One of a movie actor’s favorite refrains, no matter how big or small their career may be, is the wish to return to the stage. I love film, but my heart … belongs … to the theater.
Not Mark Ivanir.
The versatile actor, who got his big break in Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List,” has had enough of stage work, thank you.
“I got burned out by theater,” Ivanir tells Big Hollywood. “Some people, they have the energy and projection that is good for theater. I don’t have that. I can work on stage. I’ve done it before. But the parts that were better for me were smaller, not as projected as theater should be in many cases.”
Ivanir’s latest screen role finds him coiled with simmering passion, both the artistic and sexual kind. In “A Late Quartet,” a film opening in select theaters today, he plays a valuable member of a musical quartet dealing with the potential loss of its longtime cellist (Christopher Walken). Ivanir’s musician is a by-the-book type who lets himself go when confronted by a youthful admirer (Imogen Poots).
Ivanir joined “Quartet” shortly before filming began, forcing him to play catch up with the required musical lessons. He trained with several violinists, each teaching the actor a new side of the craft. What he took away from the instruction was not a Carnegie Hall-worthy ability but the sense of how the best musicians look plying their trade.
“On screen, it’s less important how I play than how I presented it, the physicality of how I do it would dictate how you, as an audience, look at it,” he says.
“A Late Quartet” is drawing rave revues, meaning the film could insert itself into the bustling Oscar movie season. But Ivanir is hardly an overnight film sensation. He spent his early years starring in films featuring “numbers” – “Rambo 3,” “Iron Eagle 2,” “Delta Force 3” he says with a smile before landing the “Schindler’s List” role.
Now, he routinely bounces from eclectic TV fare like “Monk” and “Royal Pains” to feature work in movies like “The Good Shepherd” and “The Adventures of Tintin.”
It’s a far cry from his days in the Israeli military (“I was only thinking about surviving”) and a brief flirtation with medical school. Before his medicinal training could begin he tried to squeeze in as many fun projects as he could, including lessons in tap dancing, pantomime and magic.
He remembers doing some math prep work for his future college classes when he put his pencil down and announced to his mother in an adjacent room that he decided he wanted to be a clown.
“OK, whatever you think you wanna do,” she replied.
Neither he nor his mom could predict he would go on to star in a Spielberg film and work with an elephant – twice – as part of his TV career.
Ivanir’s talents include speaking multiple languages as well as leftover tricks from his street performing past. That variety of skills helps him land gigs, but it also ensures he won’t stray from his day job.
“I get easily bored, so it’s better for me to be a session player rather than playing the same music over and over again,” he says.