sticker on it?

Latif Yahia and EX Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern

Our house if famous among family and friends for our ‘roast beef dinner’ and I am proud to say that our loved ones travel on average for two hours just to sit down with us and a big piece of homegrown beef, I don’t think that a piece flown in from 2,000 miles away would have the same flavour somehow do you?

I rest my case.

Buy Irish, it tastes better, it’s better for your country and community and soon enough the ash cloud will make sure it’s the only produce you can afford, or get for that matter.

But what really killed the Irish Economy? America.

No really, it did.

Sometime in the height of our happiness, a certain Minister (you know who you are) decided that it would be a “f**king terrific idea” to take all the extra cash that we had and invest it in America. Ireland invested billions, on the presumption that the dollar would never crash or we would at least have enough warning to pull out as much as possible. WRONG! Before the crash I had spoken with a few “high level” politicians that I know and told them of my fears, I was told that I was ‘Crazy’ and that “America owns half the world, it’s not going to crash”.

The dollar did indeed crash and took more than half of our investment with it, and because Ireland models it’s banking and business structure on the American model more than others what was happening with American housing started happening here too. Banks started going bust, mortgage lenders were up to their necks in it, people of a certain age that had paid off their mortgages, now found that their ‘personal banks’ were bankrupt! What has happened, has forced much of our youth to emigrate once again, but this time it is not just their families that they are leaving behind, this time they are leaving behind massive debt, debts that have in some cases been left to their aging parents, people who were once secure are now in very precarious situations having ‘guaranteed’ mortgages for their offspring, only to find that they no longer can pay and it now rests on the parents shoulders, people who in their 50’s and 60’s should be looking forward to their retirement are now looking at ways of increasing their incomes to make the repayments.

And don’t even get me started on NAMA.

Let us not be fooled, if Ireland goes the same way as Greece, which is a possibility, Europe will not bail us out. They have already said it and we have no reason to believe that they ‘were just fooling around’.

From my perspective; and of course you are all free to disagree if you wish. Ireland just has the name of being European but is actually a wannabe state of America, Ireland takes what it wants from Europe but when America says jump Ireland says “how high? And would you like ketchup with that?” I could give you examples ‘Shannon” being the prime, but today I am not writing for a political debate but an economic one, even though the two are linked to the core. It has been said that ‘you get the government that you deserve’ people, are we all really that stupid? Ireland needs new representation and I don’t just mean a change from Fianna Fail to Fianna Gael! I mean new blood, new ideas and new faces, this is a very different country to the one I encountered in 1997, the Irish people I met on the streets were kind, happy and helpful and that was before they had one hundred euros in their back pockets and room for a pony.

Understand this, America does not have ‘friends’ when things go bad in the American economy they have no qualms about pulling out of external locations to maintain profits. It is business, big business and already we have heard that American companies have left Ireland and set up in Poland or Romania, because the labour is cheaper. We gave them the ten years tax free incentives and built them state of the art premises, but the ten years is up and it is ‘more profitable’ to relocate than to remain.

I can only hope, that Ireland will rise like a phoenix from the ashes, we should now look at our talents and attributes. We have a fertile and beautiful land, an educated and skilled population.

We can be self sufficient if the government would do what is right as opposed to what is easy. I give you the gas field offshore as example, if Ireland had developed the gas field as opposed to selling the rights we could have secured our future financially and been more self reliant for our energy needs.

A great asset in these times. If I was to project further, maybe this financial crisis could have been lessened by the independence that having our own extra income would have afforded us.

Let’s look at what we have and work with it, not against it, every week I see what the people at the farmers market produce, I know that I am surrounded by intelligent and talented friends and family, Ireland has changed let’s take new ideas and talents brought to Ireland by Immigrants and make use of them. If Ireland is to get through this and emerge stronger and happier then we have to stop laying blame and start thinking about making this the country we can all be proud of no matter what our background. I look forward to the day that I see someone who represents me as an Immigrant in the government, the Gardai or Civil service, then, I will know that Ireland loves me as much as I love it. We the Immigrants are not the problem but we can be part of the solution.

I was once told by a politician that I would never be granted citizenship in Ireland because a small contingent believed that I may set up my own political party, I don’t believe that the fear is that I would set up the party, I believe the fear is that people might just listen to me.

Would it be such a bad thing? Well, that’s for you to decide. Whether or not I would set up a political party is a moot point as I am not a citizen, but I guarantee you if I was an Irish citizen I would do my utmost to bring business to this country and to make sure that that business utilized the existing resources and unique talents that Ireland has to offer. But, I think Brian cowan is just going to have to do it without me.

16 May 2010

Cyprus; the Golden Apple

By:Latif Yahia
There is no getting away from it, the ads, the internet, everywhere you turn there it is, a paradise on earth waiting for your arrival; Cyprus.
The beauty of Cyprus is indeed incomparable, the history impeccable, where else in the world could Aphrodite be born but on the beautiful island of Cyprus. LOVE CYPRUS.Without doubt on your two week vacation you will fall in love with Cyprus, you will find the laid back lifestyle so attractive in comparison to our hectic, harried lives. The Sun, Sea and Sand will also have you believing in the dream. LOVE CYPRUS.Many, many people have happily holidayed in Cyprus year-in, year-out without ever setting foot outside the resort, village or comfort zone that they so readily cling to, and maybe that is for the best because if they did, maybe they may not LOVE CYPRUS.
My story began like so many others with a two week holiday, although in hindsight maybe I should have read the warning signs that are now so obvious! There were seven of us, three adults and four ‘Children’, I had done the unusual and booked a package holiday, it was the only way we could get to Cyprus as there were no direct flights only charter, so, if we were to fly charter we may as well be with the rest of the holidaymakers.
I had paid in full, collected our tickets and organised a very large Taxi to drive us the 50 miles to the airport. We all bundled out, found trolleys and began looking for our check-in desk. Having traipsed up and down the length of the departures level, my wife headed for information, there was one gentleman in front of her in the queue who seemed to be looking for the same information as we were, but as she waited two uniformed ladies approached the desk and told the lady serving in quite a coded fashion, ‘that thing that we thought might happen, has’. Suddenly it dawned on us why the girl in the travel agent had been so single-minded that we bought insurance!
For hours we were none the wiser, no-one seemed to have any information and the rep for the company involved upon receiving a text message telling her ‘We’re bust’ packed up her stuff and left before we even arrived. ( Having said that, I probably wouldn’t have hung around either to deal with holidaymakers who weren’t going on holiday!) As the day progressed, other people’s stories were emerging, a Wedding Party, a stag party, couples, families all with the same intention as us, some time in the sun.
Eventually, there seemed to be some hope, we wee told that the charter plane would be flown in from Czech or somewhere and would fly us there, but we would be flying back with another company. A cheer rose up from the crowd, ‘Yes, we’re going’. At this point we were in the airport for the best part of six hours, my mother, an insulin diabetic was flagging and the four children were getting bored. No-one offered us a complimentary anything, not even an apology. Then the crux came, one of the check-in desks had life, we all swarmed about jostling in the hopes of finally unloading our trolleys of luggage. But we soon realised that checking-in was not on the agenda, being the avid documentarian that I am I whipped out the camera to film the event, the lady, told us loudly while standing on the check-in desk that ‘there would be no plane and we should go home and contact our travel agent’ a discommoded grumble ran through the crowd, with an extra cry of disbelief from the Wedding Party. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that the girl on the floor beside the bearer of bad news was pointing in my direction and radioing someone, I put away my camera. Alas, it was too late! Airport security was on top of me, demanding that I hand over my camera for it to be confiscated. Asking that of me was like asking me to hand over one of my children! I refused and was taken very noisily to the Airport police station. Without sounding paranoid, if you have ever seen the film rendition, well lets just say that that would be my wife’s greatest fear! As they hauled me off (in my suit and tie, I may add) my wife had quickly briefed the children and my mother on what to do during our absence. I was taken one way while my wife was brought another and although she could see me being led down one corridor she was unable to follow. Have you ever been in a situation of heightened emotions? What do you think is the ‘worst thing’ that you can tell someone in that position? Well, my wife found out, usually a very quiet and reserved person, she found herself defending me loudly, firing quick instructions to our then 15 year old and running alongside a policewoman to try and catch up with me, the policewoman turned to her and said ‘calm down’.
Has anyone ever told you to ‘calm down’ while you were in the height of it? Did you find it helpful? I know my wife didn’t!
So there we are, the happy band, I, in an Airport police interview room, my wife pacing outside, frantically co-ordinating between the children upstairs, my Mother, who is about to have a diabetic fit because she doesn’t speak English and has just seen me carted off by ‘Police’ and our friends awaiting our arrival in Cyprus.After some 20 mins or so, my wife glances out the window of the Airport police station to see me being taken away in a police car, panic-stricken, she dashed out of the office across the road and straight for the police car, ‘what’s going on? Where are you taking him?’ she queried, I replied from the back seat, ‘it’s OK, honey, they have to take me down to the proper police station, I won’t be long, just see if you can get us tickets out of here’ and away I went, the Arab man in the suit who was arrested in the Airport.

Cyprus Geographically,

When I was growing up, we of course studied Geography as a subject, this was in the 70’s and some of the 80’s and indeed the world map has changed many, many times. But to my recollection Cyprus was always listed as part of the Middle-East.

Located off the Coast of Israel/ Palestine, Jordan and of course Turkey. It is also in close proximity to northern Africa, and there are many cruises to Egypt from Cyprus, but don’t think you can get a passenger/car ferry to Cyprus, well not to the Cypriot side anyway, and if you dare to bring your car through from the Turkish side it will be blacklisted, you have been warned!

So, when then did it become Europe? I presume when Greece did, although the Cypriots have independence from Greece, but really, it is only since 2006 that the Cypriot government have started to use EU law and even at that it is yet to be fully utilised.

So, why then is Cyprus considered to be EU? Well, there is one theory, Cyprus is a divided country in the 1970’s Cyprus was attacked by Turkey, who then occupied half of the island, including the famous holiday resort of Famagusta, I never travelled to the occupied side as I don’t like occupiers of any kind, but have heard many stories of ghost towns, where people fled the Turkish army and left everything where it lay.

Turkey has applied for membership to the EU, now Turkey is a secular Muslim country and as such would be the first Muslim country in the EU should they become a member. Also Turkey shares borders with countries like Iraq, Syria, Iran and Georgia, borders that are very hard to control.

So, if one were of a mind, you could surmise that Cyprus is the fly in Turkey’s ointment, give up your occupied territories or shelve your ideas of EU membership.

It’s a lot easier to occupy somewhere than to leave it, just ask America. (50 years on and they still haven’t left Germany)

Cyprus Politically,

Cyprus has a ‘Socialist’ government, it has a president and he is active, not just a figure head. Of course not so long ago the Cypriot political leader was also their Religious leader, Archbishop Makarious, there is at least one street in each town named in his honour, and he is very much imbedded in the Cypriot psyche. Relatively speaking, the Turkish invasion, which happened during the leadership of Archbishop Makarious was quite recent, ( 30 years is well within the memory of most people) and so he is quite the hero.

Cyprus is ( I speak only of the ’Free’ side ) broken up into four regions, Nicosia, this is the capital of Cyprus the city itself is divided in two, somewhat halved down the middle by the invasion. The Airport ended up on the Turkish side, so, no flights into the Capital, well not from Europe anyway! Nicosia is ruled by the government, the ministers families make good marriages between themselves and of course stay in power that way. All the big business is there and so is the money.

Larnaca, which has an International Airport is run by a man named Fanieros, he started out as a bodyguard for Archbishop Makarious during the war and made a name for himself, during peace time however, he fashioned himself on Don Corleone (the Godfather) and having taken a bullet in the neck (literally) for Archbishop Makarious, has the voice to go along with the image. Fanieros runs a very high profile security company in Larnaca, they protect places of importance like the Airport and Schools. But, what they really like to do is ‘protect’ small businesses, bars, clubs and restaurants. Until now, no-one in the Cypriot media has EVER written an article about Fanieros, and while I was there, even though I had a very big story about him, everyone I brought it to declined, that is how powerful he is in Larnaca. Fanieros owns a ‘Hotel’ where he carries out his business, it is known to be a place of torture and men of his employ who have fallen out of favour have died in terrible accidents, one of which was where two men reportedly tried to set fire to a nightclub and were caught in the inferno themselves. I KNEW THESE TWO MEN, because they had been sent to me by Fanieros offering me the services of his security company.

He is often seen driving down the street flanked on either side by bodyguards on motorbikes and followed closely by the ‘Black Hummer the only one in town.

But that is not to say that Fanieros Larnaca is the only evil in Larnaca. The municipal system itself in Larnaca is not much better.

Cyprus is all about who you know, which works well if you are Cypriot, but is an utter nightmare if you don’t. It is also set up to be so slow that you incur fines, before you even begin. There are huge deposits to pay for services because you are not Cypriot even though you may be European, and you are still required to register with immigration who will send you off to get a million different things just so that you can pay the fees here there and everywhere, before asking ‘Who told you to do that, it’s all wrong!’ My wife spent many, many months going to interviews and providing proof of this that and the other to finally attain residency two weeks before we left!

Every man you meet will tell you ‘it’s okay, I know someone, I’ll help you’ if it involves money, walk away! People who honestly want to help won’t ask for money and those that ask and receive money, well, you’ve just opened a door that you won’t be able to close.

While I think of it, the ordinary policeman is on such a low wage that Fanieros subsidises his income, so if you happen to fall out with Fanieros, don’t expect the regular cop to bite the hand that feeds him. I have personally witnessed a Judge walk out of a courtroom and refuse to take on a case against Fanieros, such is the legend of the man.


Limassol is the main port of Cyprus, a very large and thriving city. Limassol is run by a Russian mafia, they drive a ‘yellow Hummer’ they do not wander into the Larnaca areas and vice-versa. As for their activities I have no personal experience, but have been reliably informed that they pretty much do the same as in Larnaca, Prostitution, Bingo, Protection.


Well Paphos is a different story, Paphos is run by the church(Greek Orthodox), they control the water and own most of the land in this area, they have a very stringent hold on things like what signs you can or can’t put on your premises to advertise your business! Arguably the most beautiful part of the island, incorporating the birthplace of Aphrodite, there are many luxury villas, hotels and resorts.

While I lived in Cyprus Paphos town had the highest rate of pollution in Europe, I’m sure it’s something that they are working on!


There are a few British military bases, they are built on areas that were completely demolished in the War. They are obviously completely run by the British and even have their own courts and police, as has happened to me you may not even realise that you are in a military base, you can and will be stopped for speeding or whatever and you can guarantee that you will be fined on the spot.

My father-in-law while visiting us, drove through one of these bases and just for the hell of it started speaking in a Northern Irish accent, within seconds there was an army jeep behind their rental car which quietly escorted them off the base!

Cyprus is a listening base for the Middle-east, do not be under any illusion, while there your phone calls are monitored.

Troodos, the mountain range in the centre of the island is a winter wonderland, to be able to go from the sun, sea and sand on the coast to the heights of the Troodos mountains is just fantastic, if you knew no better you could easily believe that you were in the Alps. Except I don’t remember seeing huge white golf balls on Mont Blanc! (the listening posts I mentioned earlier)


Everyone loves to have a holiday home and Cyprus has some beautiful houses, built on the Mediterranean/Arabic style villa, they are spacious, pretty and usually detached, sounds too good to be true? Well it can be, only since January of 2009 has it become law that the seller has to relinquish the deeds to the property that he has sold to you. All sales before this date were by contract yes, but you did not necessarily receive your deeds and in a lot of cases, especially if you bought a holiday home, your house was sold up to five times! And that was if you purchased it from the real owner in the first place! A friend of mine just avoided buying a house from someone who didn’t own it, the house belonged to a Saudi who had not used it in years, a neighbour who noticed that there was a lot of interest in the property from foreigners thought that he would make some money (well a lot actually, a Cypriot pound at the time was nearly 2 euros) and went about selling it to the unwitting tourists, because there were no deeds, it went unnoticed, until the real owner re-appeared!

I sat in on a case in court one day where the same house was sold to four different couples, one couple had been living in the house for the best part of a year, one couple had bought the property years earlier but through illness etc had not been able to use the property, and the other two couples had been sold the property on a time-share basis. The judge directed that the couple now living in the house were the owners and that all the rest were free to sue the ‘vendor’ in a civil action. He walked away free that day, no charges or fraud were brought against him.

Another property scam was/is with apartments, some people bought from plans others were flown out on these special tour/house hunting deals. Either way the results were the same, the apartments would be sold, some paid outright others mortgaged, no-one would receive their deeds and the property developer would use the deeds to each apartment to raise funds for his next development, no panic, until of course the next project failed and the banks went in for repossession or the developer skipped town because he didn’t pay his taxes.

Some scandals that are coming to light now are where properties on both sides of the divided island were sold illegally, during the invasion, Catholics were driven from the North side of the island and Muslims from the South, leaving behind their houses and lands. Entrepreneurs in the 80’s and onwards spotted these houses lying around and decided to develop a very exciting property market, of course these houses did and still do belong to people and if /when Cyprus is re-united and let’s remember that it is one of the conditions of Turkey’s membership into the EU there will be a lot of quarrelling over property that has been sold without the consent or knowledge of the owner.

02 May 2010

Exclusive: RT Visits the Set of The Devil's Double
Dominic Cooper plays Saddam Hussein’s son.

With the cowboy hat, the shades and the massive smile, he looks like the kind of guy you'd meet in a bar. You might buy him a drink, laugh at him stumbling over his words, and think him a bit of an idiot. He might be the life and soul of the party. You'd be forgiven if it never crossed your mind that he might be the son of a tyrannical dictator.

But that's exactly who he is, for this is Uday Hussein, as brought to life by Dominic Cooper on the set of new film The Devil's Double. The film is the tale of Hussein's son and his enslaved body double, Latif Yahia (also played by Cooper) and it's a decidedly different twist on the Iraq movie we've come to expect over the last couple of years.

Set in 1980s Baghdad, it's awash with bright neons, expensive clothes and chintzy jewelry. It's a picture of the hidden excesses of the Hussein regime -- a sight few in Iraq ever witnessed - and a harsh contrast between the Husseins and their poverty-stricken populous.

For Cooper, it was Latif Yahia's story that proved so fascinating. Forced to undergo plastic surgery and put himself at risk as Uday's body double, Yahia's scars may not be as physical as many who came across the Husseins, but they're no doubt just as deep.


"It's an incredible journey about how the man had to lose his own identity, really, and change," Cooper tells RT. "For him it was life threatening. Not just for himself but also for his family, which is what, I suppose, gave him a reason to take on the role -- to become the double."

But trying to get to grips with the depths Uday Hussein plumbed has been a challenge for the actor. "It was certainly a worry for me from the very beginning to play somebody for whom I could find absolutely no moral grounding or qualities that I liked about him," says Cooper. "And that's always difficult because you've got to inhabit who they are and find something that's, not necessarily charming, but that gives you an understanding of why that person behaved in a certain way. But there's no justification for any of his actions."

The film co-stars Ludivine Sagnier and is being directed by Once Were Warriors helmer Lee Tamahori. And it is, he says, an Iraqi Scarface. "It's a real bandit movie, a real gangster movie. I've always been fascinated by the sons of dictators and despots. They usually die in a hail of blood. They're guys with an immense amount of power and an enormous amount of money. They can do anything they like and Uday was exactly that. We're telling a soft story compared to what I've heard about this guy."

The Devil's Double will be released next year.