Hollywood is one of the biggest movie production industries in the world. It has brought together the people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. Muslims too have their share in it.

Faran Tahir enjoys a prominent place among the leading Hollywood celebrities. He comes from a family of theatre artistes having good reputation in India and Pakistan. He is not new to showbiz as some of his family members were actors, directors and writers of several Pakistani films. Faran moved to Los Angeles in 1980’s when he was 17 years old. Following in his parents’ footsteps he joined the same profession of acting. He worked both in TV and films. He has to his credit big blockbusters. The list of his TV series in which he worked is long but some recent hits include Criminal Minds, Supergirl, Burn Notice etc. He made his film debut playing Nathoo in the Disney’s 1994 live-action version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. He has since appeared in such films as Picture Perfect (1997), Anywhere But Here (1999) and Charlie Wilson’s War (2007). He got immense fame when he played villain in the super hero movie, Iron Man (2008). He has acted alongside top Hollywood actors such as Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Natalie Portman, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger etc. Because of his hard work he has not only managed to become a successful Hollywood mainstream actor but also actively participated in causes that help to create a positive image of Muslims worldwide. Recently, he was also invited by US President Barack Obama to the White House to attend annual Iftar dinner. In an exclusive interview with Sunday Plus he talks about his career in Hollywood. Following are excerpts of the interview:

How was the experience of attending the Iftar dinner at White House?

Splendid. I think it is important for all of us to acknowledge and give respect to the spirit of Ramazan. We should all respect each other’s faiths.

Do you have any special childhood memories when you were in Pakistan?

I have lot of childhood memories of Pakistan. Every street corner of Lahore evokes a new memory.

How did you manage to make a place in Hollywood for yourself as an actor?

It is God’s grace. I have worked hard for a long time.

What is the process you follow in securing a role?

There are different ways. Sometimes the role is just offered to me through my agents. At times I have to go and discuss my vision with the director and producer.

Do you do any research while preparing for an acting role?

Of course. I do a lot of research and it varies depending on the role I am playing.

You’ve created a good position for yourself as an actor in the world of science fiction movies. How did that happen?

It seems that some of my work found traction with the audience in this genre. There is theatricality to science fiction which I like.

Being a Muslim or a Pakistani did you ever face any sort of discrimination since you joined Hollywood?

This is a tough business no matter where you are. I have never let that deter me from my focus.

Iron Man presumably had a huge impact on your career, in terms of making you more recognizable. Was there a sense even during production that the movie was going to be something special?

Yes. I honestly didn’t know what impact it would have on my career but we all knew this movie was special.

What are your favourite science fiction films or TV shows and what do you like best about the science fiction film genre?

I am a bit of a trekkie so Star Trek. Also Blade Runner, Brazil, Avatar, and so many more. Science fiction is a great blend of imagination, creativity and theatricality.

I read somewhere that you are a big advocate for the way Muslims are represented in the West. How do you feel as a working actor about the way in which Hollywood represents Muslims?

I think things are evolving. We are growing in numbers in Hollywood so the world is seeing the depth and versatility that we have to offer as artistes.

As an actor, what’s the best piece of advice you were given or the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the industry?

Be honest with yourself about your work. Always treat everyone with respect. Give it all you have got.

Did you ever think of getting into production?

I am slowly getting into production. I think it is a natural progression.

How long do you think it will take for Hollywood to get over its obsession for terrorist-centric storylines?

That’s a tricky question. As long as horrific groups like ISIS and Boko Haram keep maligning and manipulating a faith for their own benefit, we will keep providing media the reason to keep focusing on such stories.

Your son also had a role in Iron Man. Do you see your family following in your acting footsteps?

For generations, my family has been involved with the arts. No one is ever pushed into it but if someone wants to explore it we will always support it.

Pakistan’s film industry has recently seen its revival. What do you think about this revival and what more could be done to encourage this growth?

I am very proud of what is happening in the Pakistani film industry. I think the business sector should really look at the industry as a viable place to invest. We need to keep injecting more trained talent into the industry. This is the time to bravely tackle important topics and explore new genres.

Share with us some most memorable moments you have had with some of your co-stars on the set.

Laughing fits during an intense scene with Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man to working out at the gym next to Stallone and Schwarzenegger and getting pointers on how to work a certain muscle, are all great memories.