Based on the true account of a hacker, Anonymous was helmed by the creative team of Sanzhar Sultan, Akan Satayev and Timur Zhaksylykov. Starring Callan McAuliffe — the youngest winner of the international GQ Man Of The Year Award for “Breakthrough Of The Year” as Alex Danyliuk, Anonymous follows a teenager as he learns the ins and outs of computer programming. Alex turns to a life of online crime and identity theft out of financial hardship, as trained by Daniel Eric Gold’s character Sye.
Downtown caught up with writer/producer Sanzhar Sultan and actor Daniel Eric Gold for some Q&A. Sanzhar studied in New York, while Daniel is a New Yorker. Daniel can be followed on Twitter via @DanielEricGold, while Sanzhar can be reached via @Sanzhar.
How would you describe Anonymous to someone who hasn’t seen the trailer?
Sanzhar Sultan: It’s a story about a young man who gets carried away with online crime. It’s meant to be a glimpse into the anonymous world of hackers, what motivates them, and how they survive. And also, it’s meant to show people just how vulnerable they are to credit card fraud. Malicious hackers buy and sell credit card numbers and IDs by the hundreds of thousands, every day. I’ve been hacked myself. And every time, it’s because I wasn’t careful.
Daniel Eric Gold: It’s hard to compare to a guy like Sye. Although he fancies himself a businessman, he operates in a place that is really on the fringes. He’s spent most of his time scraping by, learning how people operate and what their vulnerable points are. He’s a student of social engineering. Perhaps that is a place we meet. We’ve both worked very hard to understand people: what they need and who they are. In his case, he uses it to take advantage of them. In mine, to try to portray them as fully as possible. Both are con games in a certain respect. So I guess we’re both con men. That sounds kinda bad now that I think about it…
SS: My favorite scene, or montage of scenes, are when Alex, Kira and Sye start working together. We see them going into stores wearing disguises, printing credit cards, hiding them in magazines and shipping them all around the world, and selling cars, diamonds and watches to all sorts of buyers. It’s all very slick, but underneath it all, someone, somewhere, is getting ripped off. It’s an interesting dichotomy; someone’s having fun, while someone else is stuck with fraudulent bills.
DEG: Not a favorite scene in particular, but I really enjoyed working on the scenes where we get our first glimpses of Sye in the film. I love filming on location and we shot this portion of the film in Toronto, a city I am very fond of. It was a bitterly-cold few days, but I think Callan and I managed to steal some nice scenes on the streets of Chinatown without many people noticing that we were shooting a film.
What is coming up for you in your career once you are done promoting Anonymous?
DEG: I am also currently promoting a great Amazon Prime TV series called Good Girls Revolt, which I’m in. It is a period newsroom drama that takes place in the late 60’s, early 70’s about a group of women who sue the magazine they work for so they can get equal treatment and proper credit for the work they do. It’s a very timely show with a great group of actors and beautiful production. You should check it out!
When not busy with your career, how do you like to spend your free time?
DEG: I spend most of my time here in Brooklyn where I live. Always looking out for the next project, of course. And I’ve recently become involved in a few bar projects: an oyster and cocktail bar in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn called Grand Army and a bar in Chinatown called Mr. Fong’s. Both very unique and fun spots.
When was the last time you were in New York? Do you have a favorite restaurant here?
SS: I love New York. I went to school there and lived there for two years. I go there often for work. Last time I was there in April, and I did something I’d never done before. I visited the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. That was a surreal experience. And quite inspiring. Favorite restaurants — my fondest memories of New York are when I was a starving student there, so if I had to single out a spot, it would definitely be Joe’s Pizza in West Village. Ah! That delicious slice of heaven.
DEG: In addition to the two places I’ve mentioned, my favorite spots in Brooklyn are probably Battersby, Rucola, Ganso Ramen, Leyenda and Colonie. When I venture into Manhattan, I usually splurge in spots like Shuko or The Marshal.
Finally, any last words for the kids?
SS: If you want to make extra pocket money, find a legitimate way to do it. And if you want to make friends, do it at school or at camp or in your neighborhood. Not online. Be real. Don’t get stuck behind a computer or a smartphone.