İsmail Hacıoğlu has been advancing with firm steps in his career. The actor, who has been known by the whole country at an early age because of his great talent, has achieved to touch the hearts of everyone with the film titled Ayla.

Starred by İsmail Hacıoğlu, Ayla tells the touching story of Sergeant Süleyman Dilbirliği who saves and protects a little girl in the Korean War. The film, which is based on the true events that took place about half a century ago, presents slices of the lives of Sergeant Süleyman Dilbirliği and Ayla, the little girl whose life was saved by him in the Korean War. The film has become Turkey’s Oscar nominee in the foreign language category; although it couldn’t take place among the best five films, it swept the board in our hearts. The young sergeant was animated by İsmail Hacıoğlu with a successful acting in Ayla. We have come together with the talented actor and had a special interview.

How do you prepare for a character?
Actually, I do not have a certain method that I can say I do this and that when I am preparing for a role, but preparing myself for this one was a different experience. Everything has shaped after meeting with actual Süleyman Dilbirliği.

We have lost Süleyman Dilbirliği but he was alive during the filming. What are the difficult parts of animating someone who is alive?
Animating someone who is still alive was something I have experienced for the first time and it was a different feeling. I was scared at first if I would be able to come through. I hope I did. When our producer Mustafa Uslu found Süleyman Dilbirliği, we sat down with our director Can Ulkay, scenarist Yiğit Güralp and ran through about 400 photos taken by Uncle Süleyman. This was very lucky of me. Listening to the events from him and looking into his eyes while listening were strange but beautiful feelings for me. It turned on a very different channel for me. I tried to walk on it.

What can you tell us as a person who has known Süleyman Dilbirliği closely?
He was a person with a big heart, getting to know him was so special for me.

What did go through your mind when you first met him?
I got so excited. He is the real hero of our film. If it was not for him, this movie would not exist. I cherish his memory.

How did you feel when you heard that Ayla became Turkey’s Oscar nominee?
We were having breakfast at home. I was with my mother and my spouse. After hearing the news, we kept staring at each other questioning if we have heard wrong. It was felicific news for us. We were so happy and proud.

Can you tell us about the filming process, your experiences?
Remember they say “It cannot be described but can only be experienced.” It was such a process. We were a big team and it felt like we were all running a marathon. I don’t think anyone in the team had run that long a marathon before. It was a very different experience; I got to learn a lot. It was also tiring but pleasing at the same time.

How was working with director Can Ulkay?
I have worked with him once before in a series. We met there. After long years, our paths have crossed each other again in Ayla. This was first feature-length film of Can Ulkay. It was nice to experience this together. I have learned a lot from him.

How was the reaction of the audience during the preview?
We have received great feedback and it increasingly continues. This makes us proud.

Since our job is based on interpretation, you act thinking of something and when an audience come and tells you about small but nice details you become very happy. What you think is comprehended by the audience and seeing this makes you breathe. After Ayla, I took in the deepest breaths of my life.

How was the process of physical preparation for the movie?
A special team of stunt performers came from Prague and we worked with them about two months. All of the main characters were there. We worked with Taner Birsel, Ali Atay, Ali Barkın, Caner Kurtaran. How do we fall; how do we get up. We learned how to act when our characters were shot. During the first two weeks, they made us do summersaults only. Just as we began to wonder what we were doing, we realized why we were doing those when we got on the set. It wouldn’t work if we didn’t have practiced. They taught us very well.

Do you follow the Oscars?   
Although, I cannot watch it live because of the time difference, I try to watch delayed broadcasting later.

What does receiving an award mean to you?
We went on a journey to make a good movie as a team. The path to the Oscars for Ayla happened to open up by itself. We came to this point thanks to this movie. If we were to achieve the point of setting an example on how we could present our films to the American film industry, it would be a great step for us.

It is an important job to make movies that would make impact in the international arena and if we were able to energize some people in our country to do that, this would mean the Oscar to us. This has been a long journey for us. I am experiencing something like this for the first time.

We have so many great directors and scenarists. We don’t have to get an Oscar to realize that. In my opinion, if we could start a fire for the people in the film sector in our country, this means that we have already won an Oscar. The issue is not about getting an Oscar to me.