AB: What was the toughest scene?
RP: The first beating you see in the film was so powerful because when we were shooting in the townships and using the local people in the same places. So the emotion was there. Not a lot has changed in those places, they look identical to the way they looked 15 years ago. It was clear to me that these people had memories that were still so fresh and they were re-enacting them. That scene crystallized for me what the film was that we were making and what people had gone through who had lived in these townships that are so dilapidated. That experience was very real for me.
AB: You’ve had plenty of experience being in front of news and tabloid cameras.
RP: Paparazzi, depending on your personality type, and every actor and celebrity is different, is tough. For me over the years because of certain negative things have come out, I flinch and look over my shoulder for cameras. Initially the idea of playing a photographer, some people could say I was exploiting people in peril and not to relate that to being famous and pursued by the paparazzi, but just that idea of an unwanted presence within a situation that should be otherwise private is something I’ve struggled with. It took time for me to understand that where some of these photos not taken in turmoil, in history throughout the world, there would be a certain level of ignorance that would remain, particularly with South Africa. The white press tends to ignore the skin colours so the fact that all this was going on and the rest of the world turned a blind eye or ignored it. That was changed by the fact that these guys went into the situation and took photographs that were wired around the world in a day when there wasn’t the immediacy of new media and the Internet. It was one of the only ways to get it out. You talk about Vietnam, and the napalm photograph, those images galvanized people in terms of engendering feelings and passions that might not have been stirred up had people not seen those photographs. I watched the documentary and there was something in that experience that turned me around how important the role combat photographers play in war and struggle. Then I kind of found a different appreciation and understood the impact of the job.
AB: You were initially concerned about taking the role?
RP: I didn’t have reservations about taking the part because of the story; it was more about my own personal resistance to the idea of what photographers represented to me. That selfless journey you take as an actor where you remove yourself from the story or part you’re playing, you see it from an untainted perspective.