Phase9 Entertainment

HOTEL RWANDA - with Paul Rusesabagina, Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo and Terry George

Movie Interview by Neils Hesse

Paul, what did you feel when you first saw the film?

PAUL RUSESABAGINA: When I first saw the almost finished product it wasn't that exciting. The most exciting bit was when I saw it in Toronto. It was good to see how people welcomed the message that the movie is trying to pass on.

Terry, considering the importance of this film to the people of Rwanda and the world was your biggest fear failure?

TERRY GEORGE: Yes, I was scared also I had awesome actors who I didn't want to let down. I had been down to Rwanda before we started filming and I met some of the survivors of that tragedy. The other fear is the relinquishing of control to the Hollywood marketing machine, as they might choose to advertise it as something that it's not.

Sophie, how did you switch off after filming those harrowing scenes?

SOPHIE OKONEDO: I have always experimented in switching off after doing roles but I think that a part of it always stays with you, so part of this experience has definitely stayed with me.

Don, how did you go about doing this role?

DON CHEADLE: I really trusted the script and Terry and I educated myself on the history of the conflict but at the same time I tried to keep myself ignorant of all the details as Paul and the people in the hotel didn't have the full picture of what was going on outside the hotel walls. I also spent time with Paul asking him a lot of questions about who he was as a person. I tried to get an idea of his inner being.

Don, the body language was that all your own stuff or was it based on Paul?

DON CHEADLE: I watched Paul when we filmed in Johannesburg and I watched footage that Terry took of Paul in Rwanda, I was watching him a lot.

Terry, is this footage of Paul in Rwanda after the crisis available to the public?

TERRY GEORGE: Some of it is on our website as we used it for research stuff so yes it is available, just go to the website.

So where were you all when the Oscar nominations were announced? How did you feel and have you decided what you are wearing on the night?

DON CHEADLE: I will be wearing a Givenchy dress. [Laughter] I was on a UN plane and I spoke to my wife and when she said do you know that you were nominated I felt honoured, but when she said that Sophie was nominated I screamed and then she added that Terry was nominated too. I think that for men a tux is a tux, but please don't write that because I'm trying to get an Armani.

SOPHIE OKONEDO: I was with my Mum in an art gallery here in England and I was really shocked and she was screaming and security had to ask her to calm down and she shouted that she didn't give a f...k her daughter had just been nominated for an Oscar. Everyone in the gallery applauded her. I don't know what I'm going to wear but I hope it will be something nice and comfy.

TERRY GEORGE: I was at home in New York, and considering my previous nomination I feel that watching the process is better than watching the awards. I was elated for these guys but I was sad to hear that we didn't get a Best Picture nod as that would have done wonders for distribution.

PAUL RUSESABAGINA: Certainly, the nomination is mine because it's my story and at long last my message is being spread and I have already picked out a suit to wear on the night.

Don, has this movie changed your approach to films?

DON CHEADLE: No, in fact I would now want to do something totally different. I always like to change it up. It gives me joy and allows me to grow as an actor. But the film has spurred me into other directions. We went on a congressional trip to Rwanda and we got to put the Sudan crisis centre stage. I am going to appear on Hardball and some other non-entertainment programmes. I attribute it all to the real heroism that Paul showed. I understand the whole entertainment thing and I am just like any other guy, who when you've had a hard day or week you just want to buy some popcorn and chill out in front of a fun movie and those kind of films tend to pay better as well.

Terry, your choice of stories for film are very humanitarian, why is this?

TERRY GEORGE: These are real stories that have elements that apply to everyone and film allows us into a story much more than a documentary can and this makes it thrilling to do, so that's what I look for.

Don, was this your first trip to Africa and you've made some inspired choices with your film career what guides you?

DON CHEADLE: As for my movie career I am blessed and yes it was my first time in Africa but I plan to make it a more regular thing from now on.

Paul, how would you feel about being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and how do you think people will react or have reacted to the film in Rwanda?

TERRY GEORGE: I have already suggested that he should be nominated, for an average working man to pull off such a feat of heroism is remarkable.

PAUL RUSESABAGINA: People are excited and we intend to screen it in the national stadium. It is a message of hope. It should help the Hutu and Tutsi people to live together. The Nobel Peace Prize would be a pleasure to accept but it would be better as a form of recognition.

DON CHEADLE: Don't worry I can get you one [everybody laughs].

Paul, the scene in the movie where Don fails to fix his tie properly and then finally breaks down, how did that happen to you and the scene with the fog and all the bodies on the road?

PAUL RUSESABAGINA: Well that scene never actually happened in real life, I never had that opportunity except to sleep, I was only alone when I was faxing or making phone calls in the office. I believe that Terry did that scene to show that I was alone and isolated in what I was trying to do.

TERRY GEORGE: Paul had told me about him and a worker from the hotel driving for a mile and all they saw were bodies and all they could hear was the sound of dogs eating the bodies.