In an era where the current president’s goals are to build a wall and enforce a travel ban, “American Wrestler: The Wizard” is an inspirational sports’ film that centers on an immigrant teen fleeing the Iranian revolution, who finds his voice as a high school wrestler. The backstory on how American Wrestler was conceptualized is just as interesting as the premise. Based on the experiences of producer Ali Afshar – who also stars in the film as the uncle who helped him adjust to American life in the early 80’s.
We had the opportunity to talk with Ali and the film’s star George Kosturos about this project and its upcoming sequel, American Fighter.
Jill: What was it about the script that attracted you?
George: I think the story. The story is such an inspiring underdog story. It’s the type of movie that I always kind of dreamed of doing. Growing up, Karate Kid was my favorite movie. I could relate to the kid and I wanted to be a part of it in any way. I think it’s just the fact that Ali’s story is just too inspiring and it’s something that I think America needed at the time and we can learn something today. I’m thankful to have been in the film.
Jill: Were you nervous playing Ali when he is also in the film, part of the production and just so deeply involved? How did you go about preparing for the role, even though you had the resource right there?
George: Well, I tried to do it on my own, but luckily Ali was there. Just getting time to spend with him inside a room or training before the movie started. We had to spend a lot of time together and get to know each other. He’s surprisingly a lot like me so I was able to like relate to him very well and try to harness his younger self. But yeah, it was great. There were times were I was playing opposite him in the scene and I was trying to say everything right. I think it all ended up pretty well.
Jill: Variety said that in watching this film, they felt that this was the birth of a movie star. What do you think it is about this performance that made it so special?
George: I think the film itself was an opportunity to showcase a lot of different things. The character I play required a lot from me. I had to put a lot of everything, Ali sort of transformed throughout the film.
Jill: So the audition process was pretty lengthy and intense for you. I read you had to go through something like auditioning seven times plus heavy physical training for the role.
George: Yeah, they had me on pins and needles for a while and I’m sure Ali has something to say about that. We had to go through so many rounds. I fell in love with the script as soon as I read it and I wanted the role really badly. First audition I went in and they thought I was great but told me I needed to lose a little weight. So, I called my manager that day and I was like “Hey! I’m going to lose this weight.” I dropped 20 pounds
Jill: Ali what was it about him that you saw that made you finally decide “Hey, this is the guy for the role.” And why did it take so long for you to decide yes?