Pages

There was an error in this gadget

23 August 2011


Meet the real Devil’s Double: A conversation with Latif Yahia

 By Jenn Schanz

Could you live with the devil for five years? How about become him?
At only 23-years-old, Iraqi military official Latif Yahia faced both dilemmas, as the psychotic eldest son of Iraq's notorious dictator brought him to the edge of hell and back with a job offer.
Or rather, a job assignment.
To be a fiday, a double…
Adapted from Yahia's autobiographical book, the 2011 Sundance film "The Devil's Double" directed by Lee Tamahori and starring Dominic Cooper as both Yahia and Uday Hussein, is being called a "must-see summer movie" and the "Scarface of Arabia."
Latif Yahia
Latif Yahia
While Yahia praised the film and Cooper's performance, stating that "no one has played him [Uday] as well as Dominic….great performance," it's apparent that nothing about the film's inspiration was glamorous.
For five years Yahia, now a Ph.D and well respected author, endured torture, forced plastic surgery, and psychological torment at the hands of a man he calls "completely erratic" - Uday Hussein.
Yahia and Hussein became classmates in their adolescence but it wasn't until the closing of the Iran-Iraq war that Yahia was called summoned to undertake what would become the most heinous and disturbing task of his life.
Becoming Uday Saddaam Hussein.
Yahia recalls the emotional chords struck by certain scenes in Tamahori's film: "The scene that affected me the most was the torture scene where Uday is whipping me on the bench. It reminds me of all the torture that I suffered at his hands. The scene where he tries to have me kill the father of the raped girl, not just because I refused and slit my wrists but because, although the movie doesn't show it, Uday actually took the gun as I was bleeding and shot the man anyway, right there in his office."
Forced to duplicate Hussein's mannerisms, demeanor, and even dental alignment, Yahia assured me that Uday, as crazed and powerful as he was, never truly took hold of who he was.
"I never lost myself, if I had I would have given in to Uday's lifestyle and psychotic behavior as his "friends" did," Yahia says. "Always in the back of my head I would say "I am Latif Yahia, my father is Yahia, he raised me to be a strong and true man."
Reflecting on the most difficult aspects of his experience as a body double, the now husband and father recalled the anguish of witnessing Uday's treatment of women.
"Uday would find them anywhere and everywhere, if they didn't come willingly he had them abducted. He had his pimps bring groups of girls around and he would choose, whomever was leftover the pimps could have…. I believe they should all rot in hell."
While discussing film, which has not been shown in Iraq, Yahia also notes the sociopolitical impact "The Devil's Double" had on the Muslim world, and why U.S. involvement in Iraq has destroyed a connection to his homeland.
"Iraq has been brought back a thousand years, thanks. The Muslim people all know what their leaders are and how they behave, in Iraq we had one Saddam and one Uday, now we have hundreds, every Ministers' son acts in the way Uday did."
He continues, "Anyone who says Iraq is stable is lying, delusional, corrupt and/or working for the American government. I have no feeling for a country that is run by Iranians and occupied by American forces."
In 2003, Uday Saddam Hussien was killed along with his brother Qusay and nephew Mustapha during a U.S. Task Force 20 confrontation. Yahia was less than satisfied at hearing the news.
"I was FURIOUS! Not because he I liked him! I wanted justice! I wanted to see him in court, I wanted to stand in front of a judge and say ‘Look what this madman did to me,' I wanted the Iraqi people to get Justice, killing him was the easy way out. No one got closure or justice that day."
What is justice?
After reading Yahia's book and seeing the film, I am moved by the power of individual resilience and personal character, even when the world is trying to rip it away from you. Perhaps justice is the ability to propel forward, unscathed by the evils of one's past.
Having spent the last 15 years in Ireland, despite 105 letters to the Ministry of Justice in Ireland, Yahia still awaits to hear back from his third citizenship application. His previous two were denied.
"I will never give up my fight for free speech, freedom, and justice…I work for peace around the world, with people who believe in peace and humanity." Yahia is now working on what he refers to as a "controversial" documentary film, and seems to be following the promise made on his personal website.
"As my dearest friends and family say ‘I don't have a filter' but for me it's easy to talk about these things, I don't have a political party to toe the line in, I'm not affiliated to anyone or anything. Therefore I can speak the truth and the only one that will pay the price will be me. If I survive the release of the documentary."
Although Latif Yahia is still in search of a homeland, 19-years after the darkest chapter in his life, it seems that he is, in some way, at home with himself.
For more information on Dr. Latif Yahia's story or the film "The Devil's Double" visit www.latifyahia.com

20 August 2011

The Devil's Double Book.
My dear friends, I promised you a new edition of The Devil's Double, here is the new cover of the book, it will be out before Christmas 2011, I promise and at a reasonable price, unlike the idiots on Amazon. I'm donating my royalties to the Iraqi Orphans, America does the damage and it's up to us to try and fix the country, I urge my American friends to tell the administration to stop supporting Dictators and "liberating" us from the Dictators that they support and have installed in our countries.
Best regards to all.
Latif Yahia
The Id of Mesopotamia

by: Michael J. Totten
A new film captures Uday Hussein and the regime he served in all their horror.

Hollywood has finally released a feature film that takes place in Iraq but isn’t about the Iraq War. Lee Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double tells the story of Latif Yahia, a young Iraqi officer from a privileged family who is forced to become the body double of Saddam Hussein’s psychopathic son Uday. The Iran-Iraq war is raging when the story begins, and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait takes place midway through, but these conflicts are in the background, off screen. The film, based on a book written by the real-life Latif with the help of Karl Wendl, is not about war but about the depravity of the palace.
Uday Hussein pushes drug abuse, sex, and impulsive violence to their extremes. He doesn’t just blow cocaine up his nose; he snorts it off the tip of a dagger. He likes to kill people when he gets drunk and even disembowels one of his father’s best friends at a party. We see him prowling the streets of Baghdad in his sports car and abducting young girls in school uniforms—including one still wearing braces—and taking them back to his bedroom to drug and rape them. He rapes another woman on her wedding day while she is wearing her wedding dress; a few minutes later, he is annoyed when she throws herself off a balcony. The man is pure id, scoffing at the Muslim saying “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) and insisting that God never gave him anything. “Everything I want, I just take for myself,” he says. He sure does. “You should have been killed at birth,” his furious father says, holding him down and aiming a long curved sword at his genitals. You ought to know you’ve gone off the rails when Saddam Hussein is appalled by your behavior.
Poor Latif Yahia. Not only is he forced to become Uday’s body double; he must also effectively erase his identity and become Uday. The official story is that he was killed on the front lines in the war against Iran. Even his family believes this for a while. He undergoes plastic surgery so that he’ll look even more like Uday than he already does, and he’s expected to adopt Uday’s facial expressions, mannerisms, and tones of voice. Uday even wants him to kill, and Latif gets himself into serious trouble when he refuses. Presumably the only reason that Uday doesn’t kill Latif is that Uday desperately needs him to survive. He also seems to love Latif in a twisted sort of way—at least when he’s not beating and torturing him. Latif is seriously injured in an assassination attempt when the would-be killer mistakes him for the dictator’s son. (Of course, that’s the whole point of having a double in a place like Iraq.) The real-life Latif escaped from Iraq in the 1990s and spent years in therapy to soothe the emotional trauma of witnessing so much rape, murder, torture, and mayhem at the hands of the brutal man he had no choice but to serve. To this day, he says, he can’t fall asleep until five or six in the morning.
Dominic Cooper brilliantly plays both Uday and Latif. Despite the fact that the characters look the same, I never had any doubt which character was on screen; Cooper’s subtle shifts in body language and facial expression—a wild or soft look in the eyes, for instance—made it abundantly clear which role he was playing at every moment.
I don’t want to give anything away, but I can say at least that the film eventually departs from what took place in the real world to tack on an entirely fictional (though emotionally satisfying) ending. The writers presumably thought the departure made for a better story. Despite the modification, the film is well worth seeing for its vivid, accurate depiction of the viciousness of Uday Hussein and of the filthy regime he was born into.
The Devil’s Double is also blessedly free of even the tiniest anti-American jab, something that can be said of few feature films Hollywood has produced that take place in Iraq. (The only others worth watching are Three Kings and The Hurt Locker.) It would be a mistake, however, to assume that the film was made to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the American-led coalition. Latif doesn’t seem to be a fan of the war himself, for one thing. And though Uday Hussein did meet his end at the hands of American soldiers in Mosul in 2003, The Devil’s Double isn’t about the United States, even peripherally. Latif’s book was written before the invasion, and hardly anyone knew it existed until after the overthrow of Saddam’s regime. So few copies of the first edition were published that if you want to buy one from Amazon, you’ll have to pay $1,000, as of this writing. The most expensive copy costs over $100,000.
A story about Iraq written by an Iraqi is refreshing. Events in that country are far too often analyzed as though the United States were always at their center. Even during the darkest days of the insurgency, between 2004 and 2006, far more Iraqis were injured and killed by other Iraqis than by American forces. And many more Iraqis were killed and traumatized during the period in which The Devil’s Double takes place than after the American-led invasion.
If you’re inclined to view this film as a justification for the war in 2003, you’ll have a case. At least the invasion prevented Uday from ruling the country even more viciously than his father did. But the genre that the movie truly belongs to is Totalitarian Studies. If absolute power corrupts absolutely, which it did in the case of Saddam Hussein, what happens when a boy is raised with absolute power before he has a chance to mature? The Devil’s Double answers that question with the force of a punch to the stomach.
Michael J. Totten is a contributing editor of City Journal and author of The Road to Fatima Gate and In the Wake of the Surge. Visit his blog at www.michaeltotten.com.

07 August 2011

Saddam's demon seed.

Uday Hussein’s many vices and wanton sadism appalled even his father. And one man was on hand to witness it all – Uday’s unwilling ‘body double’



By: Colin Freeman

Photo Of Uday Hussein In Military Uniform.
The siege of the Iraqi mansion lasted five hours, starting with a loudspeakered call to surrender and ending with the crash of missiles from a United States helicopter gunship. By the time it was over, half the house’s wedding cake-style facade was missing, affording the media a unique, through-the-rocket-hole tour when they were finally allowed near it.
Inside we found an elegant inner balcony splintered with bullets, and for anyone with a knowledge of gangster movies, one scene sprang to mind: the closing shots of Scarface, where Al Pacino’s drug baron makes his famous last stand.
“That film was mentioned a couple of times,” grinned Lieutenant Colonel Rick Carlson, commander of a unit involved in the raid, when I put this to him later.
So came the spectacular demise of Saddam Hussein’s notorious sons Uday and Qusay, whose lives resembled a real-life gangster flick, and whose deaths in July 2003 produced one of the few moments of universal good cheer in the ever-mounting gloom of post-war Iraq. For the US military, it was a much-needed morale boost in a steadily fraying mission, netting both the Ace of Hearts and the Ace of Clubs in the “Deck of 55” most wanted. For Iraqis, meanwhile, it meant the passing of two of the regime’s most feared men – in particular Uday, whose psychotic, unhinged brutality made his father look statesmanlike.
Yet as celebratory gunfire erupted over Baghdad, Latif Yahia, a 39-year-old former commando, was one of the few Iraqis who didn’t reach for his Kalashnikov. Not just because he was thousands of miles away in exile in England, where assault rifles are still frowned upon as party poppers, but because he didn’t want to cheer. He wanted to cry.
“The Americans should have taken Uday alive,” he tells me now. “I wanted him to face trial, so that I could tell the world what he had done, all the killing.”
Playboy, murderer, and sadist extraordinaire, Saddam’s elder son left no shortage of people with horror stories to tell in his wake. Yet for Latif, the trauma of his encounter with him was uniquely personal, one that still haunts him every time he looks in the mirror. For back in 1987, after noticing his striking likeness to Saddam’s son, Iraq’s secret service picked him to be Uday’s “fiday”, or body double, a job that involved becoming the living, breathing copy of the nation’s greatest hate figure.
Being the stand-in man on any occasion where Uday feared one of his many enemies might assassinate him was just one of Latif’s occupational hazards. Far worse was the window it gave him into the ruling family’s inner circle, attending Uday’s debauched parties, mixing with his entourage of pimps and thugs, and looking on as his doppelganger rampaged with impunity. And, to his ultimate horror and guilt, sometimes enjoying it.
“Until now, I haven’t slept properly because of thinking about him,” he said. “I am stuck with Uday for the rest of my life, and will probably take him with me to my grave.”
Now, though, 19 years after fleeing Iraq and claiming asylum in Europe, Latif has another chance to give Uday’s crimes an airing, and, hopefully, give his designer-stubbled, Ray Ban-wearing demon a final exorcism.
The Devil’s Double, released this week, is a film loosely-based on Uday’s early life – shot entirely from the point of view of his body double. Coming in the wake of Green Zone and the Hurt Locker, it is the first major Iraq movie to explore life in the ruling clan. And while Uday played no real role in the wider political drama of the war, he proves an illuminating focus point, being in many ways the personification of the regime’s dark side. Addicted to drink, sex and violence in equal measure, he was despised even more than his father – as I myself found when I was a correspondent based in Baghdad after the war.
On the hot July night that news emerged that he had been killed, the Iraqi capital erupted with so much gunfire that I thought a full-scale insurrection had broken out; by contrast, the celebrations when Saddam was caught five months later were more muted.
Iraqis used to tell me that their worst nightmare was Uday inheriting power, a fear that was not without justification, if the words that Latif claimed his employer once said to him are anything to go by: “Just wait till I’m president, I’ll be crueller than my father. You will often remember these words, and yearn for the days of Saddam Hussein.”
Starring Dominic Cooper as both Uday and Latif, the film is directed by Lee Tamahori, best known for his portrayal of violence within New Zealand’s Maori community in Once Were Warriors. The mayhem in that, however, is nothing compared to the savagery in The Devil’s Double. It applies the gangster movie blueprint to an entire country, replacing the Mafia with the Hussein clan, although Uday is far more crazed than anything Coppola or Scorsese have so far conjured up.
In one horrific scene, he uses a carving knife to stab to death Kamel Hannah, his father’s personal pimp, at a party attended by the wife of the recently-deposed Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. The incident is entirely authentic, according to Latif, save for the minor detail that Uday actually used an electric rose pruner that he had at his side. Even so, Latif says the violence has been toned down.
“The movie shows 20 per cent of what really happened, at most,” he says. “On one occasion, in a jail back in ’91, I remember Uday dealing with a Shia prisoner who had been involved in the uprising against Saddam after the first Gulf War. He said: ‘I won’t kill you by the gun,’ and instead put a drill through his head. When he’d finished, he looked around and said: ‘This is what happens to those who stand up against us.’ They killed half the people in that jail, and put the bodies in among those still alive. Then they released the survivors, just so they could tell other Iraqis what they’d seen.”
Latif first met Uday in 1979, when the two were at the Baghdad College High School for Boys, the country’s answer to Eton. The Iraq of that time was a very different place: Saddam, newly in power, was still relatively popular, having used Iraq’s oil money to create one of the Middle East’s most developed countries, while Baghdad was the region’s party capital, full of bars, discos and nightclubs.
Even then, Iraq’s First Family were a law unto themselves. Latif’s teachers learnt this the hard way when Uday first turned up at school, surrounded by five bodyguards. Having turned a blind eye to his habit of throwing chalk at them during lessons, and parking his yellow Porsche in the school’s basketball court, one teacher finally protested when Uday brought a girlfriend into class. “The teacher told Uday this was forbidden in an all-boys school,” recalls Latif. “He was never seen again.”
A keen painter, Latif won Uday’s friendship after drawing a portrait of Saddam, but knew to keep his distance. When university beckoned, he even switched to reading law when learning that Uday had enrolled on the same engineering course.
Then, one day in September 1987, while serving at the front during the Iran-Iraq war, he was whisked by limousine to a palace in Baghdad, where Uday, sat in a white leather armchair and smoking one of his trademark Montecristo No 6 cigars, told him of the top-secret plan to make him his “fiday”. After all, his father had been using one for years. “I want you to be me. Everywhere, always,” he said. It was an order, not a request. When Latif at first refused, he was thrown for days into a blood-encrusted jail cell with no lavatory. When he still protested, Uday threatened to feed his sisters to his pet dogs.
Thus began his secret service-organised “training programme”. He and Uday already bore a sharp resemblance to each other, with the same round eyes, thick eyebrows and slightly curly hair. But nothing was left to chance. To start, there was cosmetic surgery – a cleft added to the chin, and dental treatment to mimic Uday’s bucktoothed grin, which even gave him Uday’s distinctive lisp as well. To be really convincing, though, he also had to study the unique Uday school of deportment, honing, as he puts it, a “supercilious, dictatorial arrogance”.
How to mimic Uday’s childlike giggle, cocky stride and slovenly manners, always sitting slumped rather than straight up. How to greet people with a studied stare, and make his point by gesturing with a revolver. How to cruise around Baghdad in a different Porsche, Ferrari or Lamborghini every day, which also had to match whichever loud designer suit he was wearing. How to cradle a Montecristo between middle and index fingers, and knock back vast quantities of Dimple, the unsophisticated Scotch that was Uday’s favourite. And how, when attending discos, to up the tempo by blasting a few gunshots into the ceiling. For Latif, though, the hardest part of the fakery was played on his own family. He signed a contract saying he would never, on pain of execution, tell anyone that he was Uday’s double; this included his parents, who were told he had gone missing at the front, and whom he was forbidden from seeing again.
At first, being Uday had benefits. Latif was billeted in a five-star apartment with four full-time servants, its own bar, and a wardrobe packed with Uday’s hand-tailored clothes. He was also introduced to Saddam himself, or a man he assumes was him: one scene in the film shows the Iraqi leader playing tennis with his own double, the two impossible to be tol apart. But the scales soon fell from Latif’s eyes as he saw at first hand Uday’s appalling behaviour, which was normally covered up by Iraq’s state-controlled press.
Saddam’s son ran his own dark empire in Iraq, controlling the lucrative underworld smuggling rackets that thrived during the years of UN sanctions. His vast wealth allowed him to buy hundreds of cars, stashed all over Baghdad in underground garages and torched once the US invaded so nobody else could own them. (Uday employed somebody just to scour the internet for photos of new or collectable cars, which were then placed in a ring binder. He employed his own fisherman and two lion-tamers, too.)
He also ran the Iraqi Olympic Committee – the only one in the world that had its own jail, where athletes who did badly in international contests would be tortured using increasingly elaborate methods Uday had found on the internet. Worst of all, though, was his penchant for kerb-crawling around Baghdad.
Like Uday’s request for Latif to become his “fiday”, proposals of a quick night of romance with the president’s son were not negotiable. Dozens of girls would be paraded before him at the Baghdad Boat Club every night, and most would end up in his bedroom. Those who refused were abducted by his bodyguards and raped, first by Uday, and then by his henchmen. (It’s said he never slept with the same girl more than three times.)
Latif chronicles several such incidents in his book I Was Saddam’s Son, including the events of one notorious night at Habbaniya, a resort in Iraq’s western desert. Spotting a woman on honeymoon, Uday dragged her up to his sixth-floor hotel room, where he beat and raped her.
“Afterwards, he comes grinning out of the bedroom, pours himself a brandy and goes on chatting as though nothing had happened,” Latif writes. “Suddenly, we hear a long shrill scream that goes on forever. I dash into the bedroom, and see the door open to the balcony… she jumped from the sixth floor because she couldn’t stand the shame. What could I have done? Uday’s bodyguards, who almost derived more pleasure from their boss’s acts of cruelty than he did himself, would have killed me.”
So what made Uday so crazy? The Devil’s Double doesn’t dwell on this too much, but Latif has theories of his own. For all that Uday’s childhood was spoilt and overindulged, he points out, it was also traumatic.
Saddam, he claims, inducted Uday into the ways of the “family firm” from a young age, taking him to his first public execution aged just five, and, aged ten, showing him videos of regime opponents being tortured. Living up to family expectations was also hard. After all, when your father has already grabbed the titles of President, High Excellency, and Conqueror of All Iraq, there is very little left to achieve.
“This evil man, this gangster, he would cry like a baby when he was drunk, and talk about how his father ignored him,” says Latif. “He was close to his dad, but after he murdered Kamel Hannah [the pimp killed with a rose pruner], Saddam started favouring his brother Qusay to take over from him. At that time Uday also got rid of all his professional bodyguards, and just had pimps and thugs around him. That made things even worse.”
Things got worse for Latif too, as anger over the gassing of the Kurds in 1988 and disastrous 1991 Gulf War defeat made the ruling family more unpopular. He suffered two assassination attempts during public engagements on his boss’s behalf, nearly losing a finger in a grenade blast. When he returned to Baghdad for treatment, however, Uday’s only concern was that he too may have to forfeit a finger if his double’s digit couldn’t be saved. The film eventually depicts Latif escaping Iraq with one of Uday’s former girlfriends, Sarrab, and as the closing credits point out, “the rest is history”.
Minus his double, Uday spent his final years paralysed from the waist down after being shot while out cruising for girls one day, although even that does not seem to have curbed his lust. When US troops searched his various hide-outs after the war, they reportedly found Viagra, porn movies and an HIV testing kit, as well as millions of dollars’ worth of fine wine and a heroin stash.
Latif, who now lives and blogs in Belgium, joined the exiled anti-Saddam opposition, although to this day, he insists the US-led invasion was a mistake, simply replacing one gangster clique with many. “I knew it would put Sunni and Shia and Kurd against each other,” he says. “Now you have lots of people all wanting to behave like Saddam and Uday.”
Nor does he wish ever to return to his home country, whatever rosy claims are made in the West about it now becoming a democracy. Because from his own bitter experience, the problem is not just the thugs who tend to hog power in Iraq, but the willingness of the people to follow them slavishly.
“The problem is not Iraq as a country, but the people. I am sorry to say this, but if you read the history of Iraq, you will see it has been like this for 7,000 years – that is to say,
a--holes, clapping their hands for anyone, and selling their mothers for money. It will take 50 years, maybe more, to change the place.”
The Devil’s Double opens in cinemas on Friday

05 August 2011


What a cad!
He shot to fame playing the romantic lead in the most successful British film of all time, but there’s a hint of menace about Dominic Cooper’s performances that could make him this generation’s most lovable Hollywood rogue, writes DONALD CLARKE

EVERY GENERATION needs a cad. Funny cads like Terry-Thomas. Brooding cads like James Mason. Smooth cads like George Sanders. The dangerous lover never quite goes away.

In recent years, Dominic Cooper, a dreamy Londoner with bandit eyes, has been shaping up to become the signature cad for this era. He is perhaps still best known for playing Amanda Seyfried’s boyfriend in Mamma Mia! , but he was superbly slippery as a classless conman in An Education . He did the business as an uncaring pop star in Tamara Drewe . Heck, I half expect him to swipe me across the face with a riding crop, fling me down the stairs and call me “a bally whore”. He doesn’t.

“Yes I suppose I have done a few cads,” he says. “They’re much more fun than your basic lover. I guess there’s a bit of repetition there. But I hope I find something more than what’s on the page each time.”

Next week, Cooper moves from moustache-twirling cad to out-and-out bastard. In Devil’s Double he delivers two quite stunning performances as Uday Hussein, deranged son of the late Saddam, and Latif Yahia, the soldier who was forced to act as the heir apparent’s double.

The film offers a series of technical challenges. Not only does he have to play two characters – a murderous psychopath with a toddler’s giggle and an ordinary bloke propelled into an extraordinary universe – he has to play one playing the other.

It was a busy set. Far from having hours to shift character, Cooper was often asked to move from monster to man in an instant.

“There was no time,” he says. “I managed it because I had established exactly who they were. I had worked out the basic tricks of creating two very different physical types. The vocal tunings were different. Uday somehow occupies more of the room than Latif.”

Cooper was lucky enough to have the real Latif Yahia as a resource. Since fleeing Iraq – the film speculates that he may have tried to assassinate Uday Hussein – he has written a few books. Until recently, he lived quietly in this country with his Irish wife.

“It was daunting when I sat down with him,” Cooper explains. “I knew immediately not to pry too much. He has serious scarring and I had to be careful not to ask too much about that too soon. Who am I to start interrogating this guy?”

The film depicts Hussein kidnapping school girls, enjoying video tapes of torture sessions and murdering a henchman at a heart-stoppingly vulgar party. He also has a creepily close relationship with his mother. Did Cooper come to any conclusion as to what turned him into such a deranged personality?

“Was it nature or nurture?” he muses. “It was hard to find anything to cling on to with that character. It’s so far from anything I could understand. But you can’t help but think who his father was. You just think how difficult that sort of relationship can be at the best of times. His father really did seem all-powerful to him. By all accounts, Saddam thought Uday was idiotic.”

Cooper, now 33, was raised in southeast London, the son of a nursery-school teacher who separated from his father when Dominic was a boy. Later in life, his dad revealed he had a daughter by another woman while still living in the family home. It all sounds very EastEnders. But Cooper insists everybody behaved in a mature fashion.

“After that, I had a stepdad, and he was lovely and great,” he says. “No, it wasn’t like a broken home, because there was no real animosity. It was very easy and calm. Everybody saw one another and got on very well. Looking back, it was a bit eccentric. I don’t know how it worked. But it just did.”

Cooper’s older brother is a music-video producer who arranged work for his teenage brother as a runner on his sets. Later, Dominic moved into editing, and while at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts he used this to support himself. “During the day I’d be pretending to be a dog, then at night I’d be digitising images and logging them into computers,” he says.

A good-looking guy with a crisp, clean voice and an ability to convey inner turmoil through the tiniest movement, Cooper has never been short of work. Soon after graduation, he secured a berth at the Royal National Theatre, where he appeared in the first production of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys. He later starred in the film version of that piece and remains pals with Bennett.

Coopermania stepped up a gear in 2008. He had, to that point, rarely been molested while buying his roll of Toffos and his pint of milk. But his turn alongside Keira Knightley in The Duchess brought him a greater degree of visibility. Then he starred in (honestly) the most successful British film of all time.

“I learned quite quickly that fame goes in waves,” he says. “If you are in a magazine, that week you are recognised. When it does happen it’s never aggressive. It’s very pleasant when someone refers to a play they’ve seen or the deep-rooted happiness that they got from Mamma Mia!

It’s hard to overestimate the impact of that mad, charming Abba musical. Everyone knew it would be a hit, but no sane person suggested it would take more than €400 million worldwide. Until Avatar came along, it was the most lucrative film ever at the combined UK and Irish box office, and it still holds the No 2 spot.

“It’s very touching. It’s very, very moving. I can’t believe the number of people who’ve come up and said: ‘We saw that at an important point in my late mother’s life, and that brought us all together.’ ”

Was he surprised to find himself in a musical? “I think so. I wasn’t sure what I was embarking on. I had never seen the show. That genre is not mine. I found it hard to cross the line of suddenly bursting into song. But, when I saw who else was in it, I thought, this could be either extraordinary or a disaster. I didn’t actually realise I could sing in that way. I’d always been in some sort of band, but those Abba songs are hard to sing.”

The success of Mamma Mia! coincided with a difficult time in Cooper’s personal life. He had been going out with Joanna Carolan, personal assistant to Harold Pinter, for 12 years. The relationship ended that year amid reports Cooper had begun dating Amanda Seyfried.

“We are still great friends,” he says of Carolan. “It’s an amazing experience going through a relationship that is longer than a lot of marriages. There was a sense of loss. I was so young when we got together: 16 or 17. But you realise that that person can still be a major part of your life. Work pulled me away. I just began travelling a lot, and that’s hard.”

One suspects Cooper is here to stay. Tabloids have tried to represent him as the new Colin Firth or the new Hugh Grant, but he has a sly energy all his own. Though he can play the romantic lead, there is a hint of menace about him that adds an edge to all his performances.

You can see that force at work in the current, surprisingly nifty superhero flick Captain America: The First Avenger . Playing Howard Stark, father to the future Iron Man, Cooper nods towards Howard Hughes with his portrayal of an eccentric engineering genius.

Later this year he will join a tasty cast – Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, Kenneth Branagh as Laurence Olivier, Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh – in Simon Curtis’s My Week with Marilyn . Cooper plays the esteemed photographer Milton H Greene.

What with all this travelling, he must have trouble maintaining a normal home life. Has he found time to buy a proper house? Is there butter in the fridge? “No, not at all. I bought a shoe box at the top of a tree in north London,” he says, laughing. “I have barely been home this year. There are so many things to do. I keep meaning to buy a bed, but I haven’t got round to it. There are just so many choices.”

He’s laughing at the trivial nature of his problems. Cooper seems to have his head screwed on. Earlier he was talking about the horrible pressures that assailed Latif Yahia.

“He was acting, and he knew that if he got it wrong he could be killed.”

Well, that puts his job in perspective. “Yeah, yeah. It certainly does.”

The Devil’s Double is on general release from Friday

On the double

No challenge excites actors more than playing against themselves. It stretches their technical gifts. It allows them to experiment with vocal timbres. Most importantly, it ensures they keep as much of the limelight as possible to themselves. The history of the double-up performance goes back a long way. In 1922, Rex Ingram, a Dublin-born film-maker, directed what was already the third version of Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda . Lewis Stone played the English gentleman who gets to impersonate a Ruritanian prince.

Subsequent versions of that definitive lookalike story followed, with Ronald Colman, Stewart Granger and Peter Sellers all playing both roles. Comics quickly saw the comedy potential, and, in 1921, Buster Keaton played virtually every role in The Playhouse. But the masters of this class of comic multitasking were Laurel and Hardy. They each played dual roles on three occasions. In Twice Two (1931) each, somewhat creepily, also played the other man’s wife. In Brats (1930) they played their own children. And in the superb Our Relations (1936) they played sober domestic pals and their dimmer, more dissolute sailor brothers.

If you really fancied yourself, you could, like Keaton, attempt a whole busload of characters. Peter Sellers managed three in the magnificent Dr Strangelove (1964): a blimpish English officer, the ineffectual president and the titular, Machiavellian scientific adviser. That array seemed insignificant when set beside Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), in which Alec Guinness gave us eight members of the foolish and doomed D’Ascoyne family.

Such versatility deserves an Oscar. Yet only two actors have ever managed it. No, not Jeremy Irons as the twins in David Cronenberg’s masterpiece Dead Ringers (1988). Nicolas Cage failed to take a statuette for his split personalities in Adaptation ( 2002). But Frederic March triumphed in 1931 for playing both Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in the best version of that story (then again, are they both the same man?). And Lee Marvin got a gong for best supporting actor for playing the drunken Kid Shelleen and the scary psychopath Silvernose in Cat Ballou (1965).

Mind you, the double-up performance can be as much a triumph for the special-effects boys as it is for the overworked actor. In The Social Network (2010), rather than hiring real twins to play Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, David Fincher asked Armie Hammer to submit to the digital photocopier. The effect was dramatic, but it looked a little like showing off.

The Devil's Double Official Trailer.

03 August 2011

This article has been published today in The Independent, please read the whole article and then my response at the end. I have copied the whole thing and put it here on my blog because they would not let me upload it to their website.
so much for "right of reply" and "freedom of Speech".


Is Uday Hussein's 'double' really just an impostor?

Critics claim a new film telling the 'true' story of the man who protected Saddam's son from assassins is based on a web of lies

By Jerome Taylor

They say some stories are too good to be true – although that has never stopped Hollywood. The Devil's Double is the latest blockbuster to stretch the limits of the phrase "based on a true story". But who cares, if it tells the gory tale of one of the most brutal psychopaths of the late 20th century?

Released in cinemas later this month, the film recounts the knuckle-whitening autobiography of Latif Yahia, the supposed body double to Saddam Hussein's psychotic younger son, Uday.

The British actor Dominic Cooper plays both roles and has won critical acclaim for his portrayal of a man who raped and murdered his way through Baghdad's high society – and also that of the poor sap who had to pretend to be such a maniac to protect him from the bullets of any would-be assassin. In recent years, though, growing numbers of Uday's inner circle have cast doubt on whether the story could be feasible.

With a strikingly similar face to Uday – who was gunned down by American special forces alongside his brother Qusay in July 2003 – Mr Yahia first emerged in Europe in the early 1990s with a remarkable claim that generated headlines around the world.

He told intelligence agents that he had lived a life of servitude as Uday's body double – and had turned on his master when Uday tried to kill him because a girlfriend had become overly flirtatious. Memoirs and international fame quickly followed.

There is little doubt that the tale Mr Yahia tells is perfect for the silver screen. According to his book, blog and media interviews, he was born into a wealthy family with close ties to Saddam's Ba'athist regime. Part of Baghdad's élite, he went to the same school as Uday, where friends commented on how similar in appearance he was to the Iraqi dictator's sadistic youngest son.

In September 1987 during the Iran-Iraq war, he was called back from the frontlines and told to go to Saddam's Baghdad palace, he has said.

"My superior had a distinct look of concern on his face when I entered the room," Mr Yahia later wrote. "I was taken from the front to my appointment, as I waited, my mind racing, questioning, never in my wildest dreams had it occurred to me the true reason behind my summoning."

Uday had decided to make him a body double. When Mr Yahia politely refused he was put in prison for a week and tortured. Upon his release he was told that unless he agreed to become Uday's doppelgänger his family would be killed and his sisters raped.

After rounds of plastic surgery, the transformation was complete. Mr Yahia said that between 1987 and 1991 that he was witness to some of Uday's worst excesses – his prowls through Baghdad at night looking for women to rape, his drug abuse, violent outbursts and penchant for torture. He also claims to have survived 12 attempted assassinations.

Mr Yahia thought of escaping only after Uday, angry that a girlfriend had started to openly flirt with the doppelgänger, tried to shoot him. Mr Yahia claims he fled to Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and later to Austria with the help of the CIA.

Yet some of those who were in Uday's inner circle at the time have poured scorn on Mr Yahia's claims. Haytham Ajmaya, a 48-year-old Iraqi expat living in London, is one of them. He defected from Iraq in 1998 with the help of the British Government in exchange for information on Uday's inner circle, within which he had served for more than a decade. "Latif may have looked like Uday and talked like him but he was never Uday's body double," he told The Independent yesterday. "It's a real shame that Hollywood has decided to make a film based on rubbish rather than a film that is true to Iraq's history."

Mr Ajmaya claims that at most Mr Yahia was someone who used his close resemblance to Uday to secure money and girls in Iraq and was in fact arrested by police for doing just that. In January, a writer from The Sunday Times tracked down a further three members of Uday's inner circle who cast doubt on Mr Yahia's claim, as well as Saddam's plastic surgeon, who said no operation had been carried out on a body double.

My Yahia did not respond to The Independent's requests for comment yesterday but when confronted earlier this year about the remarks by Uday's former friends, he said: "I was Uday's double. Uday didn't have friends; he had pimps, drug dealers, hangers on, etc. Either I am psychic to know about inside palaces, bunkers and all the rest of the places... or I was actually there. I know the truth."

Toby Dodge, a historian at Queen Mary, University of London who specialises in modern Iraq and has interviewed members of Saddam's regime, says that separating fact from fiction in Ba'athist Iraq is notoriously difficult. "The regime had always been shrouded in mythology," he said yesterday.

Meanwhile, Lee Tamahori, the New Zealand-born director of The Devil's Shadow, remains unfazed by the allegations. "Biopics are not my favourite movies because they always try to steer too close to the facts," he writes. "But the truth doesn't set you free in movies. Truth layered with fiction sets you free."

This is my response to the article:

To the Writer of this article, firstly I find the fact that you have written that Uday was the "Younger" son of Saddam Hussein hilarious, secondly you haven't even been able to get the title of the film right it is "The Devil's Double" not The Devil's Shadow unless Lee Tamahori was working on another movie with Dominic Cooper. Getting these two well known and important facts wrong, leads me to believe that you either did NO research, or just collated information and old articles that you found on the net.
You quote Haytham Ajmaya as a source in Uday's inner circle, a man who in the Sunday Times article admits to have being a Pimp for Uday , but says that just because he brought women to a man that he knew was Sadistic and violent and has sold himself to Britain as you openly say in your article, is trustworthy. You might find the Arabic meaning of his name Ajmaya (Iranian Woman) interesting. As for your other or should I say Ed Caesar's sources, I have tackled their credibility in a blog that I wrote last April you may find it on my website.
Any man that can sell women, then sell himself and his country can sell anything and anybody even if it is false, the British government have been paying Ajmaya for years and have made him a British citizen, (as far as I have seen over the past 20 years the West loves these kind of people) who is paying him now for this supposed information? If Haytham Ajmaya or any of the others that are relied upon had anything to say before, they didn't, my book was first published in 1994, I have written others, I have a blog, a website, why is it just now that they come out of the woodwork? Because there is a movie? Well then, since they were so close to Uday why didn't they get their story told? Maybe because the powers that be know the blood that is on their hands? What kind of story would they tell? Maybe they could tell how they brought women to Uday knowing full well what he did with them, or how they themselves murdered and raped girls.
As for Haytham's assertion that I was just impersonating Uday to get girls and make money, that at one time Uday found out and just laughed. Well, Iraq would have been a much nicer place if Uday had been so easy going! Does Haytham also assert that all the girls that came forward as rape victims of Uday are liars?, the football players?, the athletes that he tortured?, or is it personal?
As for Saddam's plastic surgeon, well he stitched the Hymens of the girls and did plastic surgeries on the wounds that they incurred if they survived a night in Uday's arms, he admitted it in one of his TV interviews, (he omitted to mention the hymens) Ask any ordinary Iraqi, they know he was fired from his position and prohibited from practicing medicine, once Saddam found out, which is why he returned to painting.
Am I surprised that The Independent has written an article like this about me? No. Why? because I included the owner of the Independent, Tony O'Reilly in one of my blogs recently, I really don't think that you can call the Independent, Independent.
I am not in hiding like my accusers, I have clean hands and am not afraid of the spotlight, unlike Haytham Ajmaya or Dhafir Mohamed Jabir.
As I have learned over the years from dealing with the Intelligence agencies, never trust information you pay for, because to keep the money coming they have to keep giving you information, in the end they make it up to keep the money rolling in.
As the Middle East is having it's uprising so it will spread across the world, because although the West has the illusion of Democracy, people understand more and more each day that they are being fed mis-information and the ideology of the newspaper owners, Murdoch himself has openly said, No political party could attain power if he and his media empire were not behind them. The same is true of Tony O'Reilly in Ireland, just ask Fianna Gael political party in 1997.
Was I contacted for a comment by the Independent? Yes my agent was, but knowing who they work for etc, I don't give comments or interviews to papers I can wipe my arse with. The same is true for The Sunday Times.
This reaction or comment may not be published under the original article on the Independent's website, so I am copying the article and my response and putting it all on my blog, because I'm a man not a coward like the Journalist and the Independent's owner, we will all see how long newspapers like these last, I think not so long.

My article last April: Click the Link

http://latifyahia2006.blogspot.com/2011/04/pass-me-spinach-font-face-font-family.html

http://latifyahia2006.blogspot.com/2011/07/bigger-they-are.html