Mahershala Ali was concerned about taking his role in the 2008 film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” because the script included a sex scene, and appearing in it would’ve gone against his religious beliefs.
Ali, 46, who converted to Islam in 2000, recalled getting the phone call that he got the part in a recent episode of rapper Common’s podcast, “Mind Power Mixtape.”
“My old agent called me and said, ‘Mahershala, you got the part,’ and I said, ‘There’s just one thing. … There is that one sex scene where they kiss. … If there’s a sex scene, I can’t do it,’ ” Ali told Common.
It turned out that director David Fincher was willing to cut the part of the scene that included simulated sex between Ali’s character and Taraji P. Henson‘s.
“Taraji and I begin to kiss, and we fall out of the frame,” Ali explained. “It wasn’t clear if (Fincher) was trying to have, like, some bumping and grinding … which I doubt he was. … At that time, 15 years ago, I was still like, ‘OK, I can only go up to this point,’ just because of — just trying to hold a space of respect for my religion.”
The film, which starred Brad Pitt as a man who ages in reverse, was Ali’s first major movie role. After appearing in the first four seasons of “House of Cards” and the last two “The Hunger Games” movies, he went on to earn Oscars for 2016’s “Moonlight” and 2018’s “Green Book.”
Ali recently was able to incorporate his religious views into his acting career when he played a Muslim religious leader on the second season of Hulu’s “Ramy.”
“I’ve never had a chance to play a character that lives in that world and one who has so many aspirational qualities for me … who is clearly more evolved and further along than I am in my own personal journey,” He told The Hollywood Reporter of the role. “To get to sign on to play Sheikh Ali Malik was terrifying and transformative and inspiring and exciting.”