Wagner Moura - Elite Squad

Elite Squad

Badass Lieutenant

Brazillian soap heartthrob and film star Wagner Moura talks exclusively to Kaleem Aftab about going to the dark side to play a brutal police officer in a new thriller

Girls swoon when Wagner Moura wanders through his old haunts in Sao Paulo. The 32-year-old graduate in journalism with boyish good looks is in the process of going global thanks to his role as the captain of the shoot-first-ask-questions-later elite police squad BOPE in José Bus 174 Padilha’s new film Elite Squad. The story is set in the same Rio slums that served as a backdrop to City of God and City of Men. Mauro acknowledges that it’s not just the location that connects the films: ‘What’s interesting is that where City of God shows the point of view of the drug dealers. City of Men is from the perspective of those who live in the favelas and our film is from the perspective of the cops.’

It turns out that the long arm of the law as practiced by the real BOPE is an Amazon forest away from any popular image of the friendly bobby on the Beat. The brutal depiction of an immoral police force created a furious debate when it was released in the land of the samba, a reaction which Mauro is ecstatic about: ‘I think one of the reasons that I wanted to act in this film is because we have to understand drug dealers, we have to understand the people who live in the favelas who are the main victims of the violence and we have to understand the cops. I know a lot of cops and former cops and they’re good guys, but they really think killing people is the solution to violence.’

As shocking as Mauro finds this kill-or-be-killed perspective, his solution to the problem will also raise a few eyebrows. He continues, ‘When you get famous, people listen to you, so I have to be careful, but I really like to say what I feel, and one of those things is that drugs should be legalised in Brazil. That would be an important step in stopping the violence, because such a move would take control away from the gangsters.’

Mauro is a clearly man who doesn’t pull any punches, although his face turns green when he starts to recall the training he had to do to transform himself from romantic lead to Dirty Harry style cop: ‘We spent three months working with BOPE cops. It was crazy. We went through a training regime like the one that you see in the film.’ Although Mauro admits her didn’t have to eat maggots and muck however.

‘I’ve never done anything in my life as an actor like that. The cops were really proud and they didn’t care that we were actors. They wanted us to be perfect and represent them perfectly. After a certain period of time, I forgot that I was an actor and I just wanted the training to end.’

It seems that Mauro’s inner Rambo wouldn’t let him quit. Strangely, given his attitude, he seems far more frightened by his latest acting challenge, that of playing the mad prince Hamlet on stage.

Elite Squad is on selected release from Fri 8 Aug.

Elite Squad (Tropa d'Elite)

  • 4 stars
  • 2007
  • Brazil
  • 1h 54min
  • 18
  • Directed by: José Padilha
  • Cast: Wagner Moura, André Ramiro, Caio Junqueira

This compelling thriller is set in 1997 Rio de Janeiro, months before a visit from Pope John Paul II. The rundown housing schemes are mired in drugs, violence and police corruption. It is time for the city's ultra-violent BOPE, the city's militarily trained elite police squad to step up their game. Powerful, mature…