Meet Youssra El Lozy, Egyptian cinema's next big thing

Safaa Abdoun
10 Min Read

A glamorous face, exceptional talent and striking personality, is the Youssra El Lozy many of us know from her screen roles. A down-to-earth, simple and passionate young woman – this is Youssra El Lozy in real life.

She may have walked down Tahrir Square on her way to class at the American University in Cairo (AUC) one day and strolled down the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival the day after, but it hasn’t gotten to her head. She just goes for what she loves.

“I do something because I like it and believe in it, the young actress told Daily News Egypt. “I have a certain philosophy with acting, I do it out of passion, the people I work with, it’s something I really love; I’m not doing it for the fame or the money, she said.

“If it’s a role I like with two scenes only, I do it if it’s in a movie for Youssry Nasrallah, Khairy Beshara – there are some people you just can’t say no to because you know it will be a great movie, El Lozy added.

Her debut role was nothing short of outstanding. Landing the main part in late legendary director Youssef Chahine’s “Alexandria-New York, El Lozy played young Ginger, an American girl who falls for Yehia (Yousef Chahine’s alter ego), an Egyptian film student in the US.

Veteran Egyptian actress Youssra played the older Ginger.

“I didn’t go to acting, it came to me. It was a mere coincidence, Youssef Chahine was looking for someone with certain characteristics and I happened to have them at the time, a 17-year-old girl who looks like Youssra and is a ballet dancer, she humbly explains.

A common family friend recommended her for the part. While her mother was quite reserved about idea, deeming her daughter too young for the film industry, her father, AUC theater professor Mahmoud El Lozy, encouraged her to go for it.

El Lozy was taken by surprise the first time she met the energetic Chahine, coming up to her with a measuring stick. “Imagine leaning on a wall and Youssef Chahine right at your face measuring your height, she recalls. Initially, he presumed she was too tall for the part, taller than her co-star Ahmed Yehia.

After a few auditions – on their fourth meeting – Chahine informed her that she got the part. Her schedule was jam-packed with private lessons, ballet dance practice and acting rehearsals. It was such an intense period in her life that she suffered a nervous breakdown.

“It was too much, the stress of studying for thanawiya amma [national high school certificate] exams together with preparing for and shooting the movie, she explains.

Echoing the sentiment of most actors who’ve worked with the legendary filmmaker, El Lozy said being on set with Chahine was a unique learning experience.

“I learned discipline from him. I’m used to discipline in my life as a student at a Catholic school and discipline at home from my parents, but he enforced the importance of it for me, she said.

El Lozy’s performance was highly-acclaimed, and the praise was unanimous. Warm yet edgy, highly expressive and natural, El Lozy emerged as the rarest thing in Egyptian cinema: an unpretentious actress with real talent. Her few remarkable and diverse roles in independent film and theater confirmed this fact.

After the film’s notable success, El Lozy quit acting to focus on her studies at AUC, a move most actors would render risky for fear of being forgotten.

“I don’t look at it from this perspective; I had no problem not acting again. I used to act in theater productions at my university and do my ballet performance at the club, I was doing what I enjoy, she said.

As a student, El Lozy participated in a number of AUC theater productions, including “Sulayman El Halaby, “Guys and Dolls, “A Silly Goose and “The Sultan’s Dilemma.

“I love theater more than cinema, she said. “I love the adrenaline rush of being on stage, it’s indescribable.

El Lozy said that perhaps the most significant lesson theater taught her is how to use props and costumes to get under the skin of her characters. “If you are in a setting 100 years ago and wearing a corset and carrying an umbrella, you have to look like you do it everyday, she explained.

“Costumes extremely affect the character you are playing. I was doing an audition where I had to wear an ‘esdal’ [the praying attire for Muslims], and every thing changed: how I stood and sat down, El Lozy added.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in international law, El Lozy is making a silver screen comeback in the upcoming “Kobolat Masroqa (Stolen Kisses). The film charts the struggling romances of a group of young Egyptians amid current economic hardships.

“What attracted me to the script is [director] Khaled El Haggar. I like his vision, she said. The film, scheduled for release in the fall, costars Ahmed Azmy, Bassem Samra, Randa El Beheiry and El Lozy’s father, who plays her dad.

“I liked the combination of actors, many of whom look at acting the same way I do. They love it, they don’t do it for the money, and they work in many independent movies.

El Lozy herself is no stranger to independent films. She recently starred in Osama El Abd’s quirky “Obsession of the Depth, for which she won the best actress award in the French Culture Center’s Encounter of the Image festival last April.

She’s also just wrapped up the highly-touted independent feature “Heliopolis, written and directed by Ahmad Abdallah, and starring Khaled Abol Naga and Wust El Balad’s front-man Hany Adel.

Next, she’s joining the cast of a new TV drama directed by Hany Khalil, most known for the critically acclaimed “Sahar El Layaly (Sleepless Nights).

“This is someone I want to work with, so I took the role. It all depends on the team and the script regardless of whether it’s commercial or not, she said.

“I try as much as I can to do parts that I love but don’t become famous for, because I don’t want the price of fame. In a public place, I like to hide, if I go to a premiere for a movie I’m not in, I don’t like to do the cheesy interviews with ‘Congratulations to the cast, they’ve done a marvelous job!’

Being the candid person she is, El Lozy overlooked the fact that she was talking to a journalist and said, “I hate interviews! I wish people could act and not have to deal with media. So what? These are characters I did and it’s over, they are stuck on film; I have nothing to do with it.

When it comes to her selection process, she can usually tell right away if the part is for her. “It’s very corny but I see myself while I’m reading the script, I see myself on the screen saying those lines, she said.

Two of El Lozy’s dream roles are Eliza Doolittle from “My Fair Lady and Maria in “West Side Story.

“I love musicals. Khaled El Haggar is a director who really understands me, he loves dancing and singing. He offered me a part in his last musical [“Mafeesh Ghier Keda ] but I had mid-term exams then, I was really upset that I didn’t do it, she said.

El Lozy is currently shooting a new film titled “Youssef and the Ghosts, director Osama Fawzy’s follow-up to his smash hit “Baheb El Cima (I Love Cinema). She’s signed up for Raa’fat El Mehy “Sehr El Eshq (The Magic of Love), which will start shooting by the end of the year.

Share This Article
Leave a comment