Turkish Armenian actor returns to Istanbul after years in London

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

Malikyan is now in Turkey. Since his return to Turkey two years ago, he has been involved in three major film projects, Today’s Zaman reports.

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, Istanbul, 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 Istanbul 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.

In London, auditions were arranged in three different schools. The director at RoseBrufordCollege made Malikyan promise that he would attend RosaBrufordCollege and not audition at 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 there.

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.

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.

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