In the captivating world of Egyptian cinema where stories come alive with passion and characters etch themselves into our hearts, one name stands out like a luminous star: Laila Eloui. With her radiant presence, unique talent, and profound ability to embody diverse roles, Eloui has captivated audiences and established herself as one of Egypt’s most beloved and accomplished actresses. Her journey in the film industry is a testament to her unwavering dedication and undeniable charisma. She has breathed life into myriads of characters, transcending boundaries and leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of millions. eniGma’s Farida Elserty caught up with Eloui for a heartfelt chat about her journey to success, her passion for acting, and the lessons she’s learned along the way.
Laila Eloui embarked on her artistic path at a young age, driven by an innate passion for storytelling and a burning desire to make her mark in the world of cinema. Her extraordinary journey in acting began in radio at a very young age when she participated in a radio program, thanks to her mother’s work in a radio station. Reflecting on those early experiences, Eloui recalls, “It wasn’t planned at all that I would pursue a career in acting. It all started when I participated in a radio program at the age of seven. It was from that moment, that my story began.” Little star continued to ascend, as she delivered one memorable performance after another on the radio. Then, at fifteen years old, she burst onto the stage with a dazzling acting debut, wowing spectators in a play called Taman Sittat (8 Women), directed by the renowned Galal El Sharkawy.
Eloui’s breakthrough into Egyptian cinema came a few years later with her role in the film, Al-Bo’asaa (Les Misérables). Though her role was small, it served as a springboard for her burgeoning career. “I will never forget the time when still a teenager, I got the chance to be part of this mesmerising movie. The experience of collaborating with legendary actors like Farid Shawky, Adel Adham, Youssef Wahby, Abdel Wareth Assar, Mohsena Tawfik, and Fardous Abdel Hamid was nothing short of extraordinary,” she recalls. With each subsequent project, Eloui honed her craft, immersing herself in the art of acting and refining her ability to breathe life into diverse characters.
Eloui’s trajectory in film spanning several decades features a rich roster of work portraying an impressive spectrum of characters spanning diverse genres. Her notable films include Mekhemar Dayman Gahez (Mekhemar Is Always Ready) in 1982, Al-Khawanah (The Betrayers) and Al-Shaytan Youghaney (The Devil Sings) in 1984, E’edam Mayet (Execution of a Dead Man) and Ayam Al-Tahadi (Challenging Days), both in 1985. Eloui continued with her busy schedule throughout the following years, starring in two films in 1986, Al Onsa (The Women) and Taht Al-Tahdeed (Under Threat), followed by Al-Akzam Kademoon (The Dwarfs Are Coming) in 1987, Gharam Al-Afai (Snakes’ Love) in 1988, and Ya Azizi Kolona Losous (My Dear, We’re All Thieves) in 1989. The next decade saw her star in Al Ragol Al Talet (The Third Man) in 1994, Kalil Men Al Hob Katheer Men Al Onf (Little Love, A Lot of Violence) and Esharet Morour (Traffic Light) in 1995, Tofah (Apples) and Ya Donya Ya Gharamy (O Lovely Life) in 1996, Al Massir (Fate) in 1997, Edhak Al Soura Tetlaa’ Helwa (Smile For the Camera) in 1998. In 2004, Eloui made waves with her performances in Hob Al-Banat (Girls’ Love) and Baheb El Cima (I Love Cinema), and followed these with another string of successes in Alwan El Sama El Saba’a (The 7 Colours of the Sky) in 2008, Mama Hamel (Mama is Pregrant) and Mitein Geneh (200 Pounds) in 2021, as well as the recently released blockbuster, Sugar Daddy.
During her long career, Eloui encountered challenging roles that tested her abilities as an actress. “I believe most of the roles I did were challenging. I consider every movie or TV series I star in as a new challenge. However, some characters were more difficult than others, of course, requiring a lot of hard work and studying to bring them to life,” she explains.
Asked which director most greatly influenced her acting style, Eloui asserts, “I wouldn’t say I was directly influenced by any particular director, but I’ve learned a lot from each one. I consider myself lucky to have worked with a variety of directors— some already had impressive careers, while others were newcomers who later achieved great success. I owe a thank you to Atef El Tayeb, Saeed Marzouk, Mohamed Khan, Youssef Shahin, and others I’m really proud to have worked with.”
In addition to her successful career in film, Eloui made a significant impact on Egyptian TV drama as well. She has graced a plethora of successful TV series, including Anf W Salas Eyoun (A Nose and Three Eyes) in 1980, El Lea’ba (The Game) in 1981, El Leqaa El Akheer (The Last Meeting) in 1982, El Gesr (The Bridge) in 1982, Zahra W El Maghoul (Zahra And The Unkown) in 1984, Akho El Banat (The Girls’ Brother) in 1984, El Tawa’am (The Twins) in 1997, Hadith Alsabah Wa Almassaa (Morning and Evening Talks) in 2001, Taa’la Nehlam Be Bokra (Let’s Dream About Tomorrow) in 2003, Bent Men Shoubra (A Girl From Shoubra) in 2004, Hekayat We Benaa’esha 1 & 2 (Stories We Live 1 & 2) in 2009 and 2010, Al Shawarea’ Al Khalfaya (Backstreets) in 2011, Napoleon Wal Mahroussa (Napoleon & Mahroussa) in 2012, Farah Laila (Laila’s Wedding) in 2013, Shams (Sun) in 2014, Heya We Da Vinci (She & Da Vinci) in 2016, Menwara Be Ahlaha (Welcome Home) in 2022, and Donia Tania (Another Life) in 2022.
Eloui’s rich repertoire demonstrates her innate ability to seamlessly transition between genres and embody characters from various walks of life. Her performance in a range of roles, whether as a strong-willed social activist in Hekayat We Benaa’esha (Stories We Live) or as the vulnerable Shams Nour El Din, a woman grappling with personal demons in Shams (Sun), resonates with authenticity and a profound understanding of the human condition. Her ability to delve deep into the psyche of each character she portrays has earned her critical acclaim and a loyal fan following.
“I study a lot, observing characters that are similar to the role I’ll be portraying. I also discuss with the director and others, their patterns of behaviour, the way they talk, walk, and even think. I collaborate with the scriptwriter, director, and stylist to build the character and gain a better insight into it,” she explains.
Through Eloui’s artistry, she has not only entertained but also enlightened, leaving an indelible mark on the Egyptian film industry, and ensuring her place among the pantheon of cinematic legends. Her exceptional impact has brought her a constellation of awards, including awards for Best Actress from both the Alexandria International Film Festival and the Cairo International Film Festival. “While each award holds its special place, the 34th Cairo International Film Festival award resonates deeply with me. It’s the oldest film festival in our country, and being recognised there with all your friends, critics, and colleagues around you is just awesome,” she asserts.
Her illustrious career and numerous accolades notwithstanding, Eloui’s ambitions continue to soar. “I dream of taking on a musical project, whether in movies or the theatre. I envision something big, impactful, and entertaining that showcases my versatility and love for the performing arts,” she says, passionately.
Eloui continues to enchant her audiences with her skills and elegance, and her story continues to shine as a guiding light for both actors and fans. “Believe in yourselves, train a lot, enjoy what you are doing, and always go for the unexpected,” is her message to aspiring actors embarking on their own journey.
Currently, Eloui is busy with a super exciting movie project, and she’s all set to kick off filming next month. “I’m thrilled about this project, but for now, it’s under wraps,” she concludes.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Khaled Fadda
ART DIRECTION & STYLING: Maissa Azab & Sahar Azab
MAKEUP & HAIR: Al Sagheer Salons
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