Ken Davitian ('The Artist')
'Silent, But Still Being Heard!'
Ken Davitian may very well find himself in an Oscar nominated film in 2012, with a cameo in the black-and-white silent film 'The Artist.'
Introduced to audiences at the Cannes Film Festival, it was the first film sold to The Weinstein Company and has so far won three Golden Globe Awards including Best Picture. It is also nominated for 10 Oscars and already has 75 wins and 69 nominations.
Davitian experienced his third consecutive feature film premiering at the top box office spot with the opening of Warner Bros. 'GET SMART.' For his role, he stepped into the shoes of the TV show’s villain ‘Shtarker,’ alongside vets Steve Carell, Alan Arkin and Anne Hathaway.
However, the character actor is perhaps best known for wrestling his way into the Hollywood spotlight as Azamat Bagatov in the critically-acclaimed 2006 blockbuster, 'BORAT: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.'
Among his guest-starring roles on television are “Chuck,” “The Cape,” “The Closer,” “Boston Legal,” “ER,” “Six Feet Under,” “Gilmore Girls” and “The Ghost Whisperer.”
Davitian’s latest projects include the indie feature 'THE PRANKSTER,' a romantic comedy with Kathy Bates, Katharine McPhee and Dave Annable called 'YOU MAY NOT KISS THE BRIDE,' a feature called 'MELVIN SMARTY,' a short film called 'BALLERINO' with System of a Down Bassist Shavo Odadjian and an indie feature called 'ISABELLA.'
Exclusive Magazine recently sat down with Ken Davitian and asked him some questions about his past films roles, his upcoming film roles, his love for 'The Artist,' and, of course ... penguins!
One minute you are naked and running across a set for your friend Sacha Baron Cohen, the next you find yourself with a cameo in an Oscar-nominated film! So, just how does one make such a progression as seamlessly as you seem to have?! "Just being at the right place at the right time, being lucky, being ready. and willing to make the commitment on whatever it is you are doing."
And, knowing that your cameo in 'The Artist' is a silent one (as is the film itself, of course), was being on set, nobody talking when the camera's rolled one of the weirdest cinematic undertakings for you thus far? "No, running around naked was a lot weirder. Also we were not silent, we ad-libbed the entire scene. They just shot it without sound."
'The Artist' has so far won three Golden Globe Awards and currently has 39 award wins and 69 nominations in general! Wow, so what is it about this silent film that has suddenly garnered everyone's attention? "This is the way I look at it: Picture yourself sitting in Central Park. There are policemen on horses, children crying, children playing on a merry-go-round, a young couple fighting another couple kissing. There is constant movement and noise and you went to the park just to take a breath and to relax, to meditate, and all this movement is going on around you."
"In the corner of your eyes, you see a leaf falling from a tree. Suddenly all the noise becomes quiet and you are focused on this one piece of nature that is floating silently to the ground. And in this world - with everything that is going on all the noise and movement - it’s that beautiful, silent leaf that that captures your attention and makes you feel happy. THE ARTIST came around just at that right time when people could use some silence."
Where were you when you were offered the role of The Pawnbroker in 'The Artist,' and knowing it was a silent picture, did you accept it right away? Or did you have any hesitation? "I was at another meeting when they called me about the project. I was a little hesitant until I read the story and met the director Michel. When I realized that it was a love story written genuinely by a man who is deeply in love with his wife and realized how romantic it was, my hesitations faded."
"I noticed that really it was a a love story within a real love story. When I met with the director I asked if I could play this larger part, but he said this is John Goodman’s part. I said how about this part? He said that was James Cromwell’s part. After that I just said If those two are in the movie, I’ll take any part you want me to play."
In truth, you are best known as Azamat Bagatov from the blockbuster 'Borat,' but word has it you played Cohen at his own game when auditioning for the role re: speaking broken English, etc. At the time did you think that was a huge risk to undertake?! "Yes, I felt it was a make it or break it situation because we were at final call backs (so they had already gone through several audition steps at that time) and they had never seen me before. So it had to be memorable on that day or never."
And, as we mentioned it before, that naked scene with you running across the conference set, being wrestled to the floor, etc. How many takes did that scene need, did anything on you get injured, and (for the record), were you totally naked?! "It was all one take. Everything you saw was done completely real. I did fall down before I got to the stage but there was no possible way to do a second take, It had to be done in that one take. And for the record I was 100 pounds heavier than I am now and completely naked."
You had actually worked in movies and TV well before 'Borat,' in such films as American Raspberry, Bikini Summer, Frogtown II and even Shandra The Jungle Girl! So, how did you get into the business in the first place - and is there a movie you've been in you would rather like to remove from your resume?! "I got into the business as a theatre arts major in College and I enjoyed every film I was in because I feel that if you hadn’t done what you did, you wouldn’t be where you are."
Indeed, with all this acting you still managed to open your own restaurant (The Dip) and your son, Robert runs his own hot dog restaurant, The Infield in CA too! How is business for both those places and do you actually eat at both when you can? "We closed The Dip at Hollywood and Highland last year. But I have to have a hot dog at least twice a week so I stop by The Infield pretty often. The Infield is doing very well, especially after Charlie Sheen showed up and created his Tiger Blood Dog and tweeted about it to all his fans!"
Talking of eating, your screen weight seems to fluctuate. Either for role requirements or personal gratification, whether naked or fully clothed, you never seem unhappy with who you are. What is your secret?! "Having a grounded family. I’ve never had a problem being fat. It’s always been a state of mind. You just have to be comfortable in your own body."
Please tell us more about a couple of your upcoming roles: 'Melvin Smarty' (Harry) and 'A Fighting Chance' (Bob) ... what can we expect to see from your roles in both? To be honest, I am not sure if A Fighting Chance is actually going to happen. That project might have been shelved for now. But Melvin Smarty’s Harry is a casino owner who wants to get his daughter married off to an educated, wealthy wimp he can control. But the daughter is in love with someone that Harry tries to keep her apart from."
"I’ve also shot a film with Katherine McPhee, Kathy Bates, Rob Schneider and others called You May Not Kiss the Bride. I play Katherine McPhee’s father, a Croatian mobster who wants to get his daughter legally married to David Annabel’s character for a green card. Well, you can imagine a mobster has all kinds of enemies and things don’t exactly work out the way he had planned."
Have you got a role to play in Sacha's new film, 'The Dictator'? "No, but I wish him great success."
What is one of the most interesting things to know about you, Ken, that perhaps you never get to talk about in interviews? "My son Robert recently got married to the most beautiful woman besides my wife and I can’t wait to be a grandpa!"
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine loves Penguins ... do you? "Yes, and to prove it, I tried unsuccessfully to get the part of the Penguin in Batman Returns, but they gave it to Danny DeVito!!"
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
Lead Photo by: Tim Sabatino
So, if you would like to win a SIGNED 'THE ARTIST' or a SIGNED 'BORAT' movie poster from Ken, just answer this easy question about the man himself: Ken has also made appearances in music videos. For example, he had a role in a Smashing Pumpkins video in 2000, but which one?!
Send us your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these wonderful signed items! Just send us an e:mail here before April 15th with your answer and the subject title CONTEST: KEN DAVITIAN SIGNED POSTERs to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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