Sanjar Madi: Actors must do what directors say
Sanjar Madi was born on August 4, 1986 in Almaty Kazakhstan. His mother is a teacher and father is a writer. Though he was interested in singing, dancing and drawing from an early age, after graduating from high school, he decided to study economics. At university, he worked as a business relationship manager at a Netherland bank in Kazakhstan.
Soon, he realized that art is his main aspiration and entered the theater of the local Academy of Arts. For a long time, there was no work, and from time to time, he did commercials, but it was not enough for living. A year later, a production studio invited him for a casting, and he landed a leading role in a movie.
This boosted his career off the ground and he got his next high-profile role in the movie “The Tale of a Pink Bunny” (Zkaz o Rozovom Zaitse), where he played a tycoon’s spoilt son. At the same time, Sanjar was studying filmmaking on his own.
In 2010, he directed a New Year’s show for the Kazakh national TV; the show was done in the style of the Oscar‘s award ceremony. According to various sources, the show topped the charts.
In 2011, Kazakh film studios sent him to New York Film Academy in Los Angeles to study film directing. In 2016, he won the Hollywood Immersive Program contest. Currently, he is a member of an international stunt team named Nomad Stunts
Sanjar has also played in the 2014 Netflix series “Marco Polo” alongside Mongolian actor B.Amarsaikhan. They also worked together in the IFI productions piece “The Mongolian Connection”.
You have delivered “The Mongolian Connection” to the audience. How do you feel about this?
Last winter, when I came to Mongolia for the shooting of the movie, my friends in Kazakhstan were very jealous. I am interested in working with international artists. In order to be here during the opening, I flew from New York to Almaty, Almaty to Beijing and Beijing to Ulaanbaatar.
How do you think the Mongolian audience would rate your work?
I did not pay attention to how the viewers would receive it at the opening. I was more focused on how I performed and the cinematography. However, recently, I went to the Cineplex of Zaisan Hill Theater and re-watched it from the audience seat. As I have noticed, our partnership really touched people, and people understood what we were trying to say.
Starting January next year, the movie will reach the Kazakh audience. How do you think they would perceive it? Do the Kazakh people like action movies?
Whenever I gave an interview for Kazakh press and media, I always talked about “The Mongolian Connection”, so the audience must be waiting for it. Film producer S.Uran and actor B.Amarsaikhan have contracts with large theaters in Kazakhstan.
Our audience really loves movies like that. They would like it even more because it is an international film with the lead role being a Kazakh person.
You played in many international films as the lead or the supporting role. What was it like work with Mongolian artists?
I met B.Amarsaikhan in 2014 when I was playing in “Marco Polo” series, so we know about how the other works. We make a great team too. There were no difficulties in working together and shooting the film with Mongolian artists. The food and the weather were also nice.
During the time where they are working on a film, artists form a very close bond. I was a bit sad when I
was returning to Kazakhstan after the shooting was over. I am glad that I can see them all again at the premiere of the film.
During difficult scenes of the movie, you act it out yourself as opposed to using a stunt double. How long has it been since you learned to fight?
I am part of Nomad Stunts international team. Thus, I can do my own stunts in movies, but depending on the script of the movie, I like to avoid heights and fire.
Aren’t you scared of getting injured during scenes?
I didn’t use a stunt double for “The Mongolian Connection” and for most of the film, I am in handcuffs. It was difficult to hold weapons and fight while in a handcuff. After the shooting, my hands were bruised, but I didn’t let that stop me. That attitude is my advantage.
Have you gotten injured before?
Last year, I played in “Guardians” by Sarik Alexander. That was the movie where I became the most tired and was in the most difficult situation. I was hanging onto a rope on a six story building. While performing in “The Other Side”, I had fireworks shot at my body. I was really scared that I might get burnt. I have had many interesting scenes as such, but thankfully, I’ve never been injured badly.
You are one of the few actors that stepped into Hollywood from Kazakhstan. How did you first get into the international filmmaking scene?
I felt that it is hard for Asian actors to step into the international filmmaking scene. Aside from being unique, you have to be much more talented than others. I was first noticed by Russian directors and through them, I have gotten to know international artists. I performed in movies through them.
Are you bombarded with movie requests now?
It is interesting to learn new things with international artists. Therefore, as long as I like the narrative, I wouldn’t refuse.
When working with them, you probably discovered some differences between Asian and European directors. What is their biggest
...I felt that it is hard for Asian actors to step into the international filmmaking scene. Aside
from being unique, you have to be much more talented than others...
difference in your opinion?
When it comes to method, there is no difference. I did notice that western and American directors in particular are keen on studying and preparing everything beforehand. However, I felt that Asian directors focus more on the scenery and the aesthetics of the film.
In order to develop themselves and be noticed by foreign directors, what skills do actors need to possess?
Aside from the ability to act, the knowledge of foreign language is the most important. Additionally, the ability to ride horses, motorcycles, drive cars, fight with knives and swords, martial arts and do sports come in handy. I believe that doing what the director wants is the role of the actor.
During the filming of “The Mongolian Connection”, producer S.Uran said that there will be a scene of me driving a car very fast in the ger district and she asked me if I can drive a car with the steering wheel on the other side. I don’t have the right to say, “I can't” or “I don’t know how”. Since I agreed to play in that movie, I have to do it.
You have played in many types of movies such as action or historical. What kind of movies do you want to play in next? What seems the most interesting genre to go into?
I don't want to play similar roles in only one genre. I have played in many movies such as romantic, comedy, historical, adventure, and etc. I have also played in dystopian fictional movies. I always try to play in many different kinds of movies and challenge myself because by doing that, I learn new things.
What new film are you going to be featured in next?
Last spring, I played in “Scarlet Sails” and “Angel of Death” with Kazakh artists. I am not sure as to when it will reach the audience. I also played in a Russian director’s dramatic and a Kazakh director’s historical film.
In the last five months, I have been participating in international film festivals related to those films. At the end of this month, I will participate in international film festivals taking place in Moscow and London. Next week, I am meeting a South Korean director and whether we work together or not will be decided after the meeting.
If a Mongolian director asks you to work for their film, would you accept it?
It does not matter where the director is from. The main thing is that the narrative of the film has to be interesting, and if they recommend me a role that I have never played before, I cannot refuse.