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February 2012

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Mummy' hunk turns 'Presidio' sawbones, 2002

Mummy' hunk turns 'Presidio' sawbones

by Luaine Lee (startribune.com)

PASADENA, Calif. (September 17, 2002)

Actor Oded Fehr fears that his chosen profession may have eroded his little gray
cells. "I feel like the day I decided to become an actor my brain shut down," he

"My sister's a doctor of physics. My father's a doctor of physics. My brother is
a genius, just a genius. He's an architect and now he's doing CGI and is a
brilliant, brilliant man. And I was like the black sheep of the family. I'm
awful at a lot of things. But I can learn a lot."

Don't let him fool you. Fehr, who starred as the dashing warrior Ardeth Bey in "The
Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns," chose his career with calculated deliberation.

"I didn't decide to be an actor until later on in life, when I was about 24," he
says over a quick lunch in a hotel garden restaurant.

Dressed in a blue T-shirt and jeans, Fehr says, "When I was in the Navy, I was
convinced I was going to be a businessman. My father's a businessman in
marketing with telecommunications and so on, and I thought that's what I was
going to do."

Fehr was born in Israel. His father is the son of German immigrants, and both
his siblings were born in the U.S., where his father worked as a scientist for a
time. But Fehr, the baby of the family, was born and raised in Tel Aviv.

Speaking perfect English with only a hint of an accent, Fehr could hail from
anywhere. For his next role, on CBS' "Presidio Med," airing a special preview on
Sept. 24, Fehr plays a Greek surgeon who's carrying on a passionate affair with
a married oncologist (Dana Delany).

It's a long trek from the streets of Tel Aviv to the backlots of Hollywood, and
Fehr took the scenic route.

He was 15 when his parents divorced and his father moved to Frankfurt. Following
high school he finished his compulsory service in the Israeli Army and qualified
for three different universities: "Tel Aviv University for business and Haifa
for psychology and Jerusalem for something else, just in case," he says. "And
every six months you have to renew it," he sips a glass of water.

"I decided to spend six months with my father doing business to see if this was
actually what I wanted to do in my life. And I couldn't make up my mind. That's
why it took me about a year and a half and doing business with my father. Also I
worked with El Al security at the airport. And it took me all this time till I
decided acting was what I wanted to do. I was just so happy."

His father surprised him by approving of his choice. "He said, 'Why do you love
it so much?' And I tried to explain. He said, 'Great. Go for it.' ... I said, 'But
there are so many dirty aspects to it.' He said, 'The same thing in marketing.'"

Fehr, 31, studied at the Bristol Old Vic in England, forcing himself to
integrate immediately. "Israelis tend to find other Israelis wherever they go
and get themselves attached to them, and so does anybody who is foreign," he

"You tend to look for your own kind because you feel safe. And I thought, 'You
know what? If I want to be able to speak the language properly, if I want to be
able to do the accent, if I want to be able to learn the customs and traditions
and behaviors - because I think it's a very important part if you portray an
Englishman - I need to concentrate on that.'

"My first year of drama school I didn't know any Israelis. The only Hebrew I
spoke was when I spoke to my parents on the phone, that's it. Not that I don't
love Israel or Israelis, I just don't want to be looking out for it because I
want to force myself to learn the culture. And it was the best thing I did."

It was only six months after he left drama school that he landed the part in "The
Mummy." And life has been escalating at Mach speed ever since.

He met and married Rhonda Tollefson one year and eight months ago (he recounts
precisely). In about four months they are expecting their first child. His wife
has been Sean Connery's production partner for 10 years, and though he met her
at the opera, it wasn't as romantic as it sounds, chuckles Fehr.

"Afterwards there was a dinner and after dinner we sat at the same table, and
one person moved, and she ended up sitting next to me. And we kind of chatted
and got on well and after that we were friends for about three months. And by
the end of it, we started dating."

Though Rhonda is Christian and he is a Jew, there is no conflict, he says.

"I always feel I don't have the right to say how happy I am because it's so
obvious, because we're only newlyweds. But I believe it's very special."