Students, faculty and friends of the University of Michigan–Dearborn attended a luncheon Friday with actor and filmmaker Sayed Badreya (The Dictator, Iron Man, Three Kings). Badreya shared with those in attendance his life’s biggest moments and what ultimately led him to pursue a career in Hollywood.

With his father killed and his mother left to raise nine children, Badreya grew up in an area of Egypt where the production and sale of illegal substances – becoming a drug dealer – was the best one could hope for in his situation. In fact, his brother did just that, and was also killed. Wanting better for Badreya, his mother did everything in her power to make sure he didn’t suffer the same fate as his brother.

“She allowed me to dream,” Badreya said. “’You can get out of here,’ she said.”

Not performing well in school as a child, Badreya spent much of his time in movie theaters, watching American films and marveling in everything they represented to him.

“During the war I was ten, [this was] 1967. I used to hide in the movie theater. So we would go there and watch movies all day and I fell in love with America. I knew America when I was ten.”

Attendees were able to ask questions ranging from topics specific to his personal journey through Hollywood to questions of advice for those aspiring to work in the film industry to how the cognitive dissonance between how people identify themselves and how the world identifies them.

“For Arab-American…they always want to tell the ‘Arabic’ story, but we’re not Arab anymore,” Badreya said. “We are Arab-American. So when you [portray] the American people and speak the language, it’s not English. It’s the language of the heart, which means I am one of you. I might have a hijab. I might have a beard, but I’m really like you.”

Badreya reiterated his core philosophy of working in Hollywood several times in the short hour the luncheon took place, highlighting what he believes it takes to be successful in the business.

“You have to have an issue,” Badreya said. “George Clooney is a filmmaker and he understands he has an issue. I want you [to] always have an issue. It doesn’t matter what issue, but you have to have something burning inside you.”


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