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Being a Lieutenant in the Ottoman Imperial Army: A Conversation with Michiel Huisman

The Ottoman Lieutenant

From the director of The Forgotten Joseph Ruben, comes the powerful and gripping action-packed drama, THE OTTOMAN LIEUTENANT. Featuring an all-star cast including Academy Award® winner Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, Schindler’s List), Josh Hartnett (Black Hawk Down, Penny Dreadful), Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones, The Age of Adaline) and Hera Hilmar (Anna Karenina, Davinci’s Demons) THE OTTOMAN LIEUTENANT will be released on Digital Download from 24 July and DVD and Blu-ray from 7 August.

THE OTTOMAN LIEUTENANT tells the wartime story of a strong-willed woman Lillie (Hera Hilmar) who leaves the United States after meeting Jude (Josh Hartnett) an American doctor who runs a remote medical mission within the exotic Ottoman Empire. There, she finds her loyalty tested to both Jude and the mission’s sagacious founder (Ben Kingsley) when she falls in love with Ismail (Michiel Huisman), a Lieutenant in the Ottoman Imperial Army. Set among the backdrop of World War 1 and tied together with epic battles and mind-blowing fight sequences, Lillie must decide if she wants to be what other people want her to be, or to be herself.



What was it like playing a character in this setting, and what were some challenges for your character (Ismail)? 

Yes, there were definitely challenges when it came to portraying Ismail. First off, I had to learn a little bit of Turkish, so that itself was a major challenge. It takes place right before the First World War in Turkey, a time I knew little about when I first began working on this project. It is essentially a love drama set against the backdrop of a world that is slowly falling apart. Despite the horrors encircling the region, which I’ve only later come to fully understand, the film is really a romantic drama, and that was always the driving force of the way I would tell Ismail’s story. 


What are the overarching themes of the movie?
The biggest theme of the movie is how love can overcome differences between people. It takes place over a hundred years ago, but that theme of love is still relevant today. And I hope that adds to the timelessness of our story. When I read the script, to me, it was a war story, a western and a love drama all in one. Ithas spectacular shots of Turkey.


Could you describe Ismail’s character? 
I think he’s a very educated man from the upper class of Istanbul. He’s a lieutenant of the army but not by choice. I think these elements make for a very interesting soldier. He’s not someone who enjoys the violence that comes with being part of the army. He falls madly in love with Lillie partly because they both have a hunger for adventure. Ismail sees the power of Lillie’s character, her bravery and adventurous spirit, and he falls in love. The evolution of Ismail’s character really lies on his discovery of true love, and how love can overcome differences between nationalities, culture, and religion. I think he would never have thought this was possible for him to fall in love with an American Christian, being an Ottoman Muslim officer himself. It allows him to find his true self.


Can you talk about Lillie’s character in connection with Ismail, and how this story is relevant today?
Lillie is a very brave young woman who decides to travel in the middle of nowhere in Turkey to work at an American mission hospital. Lillie and Ismail are two people from completely different worlds, and it’s a time where a Christian woman with a Muslim man is unacceptable. But our attraction to each other is too strong to ignore. There’s something about this dynamic that I find timeless. This is a love story that took place in a time of turmoil, and although it took place over a hundred years ago, it could have very well taken place yesterday. There is a love triangle between Lillie, Ismail, and Jude. In many ways, Jude is a better match for Lillie, but love pushes her the other way. For my character, I always felt it was a one way street and not necessarily a love triangle, because Ismail was set on Lillie from the beginning.



The Ottoman Lieutenant Film Page

THE OTTOMAN LIEUTENANT will be released on Digital Download from 24 July and DVD and Blu-ray from 7 August

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