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SAG Nom Edgar Ramirez on 'Carlos': 'We Got Away With It!'

Edgar Ramirez
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Edgar Ramirez just got back-to-back Globe and SAG noms for best actor in a miniseries/TV movie, but the first day on the terrorist movie Carlos, he was in abject terror. "You're in a circus and you're walking on the rope," he says.

"Omigod, it's surreal," says Ramirez hours after his SAG nom, "to be with [nominees] Al Pacino, Dennis Quaid, John Goodman, Patrick Stewart -- I'm the newbie." But then, the miniseries about globetrotting terrorist Carlos the Jackal itself was surreal. "It's a 5 1/2 hour movie that was never rehearsed. Never discussed. Everybody was discovering the movie as we were shooting it. When we (costars Alexander Scheer, Nora von Waldstatten, Christoph Bach, and director Olivier Assayas) were doing fittings and camera tests in Paris in Dec. 2008, Alex goes, 'Y'know, guys, quite honestly, I dunno how to play this role.' There was a pause. It was like dominoes. Nora goes, 'Quite honestly, I don't know how I'm going to play this role.' Another pause. Christoph said, 'I don't either. I'm totally lost.' There was a longer pause, like in Chekhov. Then Olivier said, 'Y'know what, I'm very relieved you said that -- because I have no idea how I'm going to shoot this film.' That toally cleared the air 'cause we knew were were really safe and we were gonna do something really special.

"Olivier says, 'The camera's gonna be here. So let's do it.' He doesn't rehearse. Not even table work. We never sat down to discuss the characters. It was a happening thing, like a Happening in the '60s. Very cinema verite, very nouvelle vague. He's the safety net, like a little kid, curious and eager, watching from a corner. He encourages you to go crazy. He's like a sculptor asking you to give him material so he can sculpt it. It was fantastic!" Often, after shooting several takes, Olivier would use the first take. "It's like the first cup of coffee that's brewed."

Ramirez is still reeling from overnight fame. "It's just so beautiful to be recognized by your peers, the people who know firsthand waht it is to invest yourself completely in a role. I can't complain. We got away with it! This time."