Standing tall at 175cm, Reza Rahadian has a lean figure matched with rugged looks, soft eyes, a wavy, side-parted hairstyle and a million-dollar smile. But, of course, these are not the only reasons why Reza is one of the biggest Indonesian movie stars working today.
In 2016 alone, Reza has starred in five different movies that range from biopics (Rudy Habibie and 3 Srikandi) to a hit comedy (My Stupid Boss) that went on to become among the “fifth most-watched Indonesian movies from the last decade” according to The Jakarta Post. The film earned a whopping Rp90 billion at the box office.
Elsewhere, this year saw Reza star in two equally commercially successful movies, Surga Yang Tak Dirindukan 2 and Critical Eleven. The 30-year-old actor also played R.M.P. Sosrokartono, the brother of national heroine Kartini, in Hanung Bramantyo’s 2017 eponymous biopic. The film reunited Reza and Hanung since their 2009 collaboration in which the director gave Reza his big break in Perempuan Berkalung Sorban, which earned him his first Piala Citra at Indonesian Film Festival.
Reza Rahadian might seem unstoppable today. He is an actor who has kept on giving stellar box-office performances one after the other. But dig deeper and you will realise that the amount of success he is enjoying now is nothing more than the result of tireless hard work and a strong determination.
Born in Bogor, Reza Rahadian was bitten by the acting bug early on, perhaps after he participated in his first high school play. “I played Hanoman in that play. It was my first character ever!” he says during our meet-up for Indonesia Tatler’s Generation T photoshoot at Axioo Studio. He was chosen as one of the ambassadors for his creative flair and impressive achievements.
Clad in a groovy Diesel embroidered bomber jacket under a printed T-shirt, Reza Rahadian’s Iranian-Indonesian features are striking for sure, but he also has a surprisingly laid-back persona. His calm and collected demeanour makes him an easy and relaxing interviewee. However, ask him about acting and you will see how passionate he can quickly turn.
“I see acting as a manifestation of life. Whatever I have learned from my life I will always try to project into my roles; any roles, really. Because playing a role is like creating life; in this sense, it’s the life of the character,” he explains.
It seems surreal that the 30-year-old is already celebrating the milestone of one decade as an actor in the film industry. After a brief stint as a model (he refers to it as a “stepping stone gig”), Reza started his acting career in TV series at the age of 19, before starring in two low-budget horror movies, Film Horror and Ghost Island 2. “I don’t regret my decision to star in those movies. They were not good and I still cringe when I watch them now [laughs], but they are my movies and I am proud to have been in them.”
Although Reza doesn’t regret starring in movies not up to par, the experience of being a novice actor was nothing if not nerve-wracking. “It was very complicated. I remember being so nervous about everything. I didn’t know about blocking or other technical details since I didn’t go to drama school,” he recalls. “Believe it or not, I cried quite a lot in the first six months because I was so frustrated thinking ‘was I good enough?’, because nobody said anything, not even the director. I just don’t know how to measure my performance, you know?”
It’s easy to label Reza as a perfectionist or even perhaps too hard on himself, but funnily enough, Reza can get philosophical, too. When asked whether he ever regrets not going to a drama school, the Piscean said that he believes “everyone has their own path in life and he relied on intuition more than anything else”.
Last year, Reza applied to the Berlin Talent Campus, also known as Berlinale Talents, a networking platform at the Berlin International Film Festival. The two-week workshops teach actors not only about acting, but also about how to get into character and project life into them. The highlights from the workshop included learning the method-acting animal exercise and meeting Hollywood royalty, actress Meryl Streep, who served as one of the guest stars. “I talked to Meryl for two hours and it was crazy!” he gushes.
Reza further adds that few people questioned his decision to participate in the workshop, since he is technically an established actor now, but he firmly believes that actors never stop learning. “There are two types of actor: those who are born to be actors and those who learn acting from one film to another. Not everyone is born as Christine Hakim or Meryl Streep, you know,” he smiles.
As the day gets warmer, Reza decides to take off his bomber jacket and lays it carefully beside him. We then moved to the topic of films, or more precisely how he defines a good film given that he has more than 40 movies under his belt. “A good film starts with a good script and is followed by solid casting. A film needs to have all the right elements, and when it does, you will see how the magic just lights up the screen,” he explains, adding that he likes to improvise his lines when he thinks it doesn’t convey the right message to the audience.
What about the Indonesian movie industry? Many pundits have said that 2016 was probably one of the best periods in the industry, with a series of high-quality movies being both watched and produced. “I think that movie producers have realised that if you want people to go and see your movie, then make a good movie,” he says. “Of course, I know that we don’t have many film genres yet, but that’s because we don’t have the market. The producers have to produce films according to market demands; it’s a business, after all. But I do believe that we are heading into a different era in the film industry.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that Reza Rahadian was chosen as one of the Generation T ambassadors, the generation that embodies perseverance, creativity and mindfulness in every aspect of their lives. “Our generation has so many talents; we have lots of intuitive individuals who are very concerned about what they do and who are concerned about our nation as well. My hope is that we can also have a generation that does not forget our past, our history, because nowadays everything is instant,” he stresses.
Does Reza associate “instant” with a lack of hard work or merely a hallucination of ephemeral fame? “It’s not as hard as it was, I think. Because currently, if you want to be popular, you can either be a celebrity on Instagram or be a vlogger on YouTube. But we all must remember that popularity doesn’t last forever: it might disappear.”
Reza’s face turns serious and his voice deepens, cautious of his next words—we both know the topic hits close to home. But, of course, this reaction is expected from our Generation T ambassadors. We didn’t just pick random names for our list solely based on their fame and glory; we also wanted people who strive in the eye of the storm. “I see failure as an important aspect in life, because I need to feel that and overcome it. When you have a problem, look at the problem and make it shorter and then move to another level in life.”
“I have been in poverty, and I didn’t know what to do at the time, but that was the most fortunate lesson I have learned. In life, you need to fight for what you want and you need to have a clear vision of your goal. You also need to ask yourself: what’s your part in this crazy world? However, I also think it’s wise to never pity yourself since it doesn’t get you anywhere. Just move forward.”
Speaking of future movement, it seems that Reza Rahadian will get even busier. Last year, the thespian set up his own brand consultancy company called OOTB (Outside Of The Box) with two of his friends. He sweetly confesses that he built the company for his younger brother, David Jonathan, who loves to shoot and edit. He regards David and his beloved mother as the energies in his life.
When it comes to upcoming jobs, Reza will be directing his first Web series this year and will star in a new film entitled Firegate. He is also slated to reprise his role as Bossman in My Stupid Boss 2 next year.
As we end our interview and say our goodbyes, it becomes clear to me that good looks and immense talent are not enough to make someone a household name. It’s the unyielding self-belief and passion for your craft that will help you to climb those ladders and allow you to remain on top. What a fitting description for Reza Rahadian.