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Private Desert Actor on Creating a Complex Closeted Man in Love

Private Desert Actor on Creating a Complex Closeted Man in Love

Private Desert Actor on Creating a Complex Closeted Man in Love
Courtesy of Kino Lorber

Actor Antonio Saboia and director Aly Muritiba spoke about the making of Private Desert in an exclusive interview with PRIDE.

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Written and directed by Aly Muritiba, Private Desert tells the queer story of a conservative closeted man, Daniel (portrayed by Antonio Saboia) falling in love and starting a long-distance relationship with Sara (portrayed by Pedro Fasanaro). Sara, who still presents as their male identity by day, suddenly disappears and stops answering to Daniel over the phone, prompting him to travel 2,000 miles across Brazil in an attempt to find his lover.

After premiering in Brazil in 2021 and becoming the Brazilian submission for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film at the 2022 Oscars, Private Desert is now coming to theaters in the United States. During an exclusive interview with PRIDE, Saboia and Muritiba discussed the making of this movie, reflected upon the creation of the complex character of Daniel, and talked about how the actors built up their very intimate on-screen chemistry.

“In addition to being a queer and LGBTQ+ film, Private Desert is first and foremost a love story. It’s a movie about encounters, about tolerance in a divided country,” Muritiba declared. “Daniel and Sara represent two different and equally diverse groups that we can identify in Brazil.”

The writer and director explained, “With Daniel, with the little that we see of him in his house with his dad, we are able to understand that he was born and brought up in a conservative household. His values are of toxic masculinity. He’s very sexist, and he never learned to express his feelings in a way that isn’t violent. Daniel is a very sensitive person, but his environment forged a brute human being, and that is exactly what Sara is able to break. Sara, on the other hand, is a character that goes between two different worlds – not just in terms of gender performance, but also in terms of the [conservative] places she inhabits. (…) But these are also places where there is love.”

Private Desert

One of the more interesting parts about bringing Daniel to life was the realization that Saboia had to gain weight to play this particular character.

“He needed to be heavy, in all senses,” Saboia remarked. “He needed to be a heavy person – heavy in his body and in his movements, square on the shoulders. He needed to be that ‘rock,’ and he needed to be broken. (…) We wanted to achieve that look, so it was important [for me to gain weight]. Aly saw me and said, ‘You’re too skinny. Please go to the gym, drink beer, and eat cake.’ So that’s what I did.”

The actor also discussed the humanity behind playing a character who was so closeted about his identity and desires.

Saboia explained, “He’s a person, like many others, from a conservative environment. He never questioned the values that he’s been taught. He sees everything through that prism. (…) Trying to think back on my own personal, structural problems – who I was 10, 20 years ago – with some preconceived ideas that I had when I was a kid. We’ve all faced structural [notions from the world] that we had to undo.”

“He’s also a guy who’s in a military family, and the military [in Brazil] is a violent institution,” the actor added. “He lost his mother when he was a teenager. So it was about trying to find that violence within him, and his inability to question himself, up until he meets Sara.”

Due to the ravishing on-screen chemistry between Daniel and Sara on Private Desert, Saboia revealed that he and his costar Pedro Fasanaro spent a lot of time in rehearsal mimicking the phone calls that took place between their characters.

“We rehearsed a lot,” Saboia noted. “Daniel and Sara met six months prior to the [when the plot of the movie starts]. So, they had many exchanges on the phone, and what we did was recreate all those talks on the phone. We needed to nourish ourselves from those exchanges. ‘What did they talk about for six months on the phone?’ We recreated all of that, every single rehearsal.”

The actor went on, “We spent a month and a half, every day, doing long phone calls for an hour. The last one was eight hours – we were eight hours on the phone telling ourselves stories as these characters. So we had that intimacy when we came to the set, and it made our lives easy when we came nourished by those exchanges.”

Private Desert premieres in the U.S. on August 26 at the Quad Cinema in New York City and on September 9 at the Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles, followed by other select cities.

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Bernardo Sim

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Bernardo Sim is experiencing the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.

Bernardo Sim is experiencing the queer pop culture multiverse. Born in Brazil, he currently lives in South Florida.