NEW YORK – Kiefer Sutherland knew immediately that he wanted to be part of the thriller “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.”
“I’d have played any character in this movie,” he told reporters at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it premiered this week. “I wanted to be part of this story.”
The movie is about a Pakistani man, Changez, who comes to America for college and lands a top job on Wall Street working for Sutherland’s character.
But racial profiling following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 changes his life forever and he eventually moves back to Pakistan where he is suspected of being involved in a radical group.
“You picked a side after 9/11, I didn’t have to. It was picked for me,” Riz Amhed, who plays Changez, says in the film.
Sutherland spoke to reporters about the film at a roundtable interview that took place within one week of the Boston Marathon terror attacks. The movie, he said, explores the issue of racism following 9/11, and he hopes viewers can learn something from it.
“We changed some people’s lives in a very negative and horrible way, and I think we need to take a serious look at that so that we don’t do it again,” he said.
Sutherland vividly remembers watching the news on that day in 2001, which he said impacted him greatly.
“I don’t think there’s a day, still, that goes by that I don’t think of it,” he said. “I watched the second tower get hit… And it just totaled me.”
“I was angry after 9/11,” he said, adding that he wasn’t fazed by racial profiling at the time. “I was wrong. And when I read this, [script] I knew that. And I hope the film has the same impact on an audience that it did on me when I read it.”
Riz Ahmed said the movie, which is based on a novel by the same name, was a “dream project” for him.
“I read the book in 2008 and I just loved it. I phoned the publishers to find out who had the rights, actually,” he said. “And years later I found out [director] Mira Nair was doing it and I’ve always wanted to work with her.”
He said he was impressed by the star-studded cast the script attracted.
“I had moment actually half way through [viewing] the film [thinking] that’s Kate Hudson, Kiefer Sutherland, Liev Schreiber…this is nuts!”
Hudson said she was extremely emotional while filming the intense movie.
"For me, I was very tapped into my emotions on this movie,” she said. “[Having] a two and a half month old baby, breast feeding and tapping into those kinds of emotions, left me quite exhausted.”
The mother of two took off her hot pink heels and sat barefoot, with her legs curled up as she talked about the movie.
For the film, she changed her look by dying her hair brown, something she said she was glad to do for the role.
"Mira was very, very specific about how she wanted me to look for the movie and I, as an actor, want to facilitate my director,” Hudson said.
Hudson plays Changez’s girlfriend, Erica, who attempts to relate to her boyfriend’s Pakistani roots. The turmoil of 9/11 impacts their relationship.
“[The movie takes] something as defining to world history as 9/11… and [uses] it as the moment, which I think a lot of people felt, when you start to look at your life, and look at where you are, and look at the world, and go ‘what does it all mean?’” she said.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is now showing at the Tribeca Film Festival.