Remembering A Messy Aus Tour And How Heath Ledger Helped Him Score A Film Award

14 October 2015 | 2:44 pm | Neil Griffiths

"Heath would say 'Hang on, why doesn't Omid have a line?'"

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Chatting on the phone from his home in England, Djalili laughs as his recalls his first and only trip to Australia back in 1997 for the Adelaide Comedy Festival. "I don't drink but I was around some of the worst behaviour I've ever seen," he chuckles. "On the first day people were literally off their heads on all kinds of substances provided by the actual festival organisers. I remember doing shows and hardly anyone came!

"Some of them even married Australian girls and left their wives and just stayed there. It was such a mess."

As well as enjoying a successful stand-up career, Djalili has also appeared in a number of huge Hollywood films over the years including Gladiator and Pirates Of The Caribbean to name a few, though he notes he has acted in a number of other lesser known films, "but they may have been too wonderfully substandard to have registered on any radar on any planet."

"Some of them even married Australian girls and left their wives and just stayed there."

Most fans will remember his debut role in the 1999 action The Mummy, in which he was famously killed off in the movie by being eaten alive by a herd of bugs, or scarubs.

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"The Mummy was an interesting role," he says. "It was traumatic for my own children as they were growing up because they'd watch the film while I was out of the room and would freak out when they saw my rather horrible death scene and worry it was all for real. It wasn't the kindest thing to do to my children or what you'd call responsible parenting, but I laughed my head off."

His role in the 2005 romance Casanova earned him an international award for Best Supporting Actor alongside the late Heath Ledger.

"I've never been more upset when I heard about the death of an actor," Djalili recalls of Ledger's death in 2008. "He was one of the most spiritually generous people I've worked with. My character never really had any lines on paper...all the lines were improvised, Heath would say 'Hang on, why doesn't Omid have a line?' He'd always do that, he'd make sure I have lines in scenes and make my role bigger. You never see that. I can assure you that's a very rare occurrence among 'star' actors. He was extraordinary."

Djalili will bring his new show Iranalamadingdong to Melbourne and Sydney this month, and after touring it through Europe in the last year, he is convinced it is finally ready. "Usually when you tour a show you tend to work it out, you get a bit nervous, your mouth goes dry. You don't know where the laughs are, you worry about whether the material connects - this is the only show I've ever done I think where I literally can't wait to get out there. I made it my remit this time to not speak so much about the Middle Eastern politics, not speak about suicide bombing, terrorism… You'll hear me talk about the pitfalls of celebrity, relationships, getting older...

"I'll be like a wound-up toy unleashed onto Australian audiences. It may well be appropriate if I get introduced on stage by a Tasmanian Devil who says, 'Now if you think I had energy, wait until you see this guy!'"