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FILM CLIPS / A look inside Hollywood and the movies

TRUE, NO LIE : Bowl Cellist Drops His Bow, Takes Bow With Schwarzenegger

March 13, 1994|LIBBY SLATE

One Friday evening last July, Emily Schweber, casting associate for James Cameron's upcoming action-adventure "True Lies," attended a Hollywood Bowl concert, where she spotted a bulky, bearded cellist. In true star-is-born fashion, Schweber knew instantly: The cellist was ideal to play Akbar, one of a gang of Mideastern terrorists who take on Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The following Monday, Schweber tracked down the would-be terrorist's identity. And that's how Armen Ksajikian, the bowl orchestra's assistant principal cellist, found himself cast in a major film, without so much as a SAG card to his credit.

"He had such a unique, interesting look," Schweber recalls. "We had to find a heavily bearded man, and he had to be large, because part of the stunts in the movie have to do with his size."

While the 36-year-old cellist had never acted, he is no stranger to show biz, having recorded scores for as many as 600 films and played on recordings by the likes of Sinatra and Streisand.

"When you're recording and that red light goes on, you have to concentrate," Ksajikian says. "It was an interesting feeling to be in front of the camera."

He did have to learn a few tricks, however. "When I put him on videotape, I was worried because he was too nice," Schweber says. "But our weapons trainer got hold of him and taught him not only how to handle the weapons but the attitude he needed--behind the eyes."

Ksajikian is awaiting the film's summer release before deciding whether he will pursue acting. But he does have one other goal: "I do imitations of people playing cello," he says. "I want to get on David Letterman and do Stupid Cello Tricks."

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