Fares Fares discusses directorial debut ‘A Day and a Half’ – Swedish thriller out now on Netflix

Fares Fares is a well-known star to many – his back catalogue of appearances is wide ranging and diverse. He was in the early Department Q series where he played Assad, starring alongside Nikolaj Lie Kaas’ character Carl Mørck. He played a key role in the brilliant first season of Partisan, appeared in the first two original Snabba Cash movies, and even popped up in the likes of Westworld, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty, Star Wars Rogue One, Chernobyl, and most recently Boy From Cairo.

Fares’ versatility is one of his star qualities, and in A Day and a Half he takes it up a level – by writing, starring and directing his own feature film.

A Day and a Half is a smart Swedish suspense thriller. It begins with an armed man called Artan, (played by Alexej Manvelov who was also in Chernobyl), who takes his wife Louise (played by Alma Pöysti, who starred in Tove) and her colleagues hostage in the medical centre where she works.

Fares plays a police officer called Lukas who is sent to calmly defuse the situation, but instead ends up driving them on a long roadtrip through rural Sweden followed by police convoy, during which more details of the couple’s story – and Lukas’ own – emerge.

Alex catches up with the director and actor over video call from Stockholm.

NW: Was directing something that was always on your radar, or was it something that you gradually grew to wanting to do given all the talent you have worked with in the past?

Fares Fares: I think it has always been on my radar, this story was something I started writing down way back in 2019. I had been waiting for a window to present itself for me to film this, but there have been so many acting opportunities that I was taking instead.

After Partisan I decided that now was the time to make time and just to do it.

So that is what I did – I will continue acting, but after making this film I am even more certain than before that I want to keep doing this as well. More films are coming!

NW: How did you find directing yourself – as you also star in the movie – was that easy in the process or were you perhaps more critical of yourself?

FF: I think maybe I was more critical of myself when I was editing. My character is one that listens a lot, so it was really about directing the others – they are the engine of the film and they were driving it and together we would figure it out during the day.

Then at the end of the day we would turn the camera around onto me, we knew all the answers and had explored everything in the scene, so it was just a case of filming it.

I just trusted my instincts in the way I was saying the lines as I knew this was going to work.

Fares Fares directing A Day And A Half, in which he also plays the role of Lukas. Image courtesy of Netflix © 2023

NW: Talking about the cast, which is incredible, did you have anybody already in mind when writing the story?

FF: Alexej I had in mind before I even started writing it – we had just done Chernobyl together and I thought to myself, this is the guy to play the character Artan.

Alma was more a casting process, I remember that I had seen her showreel and some of the films she was in – when we asked her for a audition/casting meeting I remember her entering the room then leaving it, and thinking that she was the one.

I feel really blessed that I got to have Alexej and Alma playing these parts – such amazing people.

A Day And A Half. (L to R) Alexej Manvelov as Lukas and Alma Pöysti as Louise in A Day And A Half. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

NW: Tell us a bit more about how you discovered the story as it mentions at the beginning that it was inspired by true events.

FF: The event that this is inspired by is something that happened in the 70s. I saw a very quick TV clip in 2008 and it got me thinking about who would walk into a place with a pistol demanding to see their child.

It just got me thinking of this love story that had gone really bad. Everything in the film is made up from the moment he walks into the doctor’s office demanding his ex-wife tell him where their child is. Everything they say, do, and whatever happens is all made up!

NW: I want to talk about the challenges you face in relation to the film taking place in a car for the majority of it – especially when there are rules now that you can’t shoot in a moving car.

FF: That’s right – you can’t film in moving cars now. You can’t talk in a moving car, basically, unless you are filming yourself on a trailer.

Most of the scenes from this film are shot in a studio with a green screen actually. What happened is we filmed the road with a 360 camera, everything that revolved around our car – we filmed that.

Then we filmed our car with our actors in the middle and I felt it worked really well.

NW: You would never have known watching this!

FF: No, it works so well and it also gave some freedom to our photography because we had the car cut in two halves. So some stuff was shot from outside of the car to give it more freedom than if you had been in a moving car the whole time.

NW: There is a key scene in the film which is a big turning point for the character’s story arc leaving the viewer revaluating their perception of the characters and the story that we know so far about them. How was it directing that scene, as it so different from the other aspects of the film?

FF: In a way the film is filmed in different chapters and this was one chapter of the film that was really fun to explore together. It is a big turning point in the film as we find out a bit more about the two characters and learn a bit more about where Louise is from – all the stuff Artan has been talking about comes to light too.

It was great fun to shoot it, I think we ended up shooting for three days for that garage action scene.

A Day And A Half. (L to R) Alma Pöysti as Louise and Fares Fares as Artan in A Day And A Half. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

NW: Watching the film got me thinking about other hostage movies – were there any which inspired you when making this film?

FF: Dog Day Afternoon is one but there was also A Perfect World that had Kevin Costner and Clint Eastwood in it where there was a hostage situation with Kevin Costner’s character taking a boy in his car.

Then there was Artan, and which place he is in when he enters the doctor’s office – that was inspired by Falling Down, a film where a man just totally loses it.

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