Sandy Chertok, entertainment editor at JewCentral.com, sat down for a conversation with Israeli Academy Award Winner Lior Ashkenazi.
With rugged good looks and a soft demeanor, Lior Ashkenazi has become one of the most popular Israeli actors of our time. American audiences know him best for the lead role in the film, “Late Marriage.” Lior is receiving international attention again from his latest role in Eytan Fox’s “Walk on Water.”
Lior’s family originates from Turkey and he always had a desire to be an actor despite the fact that he saw very few films in his youth. Al Pacino’s performance in “Serpico” and Robert Deniro’s performances in “Raging Bull” and “Midnight Run” made an impact on him. After studying acting in school, Lior began his career in the theater and spent ten years mastering his craft on the Israeli stage before making the transition to Israeli film and television. His modern acting role model happens to be American Edward Norton, who has made a career out of playing intrinsic and complex characters in a wide arrange of films and genres. Hopefully, thanks to the exposure from “Late Marriage” and “Walk on Water,” Lior will be able to gain more international recognition and work beyond what he has already accomplished.
In his latest film, “Walk on Water,” Lior plays Eyal, a Mossad agent who goes undercover and befriends the grandchildren of a Nazi war criminal in order to find out if their grandfather is alive. While trying to accomplish his mission, Eyal confronts professional and personal issues as he tries to find some meaning and insight into his own life. Lior was attracted to the role of Eyal because the film tries to explore the Israeli man behind the Mossad agent and what he does when he gets home. “The mental journey the character goes through – to solve and find out” was a key reason why Lior choose to be in the film. Surprisingly, Lior was challenged by Eyal’s depiction in the first half of the film as a tough and unemotional agent. “I was more connected to the second part because the character is more sensitive.” Thanks to the help of director Eytan Fox, Lior was able to effectively play both sides of the complex Eyal as well as leave his audience with a sense of hope for not only his own character but for all of humanity.
The future looks bright for Lior, who hopes to be able to play more sensitive and complex characters instead of his past roles of portraying agents and security men. He looks forward to someday bringing “Macbeth” to the Israeli stage and would love to eventually work in a project either written or directed by David Mamet. Unlike most modern actors, Lior “prefers acting in front of actors” instead of a blue screen. He is not consumed with awards or the glitz of celebrity life. Rather, he is driven by his love and passion for the acting profession itself and can be considered an actor’s actor.
*** Quotes used in this article come from an interview between Lior Ashkenazi and Sandy Chertok done in February 2005.