BWW Interviews: Actor Emrhys Cooper Shares Feelings About Being the First Western Actor in a Bhutanese Film
HOW THE KINGDOM OF BHUTAN CHANGED MY LIFE
"Bhutan is a country?" Almost no one knows the answer is "yes". Or, that it is firmly landlocked between India, Tibet, Nepal and China, perched high in the stormy Himalayan Mountains. Or, that it has that the only Capital in the world that bans traffic lights. Or, where everyone has the same birthday (officially, the day after New Years Day. This way, no one forgets anyone's birthday). Or, that it was the first country in the world to ban the production and sales of tobacco. Or, that it was the last country in the world to get television in 1999.
In this splendidly quixotic land, Bhutanese Director Karma Deki wanted to make a movie that would highlight the magnificence and mystery of her country. Plucked for the role was young British actor Emrhys Cooper. The 29-year-old plays the main character Charlie in Kushuthara: Pattern of Love. Kushuthara explores the Buddhist concept of Karma and the possibility of rebirth of two persons in one lifetime to accomplish what was left unrealized in a previous life. The film is due for worldwide release later this year and tipped for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category at the Academy Awards. To this date, no other Western actor has ever starred in a Bhutanese Produced Film.
Emrhys was advised not to take the role because of potential insurance concerns; but instead went with his gut feeling. The rising Hollywood star, who is based in Los Angeles and London, spent six weeks filming in the South Asian Himalayan country. Devon-born Emrhys, who has had previous acting roles in Desperate Housewives, CSI:NY and the film musical Mamma Mia! spoke of how his view on life has changed following his experiences in the Kingdom. "Even my arrival into the country was a whirlwind national news phenomenon," said Emrhys. "It's the biggest movie they've ever made and they welcomed me with the most amazing open arms. I was on TV across the country and I was treated like an absolute superstar. It was a truly amazing yet humbling experience."
Emrhys - a singer, dancer and producer - has documented his experiences in a video diary, which is being made into a TV documentary for Broadcast later in the year. He says learning about the Bhutanese culture has changed his view on life and taught him the true meaning of happiness."Life in Bhutan is rich, vivacious and splendid, filled with an appreciation for home, love, family and beauty," said Emrhys. "My time there awakened me and I was completely inspired by the level of contentment and utter joy that the Bhutanese people feel within their daily lives."
Three-quarters of Bhutan's 750k people are Buddhists. Buddhism seems to be the key to their Happiness. The Bhutanese are content, resigned to their fates due to their belief in Karma, they do not search for more because they feel they are given what they deserve in this life. Karma- the belief that current circumstances are a result from our past, in this or previous life.
"At first, I was saddened for them by what I thought was their lack of modern conveniences that I take for granted. But what they taught me was to understand the importance of being content with living in the moment with what you have available to you; not worrying about what is to come next. Both my personal and creative lives have changed for the better by viewing my life in these terms. "
"It has been an incredible journey meeting amazing people and opened a number of opportunities for me. I hope my video documentary will allow others an insight very few have ever experienced." he said. "Being chosen for a lead in a feature film is an exceptional honour for any actor. To couple that with being the first Western actor to star in a Bhutanese feature film is the highest of gifts. This honour and experience is one I will hold close to my heart and cherish forever."
(top photo credit: Scott Hoover)