Monday, March 19, 2012

Male on Monday - Inspiration for a Sheikh: Oded Fehr, Peter O'Toole and James Purefoy

When someone suggested to columnist Annie West that she write a Male on Monday piece about the inspiration for her latest book, they were doing her a favour. Amir in GIRL IN THE BEDOUIN TENT is one of her favourite heroes, and she's thrilled to be sharing her inspiration for him.

As a result, I'm featuring not one but three males today. Greedy? Moi?

So, picture me seeking inspiration for a desert leader. A man with serious scandal in his past who's determined to put that behind him and devote himself to his royal role. Think strong-willed, honourable, sexy and with a spice of danger thrown in.

So of course I thought of Oded Fehr. Those of you who've seen 'The Mummy' will remember him as the leader of the group devoted to triumphing over the long-dead and now recently resurrected evil that threatens the world. His character had that delicious mix of danger and ruthlessness (it's unclear to start with whether he's a hero or a villain), great looks, decisiveness, knowledge (there's something appealing about a man who understands exactly what the problem is and what it takes to deal with it) and bravery - he's willing to risk his life to do what he believes in. He's standing between the lives of innocents and dreadful evil and there's something about that protective stance that gets to me every time.

Oh, yes, right. You might want to know a little about the actor, not just the character he plays. Oded Fehr was born in Israel in 1970. He served in the Israeli navy and worked for a time in security for an Israeli airline in Germany. He did a short drama course in Germany then later trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre school. He's a family man with three children, one of whom is named Atticus (from 'To Kill a Mockingbird'). I'm skimming here but with three men to discuss, I have to keep this short.

Second, we have Peter O'Toole. A fine actor and one who can hold a viewer enthralled. Born in 1932, Irish O'Toole was raised in Leeds. He started out as a reporter but turned to the stage at the age of seventeen. He studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and in 1962 shot to superstardom when he featured in the title role in David Lean's 'Lawrence of Arabia.'

It's that role that provided inspiration for my hero. So what if he had blond hair and blue eyes? In fact those blue eyes were so incredibly intense I still remember being stunned the first time I saw the film. And who'd have guessed desert robes could look so appealing? The laundry team on that film must have been busy night and day keeping those robes whiter than white.

What hooked me about O'Toole's Lawrence was the intensity of him. He seemed to sizzle on the screen. Plus there was that marvellous tension about him. A man who didn't quite fit. A man bent on doing what he believed right, but facing choices he'd prefer to avoid. A man all too aware of his own fallibility. As my hero, Amir, was troubled by the past and living down scandal, he seemed a great starting point. I'm sure some of Amir's inner turmoil was inspired here too. He's torn between duty and desire. I'd even go so far as to call him tortured.

And finally, this wouldn't be complete without mention of James Purefoy. Was that a sigh I heard? This man has the sort of presence I wanted for Amir. Not just the dark good looks and eyes you could look into for years, but a physical presence that always grabs me when he stalks across the screen. Whenever I've seen him in a film or television show, even if he's not the lead character, I'm always aware of him. He draws attention and holds it. That's definitely how I pictured Amir.

Born in Somerset in 1964 James Purefoy had various jobs, including on a pig farm and as a hospital porter before he went to the Central School of Speech and Drama. A casting director from the Royal Shakespeare Company saw him and invited him to join the RSC where he stayed for a number of years. He's been in numerous TV shows and movies. I loved the quote I found from him - saying that his first role was as the boy in Equus, naked as the play begins. His view was 'That was my entrance to the stage, so anything after that was easy'.

How about you? If you were casting a fantastic sheikh hero, who would you use? Or if you were aiming to write a desert prince, who would be your inspiration?

Annie's book GIRL IN THE BEDOUIN TENT is out now in North America and still available on line elsewhere. It rated a 4 star review from Romantic Times and 5 blue ribbons from Romance Junkies. It was short listed for the Australian Romance Readers Association best book prize and recently won a CataRomance Reviewers' Choice Award. Annie is thrilled with the reception Amir has been getting. To read an excerpt or find out more about this book, visit Annie's website. There's also a contest there where you can win some other sheikh stories.


  1. Oh be still my beating heart!!! Nice Annie :)

    I cant think of anyone off the top of my mind. Maybe George Clooney could be one of the Sheikhs fathers that sometimes get mentioned in the stores? I think he could pull that off.

    I cant move past Oded...

    1. Tash, I wish Oded wouldn't move past ME!!!!

  2. Tash, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. You can't move past Oded? Oh, scroll down to James P! I did enjoy doing this post!

    Good suggestion about George C for the older sheikh. I can see that working a treat.

  3. Ooh, Annie, some seriously yummy man candy here today. And you expect me to turn away from this page and WRITE??!! Isn't Oded yummy? There's a look of George Harrison to him, I always think. I always thought GH was the handsomest Beatle. And you know I LOVE PoT. Such an intense actor - I think with all three of these, there's the intense screen presence that makes them really stand out from the crowd. Oh, and lovely James. I didn't tell you because it would have made you jealous (hmm, WHY didn't I tell you?) but Cable TV here recently had a series called Injustice with JP and written by Anthony Horowitz who did the Foyle's War series on. Fascinating stuff. JP plays a very tortured barrister. I tell you, he's ageing VERY well!

    Oh, and I can see where you get the Amir reference for all three of these. He's delicious!

  4. Oh bother! I'd have to just take all three and throw in George for good measure!

    And so to steal your opening words: Greedy? Moi, aussi? Hell yeah! (Enfer oui???)

    Bad, bad French! Sorry :-) But a great, great post. Much fun.

  5. James P. was my first "Male on Monday." Definitely hero material, Ann!

  6. Hi Anna. Apologies if I've kept you from writing today. There are some rather nice pics, I agree. And yes, I do think Oded F has a George Harrison look to him. Ooh, I must see if I can get hold of Injustice. I love Anthony Horowitz's work and can see JP as a very good tortured barrister. I think one of the things that particularly appealed when it came to finding inspiration was those who could play the tortured hero well as that's what poor Amir is.

  7. Hi Kaz,

    You make me feel much better about being greedy. Chuckling here at you wanting 4 males on Monday. But who am I to argue?

  8. Anne - I remember you having a soft spot for James P. At the time I hadn't seen him in a lot so your post was an eye opener. Thank you for that!

  9. Great post, Annie! I think a very tanned Clive Owen would make a fantastic sheikh.

  10. Hey, Natalija, that's a very inspiring notion. I'll have to ponder on that suggestion. Thank you!

  11. Ohhh, Peter O'Toole's eyes! Blue as a desert oasis. (Sorry, that was really bad!) Johnny Depp would make a terrific sheikh, as would Naveen Andrews, who played Sayeed in 'Lost'.

    Congrats on the fab and well-deserved recognition for your Girl in the Bedouin Tent, Annie!

  12. Ally, he's perfect for the role, isn't he?

  13. Hey, Vanessa, I think you're right about Naveen Andrews. Great idea. Johnny Depp too? Now you've really got me thinking.

    Thanks for the congratulations about 'Girl in the Bedouin Tent'!

  14. Okay, that hero inspiration was totally divine, Annie! Yum! No wonder Amir swept onto the page larger than life and teeming with ultra-hunkness.

    As for other inspiration... I know it's a long shot, but do you think anyone could convince Colin Firth to play a sheikh? :-)

  15. Michelle, I'm willing to give it a go. Do you think CF would take my advice?

    So glad you enjoyed this. Laughing here at your description of Amir sweeping onto the page and teeming with ultra-hunkiness. Love it!

  16. Annie, how can I get past James Purefoy for excellent sheikh material!

    Love Michelle's "ultra-hunkiness"!

  17. Oded Fehr is the perfect sheikh, he is so handsome. He is perfect all the way.