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 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.