Tony Said and the Chariots of Fire

Tony Said and the Chariots of Fire
Tony Said with this  year’s Oscar winner Sam Rockwell

by Sherif Awad

During the inaugural edition of Elgouna Film Festival last
September, an elegant gentleman wearing a lavish tuxedo was approached on the
red carpet by many stars, Egyptians like Sherine Redda and Ghada Adel and
non-Egyptians like Michael Madsen to have their photos taken with him. With his
great smile and his kind words he pronounced with a perfect British accent,
everybody in Elgouna and the entertainment field seemed to know him: He is civil
engineer Said Hamed known in the UK media and businessmen’s circles as Mr. Said
Tony, head of the Egyptian Businessmen Association in London.
Tony was born in Boulaq, the old district neighboring
downtown Cairo and the Nile River… In the old days, this district was a main
Cairo port and the host of many industries related to blacksmith and cotton
trade. In modern days, many Egyptian success stories like his own started from
Boulaq in the likes of  Egyptian
filmmaker Salah Abou-Seif and Egyptian singer Moharam Fouad.
After receiving his secondary certificate in 1970, the young
Tony was like many young men during that era who were affected by the defeat of
the 1967 war, which drove them to immigrate to Europe and the States either to
work or to finish their studies. As for Tony, he decided to continue his higher
education abroad. “It was easier to get a visa for Austria those days”,
remembers Tony. “And so, Vienna was my first stop in Europe. I started to study
civil engineering there for two years, until I finally moved to London”.
Between studying and seeking a residency visa, Tony succeeded to open his first
company Cleopatra Seafoods in the mid-1970s. “It is still operating till now
with great success”.
Tony Said and the Chariots of Fire
Tony Said in a UK construction site

During the last four
decades, Tony became of the leading businessmen in England. He invested in
hotels like Holme Lacy House Hotel and properties he rented for British
celebrities like Eva Green and Sam Rockwell who has just won the Oscar for Best
Supporting Actor last March for his role in the film
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Tony was even elected to become a judge in criminal
court although he did not study law, a honor given to leaders in their British
districts.

From Boulaq to the Oscars

Tony was also attracted
to film production through another famous Egyptian billionaire, the late Dodi El-Fayed
who is credited to be the co-producer of a number of American and British films
including the two-successful American action films F/X (1986) and its
sequel F/X2 (1991) that both starred Brian Dennehy and Bryan Brown
playing respectively a cop and a special effects professional joining forces to
chase down criminal masterminds. “Through my late friend El-Fayed, I was
introduced to the filmmakers of the 1981 Oscar-winner Chariots of Fire
that chronicled the true story of two British athletes to the 1924 Olympics”,
explained Said who co-financed the film . “In the UK,
according to the British laws, many businessmen
venture into film financing and coproduction to be granted tax exemption on
their own fields of work. Even if the film loses money, the sum invested in it
can be deducted from the taxes of the financing company. I hope we can apply
the same criteria in Egypt because this is the secret behind big film
industries in Hollywood and the UK. I should add that in the UK, the National
Lottery helps to finance the British Film Institute (BFI) and many important UK
films since the 1990s. Among those films, The Constant Gardener and Gosford
Park
. With over £50 million of National Lottery funding to invest each
year, the BFI is the UK’s largest public investor in film, he added.
Tony was never
disconnected from Egypt. He kept on visiting during his annual vacation to
support his old district Bulaq and to advise in many committees including the
one that implemented the new Egyptian protest law in 2013 by former president
Adly Mansour, one of his old friends.
Currently living
between Elgouna and London, Tony is continuing to work in the food and hotel
businesses among other types of investments. “I hope my story becomes
inspirational for the young people of Egypt to work hard and pursue their dream
while never forgetting their homeland, Egypt”, said Tony before travelling back
to London. It will be a short period before returning to his house in Elgouna.

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Sherif M. Awad
Sherif M. Awad
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