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"Sam can do it all, now that he dares to dream the impossible dream."
"The greatest part...was the opportunity to take master classes with Anthony Hopkins."
"Omer's journey is something I am proud to have helped create."
"They really took me in and made me feel part of the team."
"Omer's dream and my own personal dreams were coming true at the same time."
"I want to look back and feel like I have done work that matters. "
Sam Golzari  

Interviewed by Mark Sells
April 2006

Much like the character he plays in the comical new film, "American Dreamz," Sam Golzari has a big heart, is full of life, and unafraid to dream big. In the film, Golzari plays Omer, a young, bumbling terrorist who dreams of one day coming to America and performing show tunes on Broadway. And strangely enough, this opportunity becomes a reality when he is sent to stay with his relatives in Orange County. By sheer coincidence, Omer winds up on an American Idol star search called American Dreamz, with the opportunity to make a big impression.

Like Omer, Sam made the trek to southern California to break into show business. Once there, he began studying at the prestigious Acting Conservatory of UCLA, where he took master classes from Sir Anthony Hopkins and participated in a series of short films such as "Closer" and "The Break." All before landing his first major motion picture role in "American Dreamz." But surprisingly, his involvement in the film almost didn't happen. "It was crazy because I had no idea what the film was about. There had been a mix up at the time and I didn't get any of the audition materials!" Of course, none of that really mattered once Sam took the stage. His vocal and comedic talent won over Paul Weitz in the same way he Omer-izes audiences in the film.

Now, with his first feature under his belt, Sam continues living his own American dream. While pursuing acting full time, he also finds time to dabble in music. Specifically, with his very own band called the Elevaters, mixing acoustic soul with hip-hop. Says Golzari, "It has really been one of the biggest joys in my life." Singing, dancing, and acting. Sam can do it all, now that he dares to dream the impossible dream.

"American Dreamz" Review   |  "American Dreamz" trailer

Reel Questions, Reel Answers

You attended UCLA's Conservatory Acting Program. What was the experience like? What did you learn?

In the earlier stages of my career I imagined myself strictly as a theater actor. I loved movies but was not particularly interested in the process of making films. I just loved the immediate relationship you built with the audience. And it wasn't until I went to UCLA and started getting involved with student films that I really found an appreciation for film and all that goes into it.

I really fell in love with the sense of community. In other words, how everyone from the DP, makeup, sound, props, actors, etc. all come together to make 45 seconds work - from the moment the director says "action" to "cut." Probably the greatest part of attending UCLA was the opportunity to take master classes with Anthony Hopkins. I actually got to go on stage and work with him, which is something I cherish just as much as working on this movie. He taught me not to take what we do so seriously and to keep it real simple. To learn your lines until they are in your body, till you don't have to think about them anymore, and then to just have fun and experiment.

Although you've appeared in several short films, you make your film debut in "American Dreamz," opening nationwide on April 21st. How did you become involved with the project?

"American Dreamz" was the first feature film audition I ever had. I had gone out for commercials and television, but this was my first big, studio audition. And it was crazy because I had no idea what the film was about. There had been a mix up at the time and I didn't get any audition materials! I just showed up early hoping to get something to read before my audition. So, I got there and they tell me it's a Universal Film directed by Paul Weitz and starring Mandy Moore, Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid.

It was a complete surprise! Usually you have at least a day to look over the stuff, but I feel the character was one that I quickly related to. And it was exactly a month from the first audition till the day I found out I got the film.

In the film, you play Omer, a recent Southern California immigrant who is essentially, a terrorist in waiting. How do you think audiences will respond to your character? What are your overall impressions of Omer?

When I first found out who the character was, to be honest, I was a little worried. I have no interest in playing stereotypical terrorists. None. But when I read the script and saw who Omer actually was and what the film was saying, I fell in love with him. To me, Omer is the heart of the film. I know it's hard to believe. And the film does a better job of explaining it. But I believe it takes an open mind and a sense of humor to really be able to deal with the world we live in today, and this film is a good gauge of that.

What do you find most appealing about the story?

I just love the fact this film was made...and by a huge studio. If you had shown me the script out of context, I would have sworn it was an independent film. But when it comes to the story, I have to say that I love the growth my character makes. His journey is something I am proud to have helped create - seeing him go from a boy to a man.

Obviously, there are many similarities to "American Idol." Are you a fan of the show? If so, who is your pick for this year's Idol and why?

Yes, I must admit I'm a huge fan. I kind of watched it before I got the film. But after I got it, it was over. At first, I told myself it was all in the name of research. You know, to help build my character. But I soon I realized I couldn't continue fooling myself!

So yes, I'm a fan. I really like that Elliott kid. I'm a lover of Stevie Wonder's music, old school soul, and Elliott has that soul in him that you can't teach.

Where did the nickname, the Omer-izer come from?

Omerizer is straight out of the script. It's all Pau Weitz's creation. We did get together and work on the "you have been omerized" hand gesture, but again, I think Paul came up with the funniest one. He is really funny.

What was it like working with Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, and Willem Dafoe? Did any of them give you any advice? I liked to call Hugh, Dennis, and Willem the "Big Guns" on set. They are the real deal. And they really took me in and made me feel part of the team.

There was one day, and it was only the four of us on set, and just watching them and how they worked to make the scene the best possible was such a huge lesson. As young actors, we can be very self minded. We want to stick out. We want to have the best performance possible. But what Hugh and the guys taught me was that it is ultimately, not only about you, but the story. And the better you tell the story, the better you will look.

How did you go about preparing for your role? Did you take extensive vocal and dance lessons?

It was funny. The first thing I did on the film was record the music. I think it was about a month before we started filming. Which was interesting because I had just started working on figuring out who Omer was going to be. But I think the fact that I started with his music helped give me a foundation for who he really was.

I actually grew up listening to Sinatra. And I also had done some musical theater, so all of that helped in the preparations. I had a wonderful choreographer (Jennifer Lee) who worked with me to figure out all the dances. And some of the moves from my audition got in there too, which was exciting.

What was your favorite memory or moment from the making of "American Dreamz?"

Toward the end of the film, I sing the old standard "My Way." And on that day, my Mom happened to visit the set. I won't get into too many details, but while I'm singing the song, on the big screen behind me is a slide-show of Omer's life. And they ended up using actual pictures from my childhood, specifically some pictures of me and my mom. It was a surreal moment. Both Omer's dream and my own personal dreams were coming true at the same time.

Ten to fifteen years from now, what do you hope to be doing? What do you hope to accomplish?

Honestly, so far in my life I can look back and say I am happy with every project I have worked on, from theater to film to music. I was watching the Oscars and they were showing a retrospective on the works of Anthony Hopkins and all the amazing films he has been a part of and it reminded me of what he told me. Ever since he was child, he was a dreamer. He envisioned his life and his visions came true.

But I have always had a hard time with that. I was never the kind who looked toward the future. I didn't want to have expectations. Expectations that would collapse or crumble in my hands.

What Anthony taught me was that if I don't see it, no one will. So, now I am allowing myself to dream. To dream big. And to be honest, I want what Anthony had that night. I want to look back and feel like I have done work that matters. And allowing myself that gives me this new strength that I didn't know I ever had.

And lastly, what do you like to do in your free time?

I would not call it a hobby because I am taking it as seriously as my acting, but I would have to say making music. I am in a band called the Elevaters. In it, I sing, rap, and play the piano.

I would say we are an acoustic soul/hip-hop band. We just finished recording an EP, and have been doing shows in and around LA. It has really been one of the biggest joys in my life. And it has been crazy how much support we have been getting. People just keep coming out. And because we were all theater students at UCLA, it gives us a certain level of comfortability on the stage.

As an actor, the roles you play are initially out of your hands. It all has to do with your agent, the casting director, the studio, and the producers. But when I write a song, it belongs to me. It says what I want to say. And I have the artistic power. This is so important for anyone who wants to have a healthy life as an artist. I just called myself an artist! (laughs) You know...and why not?

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