Recently-released film Eaten By Lions has delighted audiences and received critical acclaim.
The British film with an ensemble cast sees Antonio Aakeel play the lead role of Omar, who with his half-brother Pete, goes on a life-changing journey to find his birth father. The rising British star shines in a great ensemble cast and is one to look out for.
Eastern Eye caught up with Antonio to talk about acting and his new film Eaten By Lions.
Tell us, what first connected you to acting?
I moved to a new school halfway through the year and found acting as a way to express myself. By chance, I was given a role in a Christmas production and then caught the bug, as they say.
Tell us, what has been the most memorable encounter on your acting journey?
I bumped into Danny Boyle in the street once on the way to an audition and we just talked about films. He told me not to give up pursuing acting despite it being really difficult.
How did you feel facing the camera for the first time?
I think every actor feels incredibly self-conscious when standing in front of a camera for the first time. Then we spend our entire careers finding ways to forget its existence.
Tell us about Eaten By Lions and the character you play?
I play Omar. He’s a shy kid in search of his identity. After his parents are ‘eaten by lions’ and the grandmother who has raised him passes away, he’s suddenly acutely aware of impending adulthood while coping with his grief. He decides to go in search of his biological father and that’s where the story begins.
What was the biggest challenge of playing this role?
Trying not to corpse among these brilliant comedic performances. Omar is carrying a lot of emotional weight and it was sometimes quite difficult to keep that energy up when you have Johnny Vegas on fine form in front of you.
What is your favourite moment in the movie?
There’s a scene towards the end of the film, which gives Omar some hope about the future. It’s a really sweet moment where he connects with his father and it doesn’t feel forced. We didn’t rehearse the scene and only did two takes in total in order to keep it as organic as possible.
How did you feel when the film was completed?
It was a very bittersweet feeling. The moment you feel you’ve finally grasped your character and know them inside out, it’s over. Especially with independent cinema where you don’t have months and months to work on something.
How did you feel when the film won an audience award at the London Indian Film Festival?
We had a feeling that people would respond to it well, but didn’t expect to win the audience choice award. It was a lovely surprise.
What kind of movies do you enjoy watching as an audience?
I have a very mixed taste. I am a huge sci-fi fan and love character-driven plots. I’m not much interested in big action blockbuster productions as I’m more intrigued by watching actors working in a scene. Sometimes the simplest settings make for the most interesting performances.
Tell us, who are your biggest acting influences?
They change all the time. At present, I’ve been watching Anthony Hopkins’ films. He’s just incredibly watchable and has chosen some great projects in his time. I also love movies of Domnhall Gleeson.
Why should we watch the film?
It’s a feel-good family comedy about belonging. What more would you want? It has real heart and given the recent state of things, I think British audiences essentially need something that they can escape into right now.
Why do you love being an actor?
The chance to transform and understand the world through someone else’s eyes is a real lesson in empathy. I’m just curious about people and I’m so lucky that my job allows me to explore that.
Eaten By Lions is now available to pre-order on Amazon and iTunes from July 22, 2019