The Crown: The Official Podcast

Episode 3 – ‘Mou Mou’

Episode Summary

Host Edith Bowman discusses the third episode of the fifth season of The Netflix series The Crown, with four very special guests.

Episode Notes

From his early childhood in Alexandria, through the building of his multi-million pound global empire, Mohamed Al Fayed had an unwavering fascination with the British Royal Family culminating in his purchase of the former home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Paris. After extending an invitation to the Queen to visit the refurbished 'Villa Windsor', Mohamed is disappointed when the Lord Chamberlain comes in her place and takes back several of the items he has had lovingly restored. Still hoping to win the Queen's favour, he attends the Windsor Horse Show and has a fateful meeting with Princess Diana who he introduces, for the first time, to his eldest son – Dodi.

In this episode, Edith Bowman talks with Writer Peter Morgan, Director Alex Gabassi, Head of Research Annie Sulzberger, and the actor portraying Mohamed al-Fayed, Salim Daw.

The Crown: The Official Podcast is produced by Netflix and Somethin’ Else, in association with Left Bank Pictures.

Episode Transcription

0.00Clip - opening

Mohamed Al Fayed:

…British society is the finest in the world. British manners and customs rule the world. With your help I will become that rare thing, a British gentleman. 

0:43Edith V/O - Series Into

Edith Bowman: Welcome to 'The Crown: The Official Podcast'.

I'm Edith Bowman, and this is the podcast that follows the fifth season of the Netflix  series, 'The Crown', episode by episode, taking you behind the scenes, speaking with many of the talented people involved and diving deep into the stories.



Edith V/O - Episode Intro

Edith Bowman: Today we'll be delving into episode three of season five called, ‘Mou Mou’.

When a young Mohamed al Fayed encounters the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Egypt, an ambition sparks in him to obtain wealth, power, and most importantly, acceptance by the British royal family. 

Years later, Mohamed's path brings him to Paris and London with his beloved son, Dodi in tow, hoping his wealth and connections will take him to the top of the British class system. But will his efforts ever be enough to win favour with the Queen? 

We’ll cover specific events and scenes that feature in this episode, so if you haven’t watched episode three yet, I suggest you do it now, or very soon.

1:47Edith V/OEdith Bowman: Coming up, we'll hear from the actor playing Mohamed al Fayed, Salim Daw..
1:51Salim Daw Teaser Clip

Salim Daw: In this scene on the Ritz, I felt really, really a crocodile with Madam Ritz.

Edith Bowman: I love that. That's so good!. 

Salim: Yes, 

Edith: She's lunch. Basically. 

Salim : Yeah. Yeah, 

Edith: Totally. 

2:04Edith V/OEdith Bowman: We'll find out the real history of Mohamed's personal valet, Sydney Johnson with Head of Research, Annie Sulzberger.
2:11Annie Sulzberger Teaser ClipAnnie Sulzberger: He is just incredibly loyal, discrete, trustworthy, refused many times to write books about the Duke of Windsor, even though he’s thought to have been very poorly treated by the Duchess Windsor after the Duke’s death.
2:22Edith V/OEdith Bowman: And we'll meet the director of this episode, Alex Gabassi.
2:25Alex Gabassi Teaser Clip

Alex Gabassi: We extended that scene because they weren't improvising. 

Edith Bowman: No! 

Alex Gabassi: We didn't. We're not gonna go through the bags. And then she kept going and she improvised you a watch and he goes like an expensive watch! 

2:37Edith V/O – Intro Peter MorganEdith Bowman: But first over to the writer and creator of ‘The Crown’, Peter Morgan. I wanted to find out why it was so important for him to move the lens away from the royals for this episode and tell the story of Mohamed Al Fayed. 

Peter Morgan: I'm always gonna take the side of the outsider, and I thought it was really important to understand the whole context. I also think it's such a riveting story of wanting to be accepted.

Edith Bowman: Yeah. And doing everything.

Peter: I know, you know, doing enough that one also really despairs. You know, he's a fantastically complex character. 

Edith: Mm. 

Peter: But it's worth seeing him as a character in, in the light of his own background. And you've gotta sort of contextualise: where did he come from? What's his relationship to Britain?

I remember when I wrote the adaptation of ‘The Last King of Scotland’ for the cinema, and I remember reading about Idi Armin and how he was brought up essentially by soldiers, you know, that represented ‘Britain’, and the exalted values that it was felt that Britain represented. And it's the same for Al Fayed growing up in the way that he did in Alexandria and, and a British colonial presence being there, and how he grew up with the British army all around him and was so in awe of the British institutions, the British class system, and for him, just the idea of being accepted in any shape or form within those circles would be such a vindication, such a sort of recognition of where he'd got to, what, you know, much more than amount of money in a bank. Acceptance by certain aspects of British society was a bigger victory, a bigger triumph. 

I would've probably always wanted to tell his story, but it would've been difficult to tell his story if it didn't intersect with, or connect with the Crown on a regular basis.

Edith: Mm-hmm. 

Peter: And amazingly with him, it was the house and his valet. You know, that when I found out that the, the guy who'd been the personal valet to Mohamed Al Fayed had been the valet to the former King Edward VIII, you know that the story just fell into my lap at that point. And then it was tricky, it was tricky how to make it work. And I did a lot of drafts of that episode because you had to constantly hark back to core members of our cast, whether it was the Duke of Windsor, or the Queen or whatever it is, you know, or even a building, like the building that we had seen throughout previous seasons, The Villa Windsor in Paris.

Telling that story ended up being a window into empire and outsiders that, you know, it felt really good to bring in. I was insistent that we do Arabic in Arabic and it was time to get subtitles into ‘The Crown’ and have a lead character speaking in their language. 

Edith: Yeah. 

Peter: And it's been really, really fun doing that.

Edith: I love that notion of, you almost been handed, a kind of gift of a piece of information that's this kind of spark of inspiration to go, ‘That's what I wanna write about.’ I love that idea of you, however you come across that information, you know?

Peter: That’s one of the key parts of my job really is to, is when you survey a decade and you sort of think, you know, what are we gonna tell here? What are the landmark events of this particular decade without which this decade would somehow not be being told responsibly?

And then what are some of the alternative windows that we can look through? And then what are the outright, ‘Huh?!’ moments?  And, you know, this happily became one of those, you know, and, and it was entirely down to the research team and their diligence and our willingness to read around all of it. But I have to say in that particular moment, the minute I saw the connection with, with Sydney Johnson, the episode sort of immediately started writing itself in my head.

I, I, I knew then that I wanted to go big and bold on Al Fayed, you know, all the way through.

6:37Clip: Mohamed meets Sydney....Mohamed Al Fayed: Is it really true? You used to work for the King of England?
7:06Edith V/O – Intro 

Edith Bowman: So, before we go deeper into Mohamed's story, let's hear from ‘The Crown’s’ Head of Research, Annie Sulzberger, to find out more about this pivotal character discovery.

For our question this week Annie, we have to know: who was Sydney Johnson and did Mohamed Al Fayed really hire them?

7:23Annie Sulzberger insert

Annie Sulzberger: Sydney Johnson was born in The Bahamas in '23 and in 1940, the Duke of Windsor and the Duchess Windsor moved to The Bahamas as he becomes the Governor of The Bahamas - which was ultimately a position given to him to get him out of Europe because he was obviously pro-Nazi. And he meets him at 16 years old and he becomes a beach attendant. And when the Duke of Windsor ends his time as governor in ‘45, he asks Sydney if he'd like to stay on as a footman and come live with him.

And this is back at the time when they weren't really sure if they were gonna be exiled for good. So, they go to Paris for a while, then they go to Berkshire and then they go back to Paris, realising there's no way they're gonna be let back in the fold. He gets promoted from footman to Valet and he stays onto the Duke dies in '72.

He's just incredibly loyal, discreet, trustworthy, refused many times to write books about the Duke of Windsor, even though he is thought to have been poorly treated by the Duchess of Windsor after the Duke's death.

There’s one theory that the Duchess of Windsor disliked Sydney. She did not like interracial marriage. He had married a white French woman and she had even had said in her own words, ‘My rich southern blood boils at the thought of a mixed marriage.’ So that could be part of it. And then his wife dies quite young in ‘72, and he asks for just a little extra time the day to take care of his four children, and she refuses and fires him. There’s another theory that she couldn’t afford to keep the same level of staff at this time after the Duke died, and she fires Sydney in this sort of move to economise.

And then we don't really know much about what happens between ‘72 when he leaves their employ and ‘79. But in ‘79, al Fayed buys the Ritz, and Fayed meets Sydney, we think, as a waiter in the restaurant at the hotel. And given that Fayed is a lover of all things English, he's an Anglophile, but more importantly, he's obsessed with the Royals, he most likely took this guy on because of his pedigree as having been valet to the former King.

 And he goes and gets installed in Fayed's British homes in Surrey and in London. And then in the eighties it's getting very clear that Wallis Simpson, who is pretty much bedridden now, cannot take care of Villa Windsor, which is something that Fayed calls it. So, Sydney starts saying to him ‘Why don't we negotiate with her lawyer to see if maybe you could take on the lease and restore it to its former glory and invest a lot of money into this to show the royals how much you care?’

So he ends up actually winning that. Sydney becomes a go-between to her lawyer, Suzanne Blum. She essentially gives him the lease to almost all the Windsor belongings, and then he goes to Jacques Chirac, who was Mayor of Paris the time, and he gets the lease for the actual house. Wallis dies in 1986 and thus begins the restoration of what he will call Villa Windsor. It used to just be called by its address, but he names it ‘Villa Windsor’ when he leases it, very intentionally. 

What he doesn't understand is this is the last place on earth the Royal Family would want to memorialise. They had to exile their favourite uncle! Nobody wanted to do that, and they had to. He feels rather brushed off by the Royals. He tries to get them to take the abdication desk and they're like, Why do we wanna memorialise the thing that was literally the place that he signed it on? 

The palace did take Fayed up on his generosity to an extent and various items were returned, but these were really primarily ones that belonged to the state or the royal archives that the Duke of Windsor had no right taking in the first place. 

So Sydney becomes a kind of curator and custodian of Villa Windsor. He's installed there permanently, and it takes three years to restore. They have a big, big opening night. Three weeks later he dies at about 66 years old. 

There's very little on Sydney. We don't know what he died of. We have some footage of him speaking when they open Villa Windsor, he sort of takes you through it cause he is the guy who knows the most about it.

But there was very little about him other than when he died. Fayed was like, he was the truest gentleman in the world and was very keen to sort of honour him. 

11:36Edith V/O – Throw to Beneath the Crown And if you want to find out more about Sydney Johnson, head over to the Netflix YouTube channel to watch ‘Beneath The Crown’, a mini series, taking you even deeper into the real history that inspires the drama.
11:49Clip – Atmos from Egypt in Episode intro  Football game sounds.
12:02Edith V/O – Alex introEdith Bowman: This episode opens in a world far from the places we usually see on ‘The Crown’, but no less influenced by the Windsor Dynasty. So I wanted to ask director Alex Gabassi what it was like filming his first ever episode of ‘The Crown’ on location.
12:19Alex Gabassi

Alex Gabassi: Yeah, we did go to places like Spain.

Edith Bowman: Yeah. . 

Alex: Uh, and we shot Alexandria in a mixture of Seville with Cádiz and Jerez de La Frontera. 

Edith: Yeah. 

Alex: There was a mix of architecture and all that, that I think, for me, gave a sense that this is the right place and, and also the idea that there's dust. 

Edith: Yeah.

Alex: Everywhere. So it's kind of this, you know, 

Edith: You can feel the heat watching the episode.

Alex: Feel the heat, yeah. When they, they're selling Coca-Cola bottles, that was in Seville. And that was, by the way, it's just, I, it wasn't a location that we're looking. I, I was going from one location to another, and so I looked and, ‘what is that?! That looks very, you know, Arabic architecture’.


Alex: And uh, and then we stopped and we see, and there was an archeological museum there. And that scene actually, there was a massive beautiful shot that really introduced everything. Peter didn't feel that that was right because you wanted to go straight to the character. 

Edith: His point of view kind of, 

Alex: Yeah, played in close up his point of view. Yeah. Sometimes that's an interesting, interesting decisions. Coming into ‘The Crown’, what you do is, as, as a director, you think, okay, this is all about framing, blocking and framing. 

Edith: Mm-hmm. 

Alex: And composition, that was ‘The Crown’ was always the thing. And in this case, we didn't have the usual elements. You didn't have the Royal Family from the beginning. We were not in England, we were not in those palaces, we're not, so I didn't have any beginning points that I could rely on… 

Edith: Yeah. 

Alex: To somehow, ‘Okay: I'm doing ‘The Crown.’ Everything was new. And then I had my wonderful D O P Adriano Goldman, who's shot many other episodes. So somehow we are both sort of okay, finding out. I'm working with him first time, you know, and in fiction. So I thought, Okay, let's just find our own way. So we, we did do a lot of the, the crane shots that the usual Crown episode requires, and yet we chucked them out because I think in the end Peter wanted to have this more of a, especially in that beginning at least...

Edith: Yeah.

Alex: This social realism type…

Edith: Well, because it's so different to. Other episodes, you know, in terms of it is kind of, it's taken you out of ‘The Crown’ for a moment almost.

Alex: Yeah. Yeah. 

Edith: Let's talk about the episode specifically and, and kind of what happens in the key themes that are in this episode, ‘Mou Mou’.

Alex: Episode three, we jump back to 1946 in Egypt, where Mohamed Al Fayed is in his teens selling Coca-Cola bottles in streets. And really the ambitions are there, you know, and his first glimpse of the Royal Family happens when the former King Edward, visits Alexandria with Wallis Simpson, and that's when he realises that the allure of, of that life and the way that influences the people around him, somehow gives him the, the first idea of, you know, this is what I should pursue. 

Edith: Yeah. 

Alex: And then when he marries and then has the son, and then that's via Mohamed, we introduced Dodi as a baby. So that's basically the idea of the episode is really to tell this story but also - Mohamed's story - but also to introduce this character is gonna be crucial for the rest of the story of, you know, the family and Diana and all that. So then we jump ahead and we see Mohamed achieving his success via purchasing a lot of famous businesses like, you know, the Ritz in Paris or Harrods.

Edith: Mm. 

Alex: And throughout this story, we keep the Royal Family some somehow in the outskirts of this, of, of this episode. And paradoxically, they are ubiquitous there because, we've keep mentioning them all the time cuz that's Mohamed's idea.

16:18Clip: Mohamed gets a call from The Palace. 

Mohamed Al Fayed:

…The queen's private secretary, I always said she would come. The mountain is really moving to Mohamed, where is Dodi? Tell him to come.

16:55Alex Gabassi

Alex: I think there's something about Mohamed Al Fayed and I think Salim embodies very well, which is Salim is a very physical actor, unlike Khalid Abdalla who plays Dodi who is way more intellectual. And yet both of them are very intuitive. 

Edith: Mm. 

Alex: And I think Salim plays, he reacts a lot of what is around him and the environment, and I played a lot with that. Just giving him ideas and moving around and then all, and trying to balance that with. So in a way, his first movement is to react to something and then he steps back.

Edith: Yeah. 

Alex: And sees it. That's why Sydney Johnson, played by the wonderful Jude Akuwudike, somehow he works as a, some kind of conscience. 

Edith: Yeah, it's a really fascinating relationship. 

Alex: It's a wonderful relationship for that because he's, as you can see, when, when Sydney Johnson's not there anymore in episode 10, how much Mohamed has changed. 

Edith: Yeah. 

Alex: And because it's not, he doesn't have that man anymore just to, just to look at him and go, maybe not that way. 

Edith: Yeah. He hardens, doesn't he?

Alex: He hardens. So in a way, Sydney Johnson was wonderful to have around, I mean, even in the scene, the crucial scene in episode three, in which finally Dodi confronts Mohamed al Fayed by saying, Look, you always want me to be my own, you know, man. 

Edith: Yeah.

Alex: To be more active, to be proactive, and to do, and then you cut my legs off when I have these ideas. But just prior to that, that's Sydney Johnson who is there, and Sydney Johnson is the last person we see. Before this confrontation happens. 

So it's, it's about Sydney Johnson being around. His presence gives him the right path to follow and the moral values comes from that, the ethics. 

It's an interesting thing because although he says in a way that I want to be a gentleman, the fact is that again is how can I become accepted? How can I be accepted? What, what? Teach me. 

Edith: Yeah. 

Alex: You know, by reading this, by doing that, it's funny because it's not about that at all.

Edith: Yeah.

Alex: And, and yet he follows all these lessons, which are very fun to shoot and, and to, and to edit. But, and, but we will find out later that there's something quite interesting because when we jump, just jumping ahead..

Edith: Yeah.

Alex: the last scene in which he meets Diana. You know, it's not about, and I mean you see that both of them are just free. 

Edith: Yeah. 

Alex: To talk and be funny and be…

Edith: Themselves.

Alex: Be themselves, and then you realise how great, you know, this could be if it wasn't for the fact that these two people are trying to achieve things that are, are not important and then, them two together are great.

I don't think Mohamed at the time of that scene, he was planning scheming Dodi and Diana together. I think he was literally genuinely interested in Diana himself in being a friend. 

Edith: Yeah. And I love the chemistry. I think that you feel it instantly. It's beautiful. It's almost kind of like two children meeting for the first time, you know, in a kind of…

Alex: Two abandoned children. 

Edith: Yeah. 

Alex: Who, who are just, yeah. Who are you and I'm here can be friends and, 


Alex: And it's funny, he's, he's, I remember that Salim has this idea that he was looking with the, the binoculars, and then he sees the Queen there, so it's like, Oh, she's there and she's not coming again!

I said, No, wait, wait. Because his, his tendency obviously is to know, he's a very funny person and, and lovely, so, and I said, No, no, no. Let's bring it down a little bit.  

Edith: Talk a little bit about working with Elizabeth and Salim on that, that introduction to that introduction, really, you know, of those two individuals meeting for the first time. But you immediately feel and see the connection. A friendship kind of starts immediately really, doesn't it? 

Alex: Yes, Yes, totally. And what we did was…Well, I suggested that we met first, not only because it was a long scene, but also just to see how Salim would deliver those lines in a way they felt.

Okay, I, you get the humour, but there is an underlying kind of emotional…there's a pathos here that could come in and, So, I just wanted to see how they react. And it's funny because then as they play the scene once and as she laughed because he's Salim is funny, and then Mohamed has to be funny there.

And suddenly I realised this is it. And she actually mentioned, she herself said, I think we shouldn't do anymore. I said, You're right. We should do this on the day because let's not, you know, lose that freshness. And as you can see, there is a moment in the scene in which she does laugh. She, she cannot contain herself.

And because it just looks her, Yeah, When she says something, Yeah, there's royal royalty here. Yes, somewhere. And she just, she just, because the way he does it, he just, again, is the way Salim is the know, reactor, if there's such a word. His, he understands, he plays ball. 

Edith: Yeah. Timing is so important.

Alex:  It’s timing. And also the timing in that scene, there was a lot, I mean, obviously that some part of me wanted that scene to be played in a two shot, all the, you know, all the way through because it's about how they react to each other and you keep looking at the other one when one is delivering. And then in the end, obviously you want to see the beautiful Diana close up.

So we do play with both, but there is something about when they nailed it, I thought ‘This is it’. It's, you know, it's not about horses in our right. It's about them that's it. 

Edith: They're in their own little world, you know? She's going through the goodie bag and…

Alex: Yeah. Which is, which by the way, we extended that scene because they were improvising.

Edith: No! 

Alex: We're not gonna go through the bags. And then she kept going and she improvised, you know, Oh watch. And he goes like an expensive watch! And that wasn't, you know, it wasn't there. So he kept going. So it's, it's a wonderful, it just kept going and I just kept, Oh, I'm just gonna be watching them.

And then she laughs, you know? So naturally. And we fall in love with her and fall in love with him too.

23:26Clip: Mohamed meets Diana at the Polo

Diana: Dodi Dodi? Or just Dodi?

Dodi: What?

Diana: It's a joke joke.

Mohamed: It's a funny, funny…

24:15Edith VO – Intro to SalimEdith Bowman: And now I was very lucky to meet the phenomenal Salim Daw who plays Mohamed Al Fayed, to talk about taking on this massive role.
24:27Salim Daw  

Edith Bowman: Salim thank you so much for being here. It's genuinely really lovely to talk to you about this character that you play and your performance. Congratulations, first of all. It's really special.

Salim Daw: Thank you. 

Edith: I wanna talk about, first of all if that’s okay, about getting the role, the opportunity to play Mohamed al Fayed on ‘The Crown’. How did you feel about that? What was your thoughts about taking on this character? 

Salim: I was so excited to hear that I might be cast in, in this amazing show. It's a great thing. I spoke to Alex the director and Robert, the cast director. 

Edith: Mm-hmm…

Salim: We did an audition via Zoom and I was waiting in my home, yes. 

Edith: How long? 

Salim: Yes. Sometime, you know, sometime, sometime after that I, I got the call confirming I was cast. 

Edith: How did that make you feel? 

Salim: For me, it's a dream. It's a real, real dream to have this big character in this great series, so I was so happy. 

Edith: Do you mind if I ask what you did for your audition? 

Salim: Yes. I did the lovely scene with the lovely Diana with my daughter. 

Edith: Beautiful. 

Salim: Because I did my audition when I was at home. Yes. 

Edith: Oh wow, that's so interesting because their relationship could be seen as very father daughter.

Salim: Oh, yes, yes, yes.

Edith: How did you work with the creatives behind the scenes? We've been lucky to speak to so many of them. 

Salim: Oh yes. 

Edith: And they work so collaboratively with each other. 

Salim: Oh, yes. 

Edith: Talk to me a little bit about working with all those wonderful people behind the scenes.

Salim: Everyone is so great, really, really. The wonderful and the great Amy. 

Edith: Ah yes the amazing costume design team! Amy and Sid!

Salim: Oh, and Sid!

Edith: Oh, I love them. 

Salim: I love them so much. My god. From here I say a big hello to Amy and, and, and, and Sid. Amy helped me really to find Mou Mou. Her choices of of costumes helped me to, to feel closer.

Edith: Wow. 

Salim: To Mou Mou and captured his charisma and his space, yes. And then I have amazing, amazing wig. Amazing wig! You know, when I, when I go in the caravan to make up.

Edith: mm-hmm…

Salim: I go as Salim Daw. I went out from there, I am Mohamed Al Fayed, really. 

Edith: Wow.

Salim: So great. This, this wig with the costumes it's really, really amazing. Amazing. And then Alex, the director. 

Edith: Yeah. 

Salim: He is so, so creative and so talented, you know. It was a big, big pleasure for me to work with him. He is such a great person. 

Edith: Did he give you, some freedom?

Salim: Yes. 

Edith: To, to, to play with the character, to…?

Salim: Oh, yes. We, we talk a lot about my character and we listen very, very, very, very attentive, you know, to each other. It was really great to work with, with Alex. So simple, so, so easy because he listened to me and I listened to him. So we found together we found many, many, details. 

Edith: Where did your research, I'm assuming you did your own research for the character? I'm interested to know how you prepared for this role. Because what I found really interesting is something I said to Peter is that as I think the public only really know Mohamed al Fayed from the headlines that we've read.

Salim: Yeah, 

Edith: We don't know his story. Yeah. So for you, what was the work you put in to research the character and prepare? 

Salim: Annie and the whole team of research did a wonderful job providing us with all the information about our character. This definitely helped me to know Mohamed more and to be more prepared for this part. I have watched numerous interviews with him, observed him, the way he speaks, walks, loves everything about him. He is, he is a fascinating person. So colourful. 

Edith: What was it like working with - and this is something that Peter said was so important to him about the, this particular episode, ‘Mou Mou’ episode three being bilingual. And what was that experience like for you? 

Salim: Yes, this was a great challenge for me. 

Edith: Yeah, 

Salim: Because both English and Egyptian dialect are not my languages. My language is, is Palestinian-Arabic, you know? 

Edith: Mm-hmm... And it's very different. 

Salim: Yes. Egyptian is so different. Another music, another details, another, you know, so, so beautiful. I love so much the Egyptian dialect really, I love. But, but I love challenges very much, you know, I worked hard on improving my, my English for the part, and with wonderful William and Joe, who were my English coaches.

Edith: Your English is very good, may I add! 

Salim: Thank you. When I arrived, I scared to open my mouth. 

Edith: Oh, bless you.

Salim: I swear, scared to open my mouth. Now I feel better. But, my God, it's not enough. I, I feel the progress. 

Edith: Yeah.

Salim: Yes. More and more every day. Cause I'm working on, on it. 

Edith: Yeah. 

Salim: And then I have the wonderful Nourhan, my Egyptian coach! They were so helpful and patient, so important for me. 

Edith: Mm-hmm. . 

Salim: Yes. I am a very perfectionist person, so I, I want to be exactly in the more smaller details. 

Edith: Yeah. 

Salim: Yes. 

Edith: Salim, how would you describe your character? What's your interpretation of Mohamed? 

Salim: Mohamed progression is very tense. He went through so much in his life. He is so motivated to be on top that this actually dictates the way he lives his life, and the way he behaves. He is so sharp, he observes everything around him, and when he gets opportunity, he goes for it. He came from nothing, and he became everything.

31:39Clip – Mohamed and Mme RitzMohamed: Please Madam, do not listen to idle rumours and concentrate on our offer. $18.6 million, significantly higher than any of our rivals.
32:26Salim Daw

Edith: We first see you on screen as Mohamed as he is attempting to buy The Ritz Hotel. How would you describe the character at this particular point? What's he like? I like how you laugh!

Salim: I'm laughing cause I, I love this scene very, very much. At this point, he is most confident because he wants the hotel. He loves this hotel and he knows he will get it. He knows that and I felt that when I, when I did this scene, I, I knew exactly that I will get this hotel from Madame Ritz. 

You know, I saw him when I worked on this character from the beginning, I felt him like a crocodile. Yes. I worked on, on a crocodile inside my my body. Cause he's here, observes, waiting, and when he see something important, he goes on it. 

Edith: I love that. 

Salim: Yes. He is a really…

Edith: He's a crocodile. 

Salim: Crocodile. And I feel, I feel like that in, in, in this scene on The Ritz, I felt really, really, a crocodile with Madame Ritz.

Edith: That's so good! 

Salim: Yes. 

Edith: She's lunch basically. 

Salim: Yeah.

Edith: Totally. 

Salim: Yeah. 

Edith: In this scene as well, we also get a real insight into a side of the relationship between Mohamed and Dodi. I wanted to ask how you would describe Mohamed and Dodi's relationship in this, this episode played by the wonderful Khalid Abdalla?

Salim: It's a very complicated father-son relationship. This is a father that loves his son deeply and is willing to do anything for, for him. Yes. 

Edith: Mm-hmm…

Salim: But in the same time, this same love can make him be controlling and unfair. Dodi is such a devoted son, torn between pleasing his father and, and waiting to make his own decisions. It's, it's heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time. 

Edith: Do you think it's complicated because he had a complicated relationship with his father? Do you think it’s.. That's part of the reason?

Salim: Yes, I think. But he considered his father, as you know, you know, he was a simple teacher, you know? 

Edith: Yeah. 

Salim: And Mohamed, he was so, so he saw the world…

Edith: …and he wanted to grab it.

Salim: Yes. Yes. He want to be on top, like I said. Yes? And he wanted his, his son, Dodi, to be really on top. He can see him a little bit, you know? You know. Yes. Oh, no, no. Be firm. Be, be here. 

Edith: Yeah. Wanted him to be like him. 

Salim: Yes. Every, every father, I think every father  wants his sons to be like him. 

Edith: Yeah.

Salim: It's the big fault of every father all over the world.

Edith: It's really wonderful to watch you and Khalid play those scenes together. He's a beautiful actor. What was that like working with him? 

Salim: Khalid is such a, a talented actor and a wonderful human being. I enjoyed working with him very much, really. We have such a, a wonderful relationship on and offscreen. You know it, it feels like we are really, really a father and a son.

36:26Clip – Dodi and Mohamed ArgueMohamed: I have money. What do you have?

Salim: There is a confrontation between Mou Mou and Dodi. When Dodi asks Mou Mou for money to produce his own movie, yes. Mou Mou insults him, telling him he has nothing. But then immediately we see Mou Mou and Dodi on the set of Dodi's film, realising Mou Mou gave him the money in the end. And this really shows how, how complicated the relationship was. He loves him very much and he is so hard with him sometimes, but he in the end. 

Edith: …gives him the money. 

Salim: He gives him the money. He gives him everything. Yes. 

Edith: It's almost like he wants him to fight for it. 

Salim: Yes. 

Edith: Before he gives it to him.

Salim: Yes. 

Edith: In a way, yes. He wants to see the fight. He wants to see the drive, he wants to see the determination.

Salim: Exactly. 

Edith: I love watching you when they win the Oscar 


Edith: At The Academy. That's a great scene. 

Salim: Yes. Very lovely scene. Yeah, We win! I win! 

Edith: How would you describe Mohamed and Sydney Johnson's relationship? He's a very important man in Mohamed's life. 

Salim: When Mou Mou first sees Sydney, he doesn't love him at all and asks to throw him out, but when he realises who he is, this Sydney, he asks for him back. And here we feel exactly what is Mohamed al Fayed. He can change. He's so flexible. So, why he asks to have him back? Because he needs Sydney to help him to be a real British, English gentleman. This is his dream to be, he said it. But then, but then after that, Sydney becomes Mou Mou's only best friend, really. So touching, So touching.

Edith: Unexpected for him.

Salim: Yes. This relationship between, between Mou Mou and Sydney, they really develop a beautiful relationship. 

Edith: It's lovely to watch. 

39:45Clip: Sydney tries to comfort Mohamed

Sydney: If I may say, Sir, whatever thought you might be thinking. I imagine they're no different from the thoughts the Duke had about the royal family almost every day he was alive. 

Mohamed: What are you talking about? Mohamed Al Fayed just made the Queen of England very happy indeed!

40:07Salim Daw

Edith: From all the research that you did and the script and playing the character, what is your understanding of his drive for acceptance by the Royal Family? You know, you talk about him wanting to be accepted as a British citizen and a and a, an English gentleman, but the Royal Family. He's driven by acceptance by the Royal Family. What's your understanding of why? 

Salim: Yeah, I think I understood that he thinks he will be own the world if this happens, yes. Because he will become bigger if he's close to the Queen. I think he, he thinks he will be protected forever if he's close to the Queen, yes. 

Edith: The one person that he does become close to within that family is Diana. 

Salim: Yes. 

Edith: And we, at the end of this episode, we see Mohamed and Diana meet and quickly become friends. They're like kindred spirits almost, both seeking acceptance, really wonderful warmth, and of course, Diana's played by the hugely talented Elizabeth Debicki. Tell us a little bit about filming with Elizabeth and what that was like. 

Salim: We enjoyed working together a lot. And we developed a very special work relationship together. She's amazing, she's so beautiful. See, she's really, really wonderful and so talented. It's a huge pleasure for me to work with, with this friend. Yes. I considered her like a friend. I, I, I feel she's my friend. Really.

Edith: That's lovely. 

Salim: Yeah. Yeah.

Edith: I love the scene at the polo with the bag of goodies. Yes. And there's just, it's almost like they're pulled together. 

Salim: Yeah. Yeah.

Edith: And the conversation between them is so easy.

Salim: Yes. 

Edith: And fun and light. 

Salim: So simple and fun. 

Edith: Yeah. 

Salim: I, I think, I think we, we feel each other very good. 

Edith: Yeah. 

Salim: Elizabeth and me, yes. We listen to each other. We laugh very well together. So what I need more than that? 

Edith: Yeah. 

Salim: Nothing.

42:36Edith V/O - Outro

Edith Bowman : I'm Edith Bowman, and my special thanks to our guests on this episode, Peter Morgan, Annie Sulzberger, Alex Gabassi and Salim Daw. ‘The Crown: The Official Podcast’ is produced by Netflix and Somethin’ Else in association with Left Bank pictures. 

Join us next time when we go behind the scenes of episode four of season five called ‘Annus Horribilis’.

A huge fire engulfs Windsor Castle as Elizabeth is forced to confront her past mistakes, will a public admission of pain be enough to absolve a family in crisis? Or will it fan the flames of growing discontent among her subjects? 


43:17Clip – Episode 4 Teaser

Queen: It has been, by some margin, the worst year of my reign, quite possibly my life. I'm happy for people to know.

Queen Mother: Know what, that their queen is depressed?

Queen: That I made a flesh and. Perhaps I, we have fallen short in our duty as a family and owe them an apology. 

Queen Mother: Apology?!

44:13Edith V/OEdith Bowman : Subscribe now, wherever you get your podcasts.