“What you’re going to see today is equal parts audacious, shocking, um, decadent and wildly entertaining,” announced Lionsgate exec Joe Drake before last night’s screening of The Devil’s Double.
An eclectic audience—including Dame Helen Mirren, designer Cynthia Rowley, actress Zoe Lister Jones, Nicole Murphy accompanied by ex-Giant Michael Strahan, and dynamic duo Ice-T and Coco —packed themselves into the SVA Theater Monday evening. Guests shook out their umbrellas and took their seats, ready to see a film that has been dubbed “the Scarface of Arabia.”
We saw Patricia Field make her way into the building wearing neon-green eyeglasses and matching sneakers. “What inspired the green?” we asked the colorful designer. “The red,” she replied, referring of course to her signature red tresses.
The movie, based on a true story, is set in Iraq at the start of the first Gulf War as Saddam Hussein’s sadistic son Uday commissions a body-double to make public appearances in his stead. Mama Mia! alum Dominic Cooper showed his flair for the dramatic, playing both the fanatical Uday and his soft-spoken fiday (body double).
The Scarface analogy is certainly apt. Uday, by all accounts a true psychopath, led a life of lurid excess. He complemented his fleets of Ferraris with an unending supply of cocaine, booze and women he had snatched off the street. With Uday’s penchant for erratic violence, some (literally) torturous scenes in the film were difficult on The Observer’s constitution.
Mem Ferda, who played the role of Saddam Hussein’s friend Kamel Hannah, had a more lighthearted take on the movie, however. “I think there are a lot of kind of tongue and cheek kinds of moments. The film isn’t meant to be taken seriously, even though it kind of is about a serious topic,” the actor explained. Fair enough, but Mr. Ferda’s character is brutally (and graphically) eviscerated by Uday at a dinner party.
After the film and some hearty applause, the audience filed out of the theater and into the unseasonably brisk night. Some hailed cabs while others dutifully hoofed it to the Boom Boom Room for the after party. As usual, a crowd gathered downstairs and waited to be ushered in via the at-capacity elevators.
Upstairs guests were soon intoxicated by the elegant set-up, not to mention the requisite open bar. The room’s oft-noted views of the Manhattan skyline were taken in with sips of Champagne as the elevators disgorged partygoers. Waiters waded through the crowd, holding trays of sandwiches and cheeseburgers above the throng of well-coiffed heads, while waitresses in white dresses with matching hair-bows did their best to deliver drinks, and Red Bulls.
We ran into to photographer and director Nev Schulman near the deejay booth where he snatched passing snacks. Asked if he liked the film, Mr. Schulman smiled. “It was a great story!” he said after a few telling moments of silence.
Paz de la Huerta, however, was quite smitten with the movie and its star, Mr. Cooper. “I feel like Dominic is a tour de force,” she said, using the term obliquely. “He’s an amazing actor. If anything comes from the film, you know which I feel is a very important film, you know … that’s something that has not been explicitly shown, the pain and the horror these people go through…,” she drifted off. Snapping back from her dazed reverie, she squealed, “But this guy was a creep!”
More articulate than Ms. de la Huerta, Mr. Cooper looked downright dapper in his trim suit. Chatting with us, he described the ethos of the film and the difficulty of playing an Iraqi psychopath. “The honest truth is that I couldn’t relate to his actions or anything that he did. He was repulsive,” Mr. Cooper said. “I needed, in very small doses, to think about why the man was the man he was, why he behaved the way he did.”
Playing the role of the body-double, Latif, Mr. Cooper said, provided a much needed psychological reprieve. Filming the two characters at once, however, was dizzying. “There was no sitting around. I would literally jump from being in the most insane space in my head to being much more of an observer, and a caring and thoughtful man.”
Mr. Cooper, bombarded by congratulatory guests, was barely able to leave the entrance of the club all night. He good humouredly chatted with everyone who approached, taking photos with starry-eyed and slightly tipsy revelers.
A bevy of self-described “models”—who could have been members of a sorority headed by Coco—ringed a corner table. One of the ladies helped her friend mount the three stairs to the seating alcove, her dress being so tight as to prevent simultaneous lateral and vertical motion. Before long, the group, now sufficiently drunk, began dancing around the room. “This is, like, my fifth glass of champagne,” a visiting Spainard in a see-through dress confided. Another, who had been repeatedly mistaken for hip-hop muse Amber Rose, grabbed hold of our arm, spun us around and critiqued our look. “What are we going to do with you?” she asked rhetorically. “Darker eyebrows and fuck the highlights!” she answered excitedly, giving our locks a tussle. (As it happens, we do not have highlights.)
By midnight, the crowd had thinned out, revealing once more the familiar skyline. Shuffle. Cram. Elevator. Until next time, Boom Boom.