HISTORY PLAYER. In the highly successful Indonesian film “Habibie & Ainun,” Reza Rahadian captivated people’s hearts with his portrayal of former president Habibie
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“What matters in being an actor is the essence of life that I get in each role that I play.” In Habibie & Ainun, Reza plays opposite famous actress, model and singer, Bunga Citra Lestari in a love story about former President of Indonesia BJ Habibie and his deceased wife. Reza said the film was a romance unlike most others. “This is not just a love story like Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare or any other kind of fictional love story. This is based on a real-life story and it was written by the person who experienced it, too. I find it very inspiring and it simply tells me that true love does exist,” he said with a smile.
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A lot of critics were amazed by the ability Reza displays in mimicking Habibie in the movie. As the talented actor explains, “It’s very challenging to imitate a person like BJ Habibie, so what I did was to observe almost every single gesture that he made, which helped me a lot in building his character for the movie. Waiting for the response from people who are close to him was another obstacles that I had to face because people already have their own image of him so they will automatically compare my performance with that image straight away.”
“At the beginning of production, I only had a week to memorize all the lines, from page one until page 162. I have no idea how I did it but I learned it all by bringing it home, to cafés, everywhere I went, it was like homework to me.” BJ Habibie himself personally came to the set every day and gave Reza a lot of direction during the shoot. “So you can imagine the pressure of acting as a person, in front of that person, while he is monitoring you the whole time,” Reza said.
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Having to act in a serious and risky movie was a big gamble for his career. Reza admits that he was told by some not to risk playing one of the most influential people in Indonesian history, with every critic ready to pounce if the performance wasn’t good. “But that’s the challenge. I’m still young anyway, and if I failed, all I would have to do is rebuild again. I’ll work from zero, nothing to lose.” Regarding that optimistic personality, Reza shared one fact that certainly surprised us. He said, “I am actually an introvert. I tend to be the quiet, talk-less-do-more type.”
Reza said he certainly did not dream of being in the spotlight when he was young. He recalled loving one of his airplane toys as a young boy, saying, “I brought it everywhere I went to sleep.” He said he even dreamed of being a pilot someday. But as he grew older, he started to fall in love with something else, something he felt could bring out his true potential: acting. “I joined a theatre class when I was in junior high school, but I was planning to sign up for a Flight Academy in high school. But I cancelled it because it was too expensive”.
Fighting for it
Reza said the path he has taken may have led to success, but it was anything but easy to get where he is now. “For me, life is a struggle. Anything you want, you should fight for it. Sometimes, we have to fight for the thing that we really want.” Reza credits his mother with giving him his determined and optimistic philosophy. He said she is the one who always inspired him to face the hardest moments in his life. “She can face any problem. Maybe that’s what makes me sensitive to other mothers because, whoever they are, I think the strength of a woman and a mother is incomparable and it is something that no man can ever have.”
Reza got his start in acting in sinetron, soap opera like serialized TV shows that are incredibly popular in Indonesia. He said there were some major differences between acting in a TV show and a major motion picture. “There’s a huge difference in acting for TV and in movies. On TV, we have to add more emotions. The director sometimes ask for it and, to be honest, as long as the ratings are good, anything is okay. For movies, as far as the character goes, you need to be very realistic, very believable, so the directors will love it.”
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As an actor, Reza loves to observe people. He said he has been keeping a hand-written journal for the last five years — spending hours just sitting in cafés, watching people walking around and writing about what was on their mind at the time. “I can easily spend 15 minutes observing someone, noting their gestures, seeing how they act and what their habits are. Because I never know when will I get that kind of character.” Every actor has their own way of choosing the right script. For Reza, choosing is not always easy. “A good actor can always get me to believe in a storyline. What I take from a movie is the essence of the movie itself. At the moment, I have the opportunity to choose, so I will choose carefully. Usually, the decision depends not only on the story but also the role.”
In 2009, Reza reached a turning point in his career by winning his first Citra Award for Best Supporting Actor in “Perempuan Berkalung Sorban” (The Woman with a Turban). He admitted that it was one of the most important moments in his life. “Just to be nominated alongside so many talented actors in Indonesia was in and of itself a very unforgettable moment in my life,” he recalled. When asked what other projects he had coming up in 2013, Reza gave us a sneak peek of a new film he is directing in collaboration with Garin Nugroho called “Gadis Indigo” (Indigo Girl). The plot of the movie revolves around the journey of a gifted girl that has the ability to enter a different world. The girl is also able to read a person just by seeing their photos. “Gadis Indigo” will be the first movie Reza has directed that will be played in cinemas around Indonesia.
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His previous directorial project, Sebelah (Beside) won Best Picture at the LALights Indiemovie festival 2012. The filmmaker said, “This is the moment when I feel like I can make a movie that fits my vision. I still don’t know what that is yet, but as long as it comes from my passion I know it will be good. That is why I wanted to learn to be a director.” As one of the most stylish actors in Indonesia, Reza said a lot of his swagger comes from his feet. “Sandals are a must-item for me. I occasionally go to a fashion show in sandals.” As for fashion don’ts, he advised guys to stop wearing wifebeaters outside of the house. “Some people think it’s a good look, combining them with denim jeans or something. Seriously, dude? Just no!” said Reza with a laugh.
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Reza said one of his career goals is to be a part of an Indonesian movie that breaks into the international market, “Or an international movie that features Indonesian culture. Those are the two options in my mind and I hope that one of them can come true.” With the tremendous success of “Habibie & Ainun,” which sold nearly four million tickets domestically (huge for an Indonesian film) there is no doubt that Reza will be popping onto a lot more filmmaker’s radars both here and abroad. So we’re sure he’ll meet those of his goals soon enough.
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