Reza Rahadian: DA MAN exclusive

Reza Rahadian of Perempuan Berkalung Sorban is a 24-year-old film star from the island of Borneo, who has honed his craft and become one of the best Indonesian actors of his generation. Here, he takes time out to do an exclusive fashion shoot and interview with DA MAN.

By Refa Koetin

Photographs: Andre Djuanda/Rooster Studio

After getting a taste of fame during a school play in his native Balikpapan, Reza Rahadian was hooked. The play, Hanoman, was his first experience, but would not be his last.

“Being on that stage right there and then, I just realized that I like to perform. I like to be seen by people and I like to hear what people say about that other person that I acted out.

I just knew that acting was what I wanted to dedicate my life to,” Reza explains to DA MAN.

Soon after, in 2004, he would win a “best looking” contest hosted by a teenage magazine, and the young Reza assumed that his fame and celebrity would be assured from that day on, especially after getting an agent and dozens of invites to casting calls and interviews. However, one by one, none of them panned out.

He is the first to admit that he had overly unrealistic expectations, and so, as these things have a tendency to do in life, reality and heartbreak hit him particularly hard that year. “It was indeed hard, but I remained determined not to give up and let my heart sink because basically I knew that this is what I want and this is what I was meant to do,” he says.

“Of course, I also tried to figure out what was wrong, so I started taking theatrical acting lessons for about eight months in order to improve my acting skills,” Reza adds.

While still a teenager, he did just that, he buckled down with a renewed focus that included professional theater training.

With the full support of his mother Pratiwi Widiantini—who had some theater experience herself and is a bit of a movie/TV/acting historian—Reza eventually realized that fame and celebrity are not something that either come easy nor something that can be taken for granted, merely because someone is blessed with good looks.

Through his perseverance and efforts, while enduring small roles in the obligatory C-grade horror films, Reza rose to the top of the Indonesian film industry with back-to-back major wins at Indonesia’s version of the Oscars.

Getting a shot

He is now considered top-class—and award-winning—film star throughout the archipelago. But that was never assured.

After the aforementioned year of soul searching, Reza got his first real shot at advancing his career in 2005 when he was cast for a TV series with 40 episodes. “It was not really a leading role. I was playing a supporting character, but the series was quite a hit back then. It was in the Top 10 of national TV series. The title of the series was Culunnya Pacarku (My Geeky Partner).” Reza found himself quickly becoming quite popular, and shortly afterward, his agent was flooded with requests.

By 2006, he was playing major roles in a dozen mini-movies on FTV, and appeared numerous times on other shows.

Hungry for more, the aspiring actor started aiming for something bigger: the silver screen. “[While doing TV shows] I started to think that I’m going to have to stop this. I need something bigger than the television. I want movies,” Reza recalls, while explaining what was going through his forward-oriented mind at the time. “I knew it was going to be hard to break into film because most movie directors hold a certain bias against cinetron (low-budget TV serials) actors. They generally thing that such actors  do not have sufficient skills to succeed on the big screen.”

Undeterred by such prejudicial attitudes held against him, Reza—always the ambitious, tenacious guy—continued to go on casting calls and tryouts for movies anyway.

The horror

After another round of soul searching due to the rejections week after week, he landed a supporting role in a forgettable movie entitled Film Horor. He didn’t have many scenes in the movie, “but I didn’t really care. I was very excited about it because it was a big-screen movie,” he remembers with a chuckle.

Later in the same year, he was given a bigger role in another horror movie, but soon began to realize that the genre might actually be bringing his career down.

Once more, Reza had to work to re-invent himself to keep his acting career going in a positive direction.

His first big break came when he was given a supporting role in the well-produced religion/relationship drama Perempuan Berkalung Sorban (The Woman with A Turban)—directed by Setiawan Hanung Bramantyo. Reza made the most of his opportunity.

A little more than a year after being a glorified ‘extra’ in a flop, he found himself standing on the stage accepting one of the highest honors an actor can receive in his country. Reza Rahadian, the kid who had big dreams while doing school plays back in Balikpapan (on the far-flung island of Borneo) had won the 2009 Citra Award as the year’s Best Supporting Actor.

“I will never forget that, because it was one of the most monumental achievements for me as an actor. That was the turning point of my acting career,” he entusiastically recalls.

He started getting offers for leading roles in major feature films, and just 12 months later, he found himself again on the same stage accepting an acting award, this time for Best Leading Actor for his role in the movie 3 Hati Dua Dunia, Satu Cinta (3 Hearts Two Worlds, One Love).

That was in December 2010, and it was an unprecedented achievement. Reza had reached the top of the Indonesian film industry and he’s still just 24 years old.

Reza remains humble with a hunger to improve and please those who are watching. “I love that feeling I get when the director tells me, ‘alright, I’m very happy with your performance. Thank you.’ Hearing those words are extremely satisfying. I don’t even care about the budget of the movie, the setting, the production or whatever; I don’t even care if the movie was delayed in the cinemas! What I care about is that I was able to do something as my character.”

Moving forward

Reza is currently engaged in a significant project called Pasar Gambir (Gambir Market), which is a tribute to national hero Ismail Marzuki, a legendary Indonesian composer and musician who was the creator of many popular patriotic songs including Halo, Halo Bandung.

Reza is playing the lead role, and to get into it, he’s been talking to the relatives and descendants of Marzuki, in addition to reading history books and working on his vocal chords. “I’m going to be portraying a national hero, someone of great importance. Obviously I’m excited, but I have to stay focused and do everything in my power to play this one out to the best of my abilities,” he states.

Furthermore, he is also the ambassador of French Film Festival in Indonesia, which runs from April 8 to May 1 this year.  “It’s going to be very exciting. This year, we have some very good movies lined up, and some of the directors are also going to be there,” Reza adds enthusiastically.

Regarding the hosting of a foreign film fest, he was asked if any Hollywood actors had influenced him. “I like Sean Penn, especially in his movie Milk, and Robert De Niro. They are both great actors of unmatched caliber,” Reza says while revealing his great love for movies.

At 24 years of age, the young actor has achieved a lot in the Indonesian film industry and seems content in his home country, which leaves us wondering, ‘What if he tried to make a go of it in Hollywood?’

Clothing and Accesories:

A|X Armani Exchange

Thomas Sabo

B-Homme by Barli Asmara


ck Calvin Klein

Click here to grab the April/May 2011 issue of DA MAN and see the full feature and more hi-res images of Reza Rahadian.