11 March 2014

3444) I Came To Die in Turkey, My Homeland,- says Armenian Actor

Kevork Malikyan *
Kevork Malikyan is a humble and sincere actor. He has an extraordinary story which started in Diyarbakır and later continued in İstanbul and London.

Malikyan is now in Turkey, his homeland. Since his return to Turkey two years ago, he has been involved in three major film projects. His filmography is fairly extensive and rich and includes movies in which he worked with famous directors such as Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott and with popular actors such as Dustin Hoffman and Christian Bale.

Malikyan's story is an unusual one. An archbishop decided to open a religious seminary in Üsküdar, İstanbul, with the intention of taking in the poor children of Armenian parents from various parts of Turkey and raising them as priests. Malikyan was questioned by a priest who wanted to determine whether or not he was a good candidate for the priesthood. His father told him to go to the seminary because he couldn't afford to give him an education due to the financial problems. He was just 10. Though he was worried because he had no friends in İstanbul and he had to leave his parents behind, Malikyan traveled to the city to become a priest.
. . .


He was sent to the Karagözyan Orphanage in Şişli where he spent two years before attending the religious seminary in Üsküdar. In the seminary, there was a small stage where the students acted in Turkish and Armenian. When he was 16, an Anglican priest was invited to the school to teach them English. He was an Oxford graduate who wrote history books. He was fond of acting and had prepared “Richard III” by Shakespeare in English wherein Malikyan played Richard. The priest must have liked Malikyan's acting because he told the headmaster of the school that Malikyan should become an actor rather than a priest. The patriarch asked Malikyan his opinion on this matter but Malikyan was unsure because of financial concerns. Father Harding, a British priest, found him a scholarship in Britain.

His parents did not object to his decision to go to the UK. The last time Malikyan saw his father was in 1961. After graduating, he did not have time to visit his parents. Malikyan left İstanbul on a ship and first arrived in Marseilles before heading to London by train. He had no knowledge of English. Malikyan stayed with a British family that Father Harding knew. He continued to write letters to his father, who told him that they would meet some day. After completing his studies at a drama school, he bought a house to bring his parents over. However, his father died in 1974; Malikyan was unable to even attend his funeral. His brothers later moved to Germany and 10 years later, his mother died. Malikyan took care of her funeral arrangements.

In London, auditions were arranged in three different schools. The director at Rose Bruford College made Malikyan promise that he would attend Rosa Bruford College and not audition aat the two other schools. He agreed but his English was poor. He took English lessons three days a week, all paid for by the school, which was affiliated with the University of Kent. Malikyan later received diplomas for acting and teaching from the school.

Malikyan taught diction courses for a while but later started acting. He was lucky because he found a job just two days after graduating. His first play was “Macbeth.” Then he took parts in TV series and acted in plays where he generally played a foreigner (Italian or French). But he was unable to obtain lead roles in British plays. Some 15 to 20 years later, he told his manager that he wanted to get parts in theater and wanted to stay away from TV series. Malikyan signed a contract with the Royal Shakespeare Company while acting in series by TV stations, like the BBC. He played different roles and then moved on to the Royal National Theater. Malikyan also played in Shakespeare's theater, the Globe, for three years where he was in renowned plays such as “King Lear,” “Henry IV” and “Front Line.”

Malikyan met Spielberg and Scott via his manager. His manager had called and told him that Spielberg had wanted to see him. Spielberg told Malikyan that even though he did some excellent work, he wanted to know more about his work, which was known in the US. Malikyan referred to “Midnight Express,” where he put an American in jail, a performance which Spielberg remembered. Malikyan later waited for a few months; during this period, he even rejected offers by the BBC. Spielberg later called him up and Malikyan got a part in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” Malikyan also worked with Scott recently. His manager sent him a script of the movie and Malikyan made a tape in İstanbul and sent it back. He got the part and is now in the movie “Exodus.”

Malikyan decided to move back to his home country because he felt lonely. In addition, his parents' graves are in Turkey. Two of his brothers died in Germany in different cities while his sister is in France. He thought at least one of them should be in Turkey. His wife moved to Cyprus and his daughter to Tunisia. This left him alone in London. He initially thought he would be buried in a British cemetery when he died but eventually decided to move to Turkey because he wanted to die here.

Five years ago, he noticed there was going to be a festival at the Globe with the participation of actors from 38 different countries who would play 38 Shakespeare plays. He asked the creative director of the theater if they were inviting Turkey and Armenia. The director asked Malikyan if there was a theater in these countries. Malikyan remembered Haluk Bilginer; they had met on the set of a play, “Half Moon Street,” in the late 1970s. Malikyan later watched their play in Turkey and Haluk Bilginer asked him to be part of the play. Malikyan decided to play a brief role and as a result, he moved to Turkey.

His manager told him one day that Reha Erdem wanted to see him., He was familiar with American, British, German, Russian and Italian movies while in London but not with Turkish cinema. He had only heard about Yılmaz Güney and Fatih Akın. Malikyan met with Erdem, saw his work and after a lengthy discussion, agreed to be involved in Erdem's projects. He was also a part of “Yozgat Blues” by Mahmut Fazıl as well.Malikyan experienced some minor hardships while adapting to Turkey. He spent many years in Britain and speaks English fluently. He is able to speak Kurdish due to his childhood in Diyarbakır. In the beginning, he was worried while working on his earlier projects because of his strong accent. Directors even warned him about this problem sometimes. Regardless of the language problems, Malikyan feels he belongs here because of the cultural affinity and closeness.

He is also teaching at the moment. Bilginer recommended that Malikyan teach since he has a diploma in teaching. He now teaches at Kadir Has University once a week on Shakespeare and his contemporaries.



Comments
Lexx, 04 March 2014
I remember this actor from a British sitcom called "Mind Your Language" were he played a role of a Greek man with language difficulties. I also remember him in the film 'Midnight Express'.

Bedig , 03 March 2014
I met Kevork in London in 1966-67. I was from Beirut studying in London, I think we met at the Armenian House ... A very pleasant and entertaining character. Him and his wife were very hospitable, they used to invite us to their home for dinner, We passed some good times with him and his family. I remember occasionally babysitting the daughter. We were so impressed with his linguistic ability that he had mastered in a very short time to a level to be admitted in an English drama school. I am so glad to have heard about him and his ventures after so many years. I wish him all the best. Batchigner Kevork Lipanantzi Bedigen

Baran, 03 March 2014
More Armenian men and women should be allowed to return to Turkey not to die, but to help build bridges between all citizens of Turkey as well as the Republic of Armenia. "Old friends cannot become enemies." is a time honored Turkish saying. It is time to acknowledge the terrible wrongs and injustices -read genocide- and seek forgiveness which will be readily given by ever so generous Armenian people. All they've wanted for so long is a simple acknowledgement. That's not too much to ask!

sam, 02 March 2014
true to his roots, had he chosen to be a priest he could have saved many souls but then again both professions are quite similar, life is a stage and we all have our roles to play as short as it may be.

Nazaret Shamlian, 02 March 2014
Bravo Kevork I met Kevork when he first came to London and he worked in our family business.I remember him as a very punctual and hard working person.We kept in touch initially but we haven't seen much of each other recently. My friend, I applaud your decision and I envy you too! All the VERY best! Nazaret


* (Photo: Kürşat Bayhan, Sunday's Zaman)
2 March 2014 /KÜRŞAT BAYHAN, AYHAN HÜLAGÜ, İSTANBUL


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