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TWO TO WATCH : fall sneaks

Intent on ensuring that life's interesting

September 09, 2007|Susan King

Omar Metwally auditioned for his role in the CIA thriller "Rendition" by taping himself doing the script in his Brooklyn apartment. "I sent the tape, and that's apparently what got me the job."

As Anwar, an Egyptian-born chemical engineer who lives in Chicago with his pregnant American wife (Reese Witherspoon), their young son and his mother, Metwally gives a heartbreaking performance. On his way home from a business trip, Anwar is arrested at the airport because the CIA believe he is a terrorist involved in a recent bombing in North Africa. After denying any connection, Anwar undergoes a series of torture sessions.

Metwally says those harrowing scenes in "Rendition," which opens Oct. 12, were grueling, but he had only to envision the people who have actually been tortured to put it into perspective.

An actor of Egyptian and Dutch heritage, Metwally was rarely ever cast as an Arab character, but that all changed with Sept. 11. "Since then, the number of [Arab] roles has increased," he says. He mostly credits the increase in Arab roles to "Sixteen Wounded," a Broadway play three years ago in which he played a terrorist and for which he was nominated for a Tony Award.

"I think that sort of formed an impression," says Metwally, born in New York but raised in Orange County. "Of course, as an actor I want to play different roles. I can do all sorts of things."

But Metwally, who has appeared in such films as Steven Spielberg's "Munich," doesn't mind playing Arabs as long as they are not stereotypes. "It always comes down to the character," he says. "Is the character interesting and can I bring life to it?"

He is calling from Amsterdam, where he is playing an American in a Dutch film, aptly titled "Amsterdam." "It follows a lot of different characters," he says. "I guess it's kind of a portrait of a city."

He'll also appear in James Ivory's "City of Your Final Destination," in which he plays an American of Iranian heritage.

-- Susan King

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