Director of Iran’s ‘Salesman’ talks Oscar nomination, working in America

Farhadi won an Academy Award in that same category in 2012 for “A Separation. Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi says the story that became “The Salesman” came to him in pieces over a period of years, only emerging as a compelling and suspenseful tale after he added a uniquely American — but also universal — ingredient to the mix.That his patience and his instincts were right is evident in the reception “The Salesman” has received from audiences and awards ceremonies alike, including on Tuesday an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film.

Because what’s unique to actors is that they can put themselves in the shoes of another, and they can play another’s part. “I had the story of this couple and the incident that befell them for many years,” he says by phone from Tehran with a translator helping the Farsi-speaking filmmaker chat with an English-speaking reporter in Southern California. “When I realized that they were actors, it was as though a great window opened up for me. “But I felt that a part of the story was empty, and I did not feel convinced by it.”He says he considered what their occupation might be, and it occurred to him that they might be actors.“This might go back to my own history in the theater and my wish to go back to the theater once again,” Farhadi says.

“I asked myself, ‘Could they put themselves in the place of that old man who came into their house?’ And then I was also looking for a play that could reinforce this theme.“I read a great number of plays until I reached Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman,’ and it was though that empty part of the story was suddenly filled in, and I became very excited to make this film,” Farhadi says.He had read the play more than 20 years earlier as a theater student at university and says “Death of a Salesman” is a much-loved play in Iran with productions staged there every few years.
“The Salesman” is the story of Emad and Rana, a married couple who are actors in an Iranian production of American playwright Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” The film builds slowly, introducing their lives and those of the cast around them. But after something bad happens to Rana at home one day, the ways in which she and Emad react send events hurtling in an unpredictable and dangerously life-changing direction.In the beginning, though, Farhadi says all he had in mind was a married couple and the triggering incident, and that wasn’t working.