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Lior Ashkenazi: International Star You Need to Know

Israeli thesp has been on the scene for only a decade, landed breakthrough role in Koshashvili’s 2001 'Late Marriage'

CLAIM TO FAME

When Israelis think of a sexy male star, chances are they are thinking of Lior Ashkenazi. At 43, he has been on the scene for only a decade, landing his breakthrough role in Dover Koshashvili’s 2001 “Late Marriage” (including a now-famous nine-minute sex scene), after paying his dues on the theater circuit. Eytan Fox’s 2004 “Walk on Water” came next, in which his role as a beautiful but broken Mossad agent secured Ashkenazi his monopoly on cinematic eros.

(From the pages of the April 16 issue of Variety.)

THE LANGUAGE(S) OF LIOR

For “Late Marriage,” Ashkenazi had to speak Georgian, so he memorized his lines phonetically. In “Hello, Goodbye” with Gerard Depardieu, he did the same thing with French. Romance languages come easily: He was raised by Turkish immigrants who spoke to him in Ladino, the Spanish-Jewish dialect that flourished among Spanish Jews after the Inquisition.

FULLY COMMITTED

For his role as a scholar of Jewish law in Joseph Cedar’s “Footnote,” Ashkenazi took Talmud classes at Hebrew U. and spent five months growing a bushy beard. But his uber-serious role only furthered his sex-god status. “There’s something about prayer and knowledge,” he says bashfully. “They liked it.”

ALL THE NATION’S A STAGE

Ashkenazi appears regularly onstage, because of a passion for theater — and to pay his bills. “We don’t have an actual movie industry here,” he says. “And you have to make a living, so we do theater. All of the serious actors here, they do theater.”

CLOCK IN

The actor has two surprising hobbies: stamp collecting, and hunting for antique clocks. “There’s a sound in my house of ticking clocks, and the chime … it’s wonderful,” he says.

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