Parents' divorce, army
stint made 'Presidio Med' hunk self-reliant
PASADENA, Calif. - Actor
Oded Fehr may have haunted audiences with his portrayal of the dashing warrior Ardeth Bey in "The Mummy," and "The Mummy Returns,"
but after the second film, he didn't work for 10 months.
Not that he wasn't asked.
But the Israeli-born
Fehr (whose grandparents emigrated from Germany)
didn't want to be stereotyped as an "ethnic" actor.
" 'The Mummy' was an
incredible move forward for me on one hand, but on the other hand, I was always associated after that with the guy with the
long hair and Arab accent and all that," he said recently, over lunch in a hotel restaurant here.
"I did 'Deuce Bigelow,'
which was fun to do, but still, it was kind of ethnic. I think it was hard in the movie industry to get away from that."
He kept refusing parts,
even though there were threats of a strike, and it's always perilous for an actor to refuse work.
Fehr, who was voted People
Magazine's "sexiest import," needn't have worried.
His next role was the
lead on NBC's "UC: Undercover."
And on Sept. 24, he co-stars
on CBS' new "Presidio Med," in which he portrays a Greek surgeon in hot pursuit of a comely cancer specialist, played by Dana
Though he had heard the
name before, Fehr says he wasn't sure who Delany was. Having grown up in Israel,
he never saw her award-winning TV show, "China Beach."
"I'm not very good with
names and faces, and I was never one of these guys who followed somebody's career and said, 'Oh, I want to be like that.'
I never dreamt of that. I just enjoyed doing the work. I never thought I'd be a movie star or TV star. It wasn't necessarily
my aspiration. I say [to friends], 'Oh, I play Dana Delany's lover.' People were saying, 'You touch that woman...she's the
love of my life!' "
The actor, who came to
the U.S. by way of England
and Germany, says he's always been self-reliant
and thinks his parents' divorce when he was 15 contributed to that.
"It changed me in the
sense my parents are both wonderful people, very loving and supportive parents. So even though they were divorcing, there
was never a question in my mind that they loved me as well as my brother and sister. I think the way it changed me, it made
me very independent, because I think it was hard for them to be there 100 percent as parents...They were going through so
much themselves that they kind of let me be on my own."
After high school, Fehr
had his compulsory stint in the Israeli Army. "That was a big learning curve from being a high school student and free kid
who does what he wants and is not as responsible - though I was a little more responsible than others - going into the Army.
And all of a sudden, you're responsible for other people's lives, and you're in charge of maybe five or six soldiers or whatever...
.It teaches you a lot.
"It teaches you a lot
of skills in command, communication, responsibility, organization. It's like going to college for three years, a different
kind of college."
He took his time deciding
what he wanted to do, at first planning to follow in his father's footsteps in marketing and telecommunications. But a brief
stint at a Frankfurt playhouse changed his mind.
Fehr, 31, studied at
Bristol Old Vic in England and was out
of school only six weeks when he was cast in "The Mummy."
"All of a sudden, I became
a working actor who's been working relatively regularly. It opened a lot of doors for me and gave me the opportunity to say
yes or no to things."
It also brought him to
the U.S., where he met his wife, Rhonda
Tollefson, who had been Sean Connery's production partner for 10 years. Married for nearly two years, the couple is expecting
their first child.
Fehr says he's not worried
should his acting streak run out. "I always managed to find my way, and I know I can do many different things. If, God forbid,
this doesn't work out for some reason, I'll do something else...I'm relatively easy to please.
"Having a lot of money
is very nice but being happy is not necessarily something that has to do with money."
CBS.com: You're the cute one on the show.
Oded Fehr: Am I? No, Ithere's
so many cute women on the show!
CBS.com: What's it like being on the set with all these really smart women?
Fehr: It is really amazing, I have to say. I love these women. They're all so fantastic, and not only are they all great actresses
and look wonderful, they're so intelligent and smart and intellectual. They're wonderful, wonderful women.
CBS.com: Have you ever seen any of Anna Deavere Smith's work onstage?
Fehr: I have actually, I have. I've seen two of her one-man shows. I've seen them on tape; I haven't seen them live. She's
amazing. Absolutely amazing woman. She's so intellectual, she's so smart, she's such an incredible actress; she's really a
special person. The way she presented the riots, for example, here in Los Angeles. I didn't grow up here, so for me it was
very new and fascinating. She didn't seem to take sides; she just told a story.
CBS.com: You were born in Israel, you lived in Europe, you served in the
Israeli Navy and now you live in LA.
Oded Fehr: Yeah, the order is not exactly right. I grew up in Israel, I did my army
service in the Navy for three years which everybody has to do and I left, moved to Germany for a couple years, then I was
in England for five where I did my training, then I moved here to Los Angeles.
CBS.com: Where do you consider home?
Oded Fehr: Anywhere I put my hat!
I don't have a hat. You know, right now it's here. I'm married, and my wife and I live here, and her family is here. When
I lived in England I considered that home. Anywhere I feel comfortable and I stay long enough. I think the world is getting
so much smaller these days, and there's so many wonderful places to be in. Last year when I was shooting in Vancouver I considered
that place to be home. I get attached very quickly to many different places.
CBS.com: What made you decide to become an actor?
Oded Fehr: I think
it was when I was about 23, I started a drama course at the English Theater in Frankfurt. And I, very shortly after, started
doing amateur theater and pub theater in Frankfurt and I fell in love with it. I always loved performing and acting, but I
always felt that it's not a respectable enough profession or not that it's not respectable. It's not a safe profession; it's
too hard of a life and too unpredictable in order to have a family and things like that, the security. But I tried doing other
things, and I was never as happy as when I was acting. My father, actually, was very supportive of me and he said "Well, if
this is what you love, then do it," and I am very much a believer that you have to do what you love. That's the only way you
have to achieve greatness, if you do something you love. Because if you do something you don't love, you'll always be average.
CBS.com: And you're obviously getting to do something you love.
Fehr: Most definitely!
CBS.com: You've worked in the theater, in feature films, and in television.
Do you have a preference between the three?
Oded Fehr: I think each one is challenging in its own way. I love theater--I
absolutely love the theater, and I cannot wait to go back to the theater. I think as far as building a career, obviously movies
and television will propel you a lot further and faster because of the fact that you'll reach so many people. And I love movies,
I love television. The pace between the two is very different. TV is much, much faster, and therefore much more challenging.
But then again you have a lot more time to get to know your character and to build it and to work on it. They're all fun,
they're all different. The plus about TV, especially for me at this time, is I'm closer to home. My wife is pregnant, and
we get to spend a lot of time together. It's almost kind of a nine-to-five job in a certain way. I get to drive to work and
come home in the evening and have dinner with my wife. It's a wonderful thing.
CBS.com: Some say that feature films are like dating and TV is like being
Oded Fehr: Yes, that depends on if you get on a show that is successful and goes on for many years, then it is.
They are all wonderful, and I have to say that at the end of the day, as actors, it's the best job in the world and we're
the luckiest people to be doing this job. It's a wonderful, wonderful job.
CBS.com: What has been your favorite role so far?
Oded Fehr: You know,
I think the role of Ardeth Bay, which I played in "The Mummy," will always be very special to me because it was the first
role that really kind of broke me out and it was the first really job that I had. I left drama school shortly beforehand and
so, that was a big step for me and that was something that will always be very special for me. Except for that I love everything
else I do. I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it. I choose what I do very, very carefully and I take a long time choosing it.
So I love all of the characters.
CBS.com: So, what is Nicholas Kokoris like?
Oded Fehr: He's a doctor,
a general surgeon at the hospital at the Presidio in San Francisco. The show itself, PRESIDIO MED, concentrates on the outpatient
clinic, which is adjacent to the hospital. Nicholas Kokoris is in love with the character played by Dana Delany, and he works
with the doctors at the Presidio every time a patient needs a surgery of some kind. Mostly he is the one who performs those
CBS.com: So, he's pretty handy around the Presidio.
Oded Fehr: He's very
good with a knife!
jewish.co.uk meets Oded Fehr
The Israeli star of of The Mummy
and The Mummy Returns talks about his role in the blockbuster series and how he made it on the big screen.
Jewish NewsNews SpecialsIndexNews Archive
Israeli actor Oded Fehr talks exclusively to jewish.co.uk
Chances are you'll recognise Israeli actor Oded Fehr from 1999 blockbuster
The Mummy and its sequel, The Mummy Returns, released earlier in the year and due out on video/DVD in December. Here, he talks
exclusively to jewish.co.uk about making the film, falling off horses, and life in the Israeli army.
What was filming in the desert like because you did more scenes than anyone
I had to stay in Morocco longer than anybody else. Most of the other actors
stayed for two weeks, at the most. I was there for a bit longer than a month. They had a wrap party and I had to go to bed
early because I had to head back into the desert in the morning. It was hard work but we achieved great things. I don't believe
in curses but my God, it was as though somebody did not want us to film there. We would wake up in the morning, the sky was
blue, the sun was shining, it would be absolutely beautiful. We would get on the film set, put on the make-up, everything
would be ready. Then, just as we were about the film a sand storm would rise. Or suddenly it would be torrential rain, so
heavy that there would be floods that were so fierce that we had to be helicoptered to safety. It was so weird. There was
hail the size of ice cubes. If you had been standing under them you would have got hurt. But we still managed to film everything
by staying longer and shooting weird hours.
Was it scary having to be air-lifted away from flash floods?
It was very scary. The helicopter looked as though it had been bombed in
Vietnam. And then suddenly you were told you had to be flown in it. But it was fine and the pilots were great. There was no
risk to our lives but we just had to get out of there. But it was a bit of an experience. What had been a little stream was
turned into this huge river of mud. One of the village children got drowned. He didn't know how to swim and was killed when
he was playing in the water.
Did you get any injuries?
No, but you get hurt when you do all this action. I never got hurt when
I was in Morocco doing all the horse riding and my own stunts. But on the last day on the last shot I slid off my horse and
landed on my bottom. I did not get hurt but it was very embarrassing. Especially since I was the only actor there and everyone
rushed to see if I was ok.
What was your toughest scene?
The hardest physically was when I was in the bus doing the fighting. It
was very demanding too because you were acting against nothing before the creatures are added by CGI. The problem was we were
in this old metal bus and I had to throw myself about for two days and that was hard. I kept getting hurt all the time. Knocking
my head or back on a piece of metal. You could hear my head going thud! I was all black and blue and it was very tiring as
well. It was hard to keep it up because your body doesn't want to go on doing this. But it looks amazing so it was worth it.
In the jungle scene when Brendan and I are running and he was so fast that I just had to try and keep up. In that scene there
was no acting involved, just me trying to keep pace with Brendan. He was so unbelievably fast.
Did your time in the Israeli military toughen you up and in some way prepare
you for action movies?
Not for the physical stuff. The things I learned from the army - and I think
it was a lesson for life - was how to work in unison with other people. How to take responsibility. Things like that I learned
in the army. Filming can be very exhausting but you get a lot of training for it. I trained for months before we started this
movie. So I was more fit. But the fighting in the movie has nothing to do with reality. I did my military service from 1989
- 92 and I was never shot at or had to fire on anybody. I was very lucky. I was more involved in intelligence and counter-intelligence.
Has having had a life before acting been a help to you?
I think I value things more correctly. I hope I look at my life in a way
that makes sense. I am not thinking that because people say I am great that I really am great. I am just doing a job, just
like everybody else. The only difference is that a lot more people see what I do. Today I have a beautiful movie but five
years from now - God forbid - I might not be doing anything at all. I might be unemployed and looking for a job. This is such
a rollercoaster ride and I think it is good that I came into it at an older age and that I have travelled and done army service.
What is your career ambition?
I want to do well enough to get some recognition. I would hope to become
an actor who is good enough to win Oscars. That is my goal, to do as much as I can. I feel very lucky to be doing what I am
doing with my career.