Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back
What do a US Marine lieutenant colonel, a community college instructor in sports management, and an Afghan-born American Hollywood film actor have in common? The answer is in a book entitled Fahim Speaks: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back.
Fahim Speaks is co-authored by NHTI instructor Michael Moffett, who is also a retired lieutenant colonel in the US Marines, and Fahim Fazli, an interpreter. Fazli is a native of Kabul, Afghanistan, who escaped in 1983 to immigrate to America, where he eventually became a US citizen as well as a Hollywood actor and successful member of the Screen Actors Guild.
Moffett is a career Marine who retired as a reserve lieutenant colonel in 2011. After serving on active duty during the 1980s, he joined the reserves and in 1990 was named commanding officer of a USMC reserve detachment. He took his unit to Saudi Arabia and was awarded a Combat Action Ribbon after his Marines helped liberate Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
Following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Moffett returned to active duty as a lieutenant colonel, serving on General Tommy Franks’ staff at Central Command for the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom and the liberation of Afghanistan from Taliban rule.
Moffett encountered Fazli during a mission to Afghanistan in 2010 to serve as a field historian for the Marine Corps University’s History Division. His mission was to document the Marine experiences in their Areas of Operation in Helmand Province.
Moffett was able to chart his own course in Afghanistan, moving from outpost to outpost, interviewing scores of Marines and taking countless photos.
His travels took him to the crossroads town of Delaram to connect with Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, where he met Fazli.
“What was a 43-year-old Hollywood actor doing in dangerous Delaram?” wondered Moffett, who got his answer after he interviewed Fazli. Fazli had a special love for the USA and he wanted to repay his adopted country for the opportunities it had provided him. Moffett also found out that the charismatic Fazli was such a successful interpreter – working as a cultural bridge linking Americans with Afghans – that the Taliban had put a price on his head.
Fazli told Moffett that he was thinking of writing a book on his experiences, but while he spoke six languages, his English was not strong. The two stayed in touch after each returned to America.
Moffett pitched an outline of Fazli’s story to a retired Marine Captain in Los Angeles at a publishing company specializing in military books and with connections to Hollywood. The pitch resulted in the publication of Fazli’s story, which was eventually titled Fahim Speaks: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back.
The book has earned critical acclaim, rave reviews, and a Gold Medal Award from the Military Writers Society of America at the annual MWSA Conference Banquet in Dayton, Ohio, on Sept. 29, which Moffett attended.
“Fahim Speaks was one of six nominees in the biography genre,” said Moffett. “It was truly a thrill to receive top honors.”
The book features a cover blurb from Tom Hanks, with whom Fazli worked during the filming of Charlie Wilson’s War. More recently, Fazli has a small speaking role in Ben Affleck’s hit movie Argo.
“We also get questions about this eventually becoming a movie,” added Moffett. “I do believe that will happen someday. A California writer is already working on a preliminary outline. Fahim is often typecast in negative roles, so it would be nice to see him portrayed as a good guy for a change!”