Arabic-language remake of ‘Perfect Strangers’ assembles all-star cast

Arabic-language remake of ‘Perfect Strangers’ assembles all-star cast
Oscar-nominee Nadine Labaki will star in the Arabic-language remake of the Italian hit “Perfect Strangers.” (AFP)
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Updated 31 December 2020

Arabic-language remake of ‘Perfect Strangers’ assembles all-star cast

Arabic-language remake of ‘Perfect Strangers’ assembles all-star cast

DUBAI: After numerous delays, the Arabic-language remake of the Italian hit “Perfect Strangers” is set to begin shooting in February, having assembled an all-star cast of some of the region’s brightest talent, including Oscar-nominee Nadine Labaki, Egyptian superstar Mona Zaki and “The Insult” star Adel Karam.
“We realized we have a project that’s a gift to great actors. Great actors love to have characters like the ones in ‘Perfect Strangers’,” Wissam Smayra, the film’s director, told Arab News. 
“Each role in this film has its own magic, its own moments to shine. It’s a very moving story. Each time I read the script I get close to tears.”
The film will reunite several key players from the highest-grossing Middle Eastern film of all time, “Capernaum.” 

Smayra produced Labaki’s megahit, and “Perfect Strangers” co-star George Khabbaz, the acclaimed Lebanese writer and performer of stage and screen, co-wrote “Capernaum” with Labaki.
Smayra said: “Nadine and I are very, very old friends. We started our careers together. We’re very close, like family. She was the first person I thought of. I knew Nadine would be amazing in the main role. It was a natural fit.”
He added: “And George is an amazing person and one of the biggest stars in Lebanon. I’m so happy he’s on board and playing a good role in the film. It’s going be fun to see them together in a movie.”
The new edition of “Perfect Strangers” incorporates the problems of the current day, set amid the Lebanese revolution and COVID-19 pandemic. 
But it maintains the same set up as the Italian original, in which seven long-time friends meet for a dinner party and decide to play a game. 
Each guest places their mobile phone on the table and makes incoming calls and messages visible to the whole group, revealing secrets they have been keeping from one another.

“I think it’s great because it really plays with the taboos of our culture, revealing what’s hidden inside each of the people you know,” said Smayra.
“It’s extreme humanity under this theme of opening Pandora’s Box, as some things shouldn’t be said or known.”
The film incorporates multiple Arab cultures, with an Egyptian couple joining the dinner party in Lebanon and the relationship between those two cultures explored. 
Mona Zaki, the star of numerous Egyptian hits such as “30 Years Ago” (2019) and “Scheherazade: Tell Me A Story” (2009), was the first choice for the role.
“She’s a big star and an amazing actress. In ‘Perfect Strangers’ she plays a broken person. She’s a broken character. I don’t want to give it away, but she has an amazing finale. It’s a fantastic role,” said Smayra.
The acclaimed original grossed over $31 million and has already spawned more than a dozen remakes in different countries worldwide, raking in a collective $270 million. 
Smayra and his co-writer Gabriel Yammine have rebuilt the film from the ground up, trying to avoid imitating the original and its performances, and giving the heavyweight cast something new to work on together.
“This is a big challenge for me as a director, as well as for the actors. We have to create something really relevant,” said Smayra. 
“It’s very important when I’m working with the actors to work on this story of each character and leave room for improvement, a space where they can express themselves. I’m putting them together, and now we’ll see how the magic will return.”
The film is produced by Gianluca Chakra (“Luxor”), Mohamed Hefzy (Netflix’s “Paranormal”, “Luxor”, “Sheikh Jackson”) and Mario Haddad, and is executive produced by Mayada Hiraki. 
Filming throughout February, “Perfect Strangers” is aiming for a release at the end of 2021 across the Middle East.