NOTE – this Latest News item was written by Mr Suhayl Afzal (pictured above)
The lavish and luxurious 5 star Corinthia Hotel in Whitehall, London played host to the most ambitious and highest profile Muscle Dream yet. The newest Muscle Warrior travelled down by train from Scotland on the 23rd September 2014 for an experience of a lifetime.
Having arrived at the hotel in the late afternoon, the charity’s latest beneficiary was greeted by MHF’s CEO Michael McGrath and very attentive hotel staff. The following day, the latest addition to the ‘Muscle Warriors’ tribe had the dream of interviewing a global movie icon come true.
NOTE – this Latest News item was written by Mr Suhayl Afzal (pictured left). It was 3pm on the afternoon of 24th September 2014. Within the confines of the atmospheric Bassoon cocktail bar within the striking Corinthia Hotel, ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Scarface’ himself Mr Al Pacino appeared through the door.
Most Muscle Dreams are more often than not a tangible prospect, requiring meticulous planning yes, but achievable. This experience was exactly that, a dream. Improbable. Impossible. Not only was this the dream of the recipient, this was the dream of many a movie fanatic!
But ‘Muscle Dreamers’ aim high. None aim higher than the Chief Muscle Warrior himself Michael McGrath. He decided that it he would do everything in his power to make this one happen; none of it would have been possible without the intervention of the charity’s patron Sir Kenneth Branagh.
Mr Pacino was humble, gracious, generous and attentive. He entered the bar and commanded the room as you would imagine any of his famous characters might have done; yet he was not as fearsome and intimidating as one might imagine, the man behind the acting was surprisingly softly spoken, that was until he went into character that is…
The 74 year old gave just over an hour of his personal time to the Muscle Dream beneficiary and was never in a hurry to leave, even asking ‘his people’ to push back his 4 o’clock! And when the interview was complete, he took his time to sign several items and pose for photographs for the personal use of the lucky Muscle Warrior.
Upon leaving the bar, Mr Pacino was heard saying that the interview was ‘really cool’ and he enjoyed spending time with the beneficiary; he was gracious and humble at all times
Michael McGrath, who was present during the intimate interview, said: “It was a surreal moment in time for Suhayl who, despite a few nerves, opened with a congratulatory greeting as Mr Pacino was going to be receiving the 2014 BFI (British Film Institute) Fellowship Award that night in the hotel – it was a beautiful opener and one that Al Pacino was evidently touched by; there was real warmth and respect in their interaction. They laughed a lot; it was so wonderful to witness.”
McGrath went on to say, “Life is made up of experiences; when I asked Suhayl afterwards if there could possibly be one word to sum up his experience of ‘interviewing The Godfather’, what would that be, his reply was simply, ‘momentous’. It was heartening to see an A-list global movie icon, a screen legend treat our Muscle Dream beneficiary with such enormous dignity; Mr Pacino listened to Suhayl’s questions and his answers were intelligent, personable and quite clearly from the heart.”
“And what will always be unforgettable in my mind was the priceless look on Suhayl’s face when Mr Pacino went into character, not just once, but twice – once talking as if he was in ‘The Godfather’ in that very moment, and the other line he spoke from ‘The Devils Advocate’ when he said ‘In spite of all his imperfections, I’m a fan of man!’; it was brilliant, it was fantastic, it was indeed one of those #OMG moments!” added McGrath.
Additional people present included: Mr Pacino’s agent John Burnham of ICM Partners, Kenneth Branagh’s dedicated PA Tamar Thomas, the PR & Social Media Editor of the Corinthia Hotel Julia Eccles (who kindly provided a transcript of the interview) together with the charismatic Manager of the Bassoon Bar Domenico Mimmo De Felice who made sure that Suhayl and Mr Pacino didn’t go thirsty.
“I would like to thank our Patron Kenneth Branagh and his PA Tamar Thomas, to Al Pacino and his agent, to Julia Eccles and all the staff at the Corinthia Hotel London who could not do enough, to Hassan and Carina of Goldline Executive Travel and to volunteers Nick Hamilton of Zibrant (filming), Steve Carter (photography) and Jake Kanter (News Editor, Broadcast) all of whom contributed to making Suhayl’s Muscle Dream so unforgettable. And finally, I can’t stress enough the privilege of spending time and the responsibility that beneficiaries and families place on our small family charity in allowing us to simply do what we do – thank you all for helping us change lives and give hope,” concluded McGrath.
Suhayl Afzal with MHF’s CEO Michael McGrath in the Corinthia Hotel London