Screen Rant interviewed Daniel Brühl about his role in 7 Days in Entebbe, the crime thriller from director José Padilha. The latest film from Padilha follows the real world events of Operation Entebbe, the 1976 counter-terrorist operation to rescue hostages taken by pro-Palestinian extremists. Brühl plays Wilfried Böse, one of two German terrorists who, along with two Palestinian terrorists, hijack an Air France flight from Tel Aviv, Israel to Paris, France, holding the crew and passengers hostage in Entebbe, Uganda for seven days.
7 Days in Entebbe splits its focus between Böse and fellow German extremist Brigitte Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike) and Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi), from whom the hijackers demand $5 million and the release of 53 Palestinian and pro-palestinian militants. The conflict comes to a head when Prime Minister Rabin authorizes Operation Thunderbolt, the rescue mission carried out by IDF soldiers.
In an interview with Screen Rant to promote the theatrical release of 7 Days in Entebbe, Brühl discusses the real world events the film follows, as well as the preparation he did to portray the role of Wilfried Böse. Though Brühl wasn't able to speak with the real person he portrays in the film, as Böse was killed during Operation Entebbe, he did get the chance to speak to one man who was one of the hostages in Entebbe.
Screen Rant: First off, what drew you to this project?
Daniel Brühl: I was fascinated by - because I knew a little bit about it and [it] was interesting for me to go back in time and explore that subject a bit more. Because coming from Germany and being born in 1978, I was always curious to know more about the generation before mine. I remember many conversations between my parents when they talked about this generation in the ‘60s and ‘70s who felt so much anger toward their own country and felt so much guilt still and [were] shocked by the fact that there were still so many Nazis who were very well established and had some important positions in West Germany, [this generation] who then did go that step from being politically active to become more radical and extreme. This is something that fascinated me because I am completely against any sort of radical thinking and extremism but still as an actor it was interesting for me to understand the mindset of young people who did these things.
Screen Rant: How difficult was it for you to get into that mindset and understand your character’s motivations?
Daniel Brühl: It is ultimately always an approach because, again, I did not feel empathy for our characters but I had certain things that I could hold onto and I kind of understood their motivation. There’s not that much that you can read about those two, the terrorists. There were other ones in Germany who became much more famous, like Baader-Meinhof, so there’s a lot of material about that group. But thankfully we got a lot of information from José [Padilha], the director, but also Kate Solomon, the producer, and Gregory Burke [the screenwriter], who had for a long time been involved in working on terrorism in the ‘70s. So we got a lot of interviews from eye witnesses and people who knew these two terrorists, unpublished texts and rare copies of books that I couldn’t find anywhere in a bookshop in Germany. And the most interesting aspect in the preparation was to have conversations with people who were actually there, with the flight engineer, but also with the soldier who killed my character - he was the one who helped us in recreating the raid. That was pretty intense, but crucial for me in the preparation.
Screen Rant: Did you do any of your own independent research in addition to what was provided by the producers and the director?
Daniel Brühl: Yes, I could guide the conversations and I made certain choices of things that I wanted to know, for instance, from that soldier and information that I felt that I needed to get from the flight engineer. I knew that [the flight engineer] really had almost like a Stockholm Syndrome relationship with my character, so I really wanted to know from him how he saw Wilfried Böse, and what they were talking about in these couple of days and especially to know from him how these last moments were because I wanted 100 percent reliable information about these couple of moments prior to their deaths. And what was interesting, for me, was to hear from him that he really assured me that it was a deliberate decision not to kill the hostages and he was looking into the barrel and then Wilfried Böse [made] that decision. And I decided, for me as an actor, to stick to that version because I knew that he had spent most of the time with my character, within the terminal. The soldier said that they probably would have killed everyone if they would have had the time and if they wouldn’t have been surprised. But again as the flight engineer was with him and with them inside the terminal, I thought this would be, for me personally, the most reliable and most unbiased information.
Screen Rant: What struck me about your character’s arc throughout the film is how much empathy he has, not just for the Palestinians with which he sympathizes, but the group of hostages around him. Can you talk a little bit about how his mindset changed throughout the course of the film?
Daniel Brühl: Exactly, I mean for me it was important and it was interesting about that version and that approach in telling the events that there was a multi-perspective that José wanted to try and show the human side behind the facade of a terrorist. It was interesting to show the doubts that especially my character has in that process and that are increasing. There are very strong moments, for example when he talks to the old lady on that bench and sees the tattoo on her forearm; another very important moment for me was when he’s cornered by the Palestinian terrorist and is questioned about his motivations and the reason why he is participating in such a thing. It was important for me in that journey [to show], as you said, a human side and some doubts and heavy inner conflict. That again was according to [the flight engineer] pretty accurate because he said that it was possible to talk to my character because you could approach him and you could ask him tough questions and he was willing to answer them, but it was much harder to talk to the female terrorist because she was much tougher and more determined.
Screen Rant: What is one thing that you want viewers to take away from this film?
Daniel Brühl: To once again show how complex the perception of history is because there is no such thing as one truth or one history telling. There’s different points of view, there’s different angles, so it just depends on which side you are [on]. I would hope for a younger generation to be interested in that subject matter because if you’re interested in history and you read about history or watch a film about it, it is often easier to understand where we are right now because then we understand where we’re coming from.
Screen Rant: Switching gears a little bit to another one of your roles, you played Zemo in Captain America: Civil War - my site is very big into superheroes so I have to ask, can you see Zemo returning in a future Marvel movie?
Daniel Brühl: Well I hope so. I always say they didn’t kill me, which is always a good sign. As you can imagine, it’s extremely secretive. Even if I would know something, I would probably not be allowed to tell you. But again, I was very glad about the fact that he [did] not kill himself and [was] stopped by Black Panther and that he ends up in a prison. But I’m pretty sure he’s going to get out of that prison somehow.
Screen Rant: I also wanted to ask about Cloverfield Paradox, which had that surprise release at the start of February, what did you think of the surprise release on Netflix?
Daniel Brühl: Well I was surprised [laughs] like everybody else. Yeah, we were told, but only actually a couple of moments before it happened. But I guess that’s something that [production company] Bad Robot likes to do, is to keep surprising the people. And this is something that probably will happen more and more in the future, that there will be different ways in releasing films and dealing with films. If that means that for certain films it can be better because you reach a wider audience, then I think it’s - y’know, fair enough. But again it was really a huge surprise on a Sunday or a Saturday, I was like “Wow, that’s gonna happen - interesting.”
7 Days in Entebbe is now playing in U.S. theaters.