As an actor for the last 20 years, Shaun Toub has recently seen his stock rise in the film industry. From his powerful role in the 2004 Academy Award-winning film “Crash” to 2006’s “The Nativity Story,” Toub is making a name for himself with each role he earns.
Currently, he stars in “The Kite Runner” directed by Marc Forster (“Monster’s Ball”), and has a small role in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” starring Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.
Via phone from San Diego, Toub talked to me about “The Kite Runner” and its timely release and some of the controversy surrounding the film.
It must be very busy for you with “The Kite Runner” and “Charlie Wilson’s War” opening this month.
Yeah, I feel blessed. You feel pretty luck when projects like this come your way. “The Kite Runner” is amazing. I also have “Iron Man” coming out in May as well.
When were you first introduced to the novel “The Kite Runner?”
A couple of years ago I was told that there was this book that they might make into a film. So, I got the book and I zoomed through it. I thought it was amazing.
What about the story resonated with you?
I think for me it’s truly a human story. It takes place in Afghanistan but at the end of the day the story is a universal story. It’s a story of family, friendship, love, betrayal and redemption. The reason that people from different walks of life and different cultures are responding so strongly to “The Kite Runner” is because it’s life – all it’s beauty and ugliness.
With everything that is going on in the Middle East right now, do you think the timeliness of the film is going to be a positive for it?
Yeah, the timing definitely couldn’t hurt, especially for the Afghan people. These people have been through so much. The Afghanistan of 30 years ago doesn’t even exist anymore. I hope the film sheds some light on Afghanistan. I hope it helps people understand what’s going on in the world and that we need to be involved.
Now, I know the film’s release was pushed back because of safety concerns for the two child actors. Since you worked so closely with the kids, what is your take on the situation?
The kids were wonderful. I wanted to adopt them. To the studio’s credit, they are really taking all the precautions that they can. They are being very careful and doing everything in their power to make sure the kids are fine. When we started filming “The Kite Runner” Afghanistan was a different place, a lot safer. Unfortunately, things have taken a bad turn. The studio was concerned about it. At the end of the day, I think the kids are going to look at this and feel blessed that they were a part of this journey.
Were you at all disappointed that the parents of one of the kids wanted one of the most important albeit disturbing scenes removed from the film?
I understand the culture. I take everything with a grain of salt. I understand that life is difficult in Afghanistan. Was I disappointed? I can’t put blame on anyone. I don’t know what their motivation is. Naturally, this was always part of the story. Everybody was aware of the scene. To [director] Marc Forster’s credit, he did it very tastefully. He was really aware of the kids and didn’t want to make it too graphic. In the book, it is much more graphic than the film. It just sends a message and the audience understands that it’s happened without showing anything.
You’ve done some TV work and are now recently getting more film roles. Over the last few years, what kind of growth have you seen from yourself as an actor?
Well, that’s interesting. I really haven’t thought about that. I think it just feels like a natural progression. I’ve gone back and fourth in television and film and because of the blessings of “Crash” have had the opportunity to work on better projects. I have been [an actor] for 20 years and what I see in myself is that I now realize that I need more [from a project]. I realize that I am a lot pickier with what I do. It takes a lot more to excite me. I also realized that I truly love what I do. That’s why am so passionate about it. I want to do everything in my power to do the best I can do.
You have a Persian background. Do you feel like people in the Persian community are looking up to you since there are not many Hollywood actors with your ethnicity?
I would be lying to you if I said that they don’t. I can tell by the reaction of people at different events. I think they look at me and see the possibilities. Arts have been taboo in my culture. It’s a culture where doctors, engineers and attorneys are acceptable professions. But things are changing.