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When a Hollywood star says you’re handsome

11 july 2011, 10:48
4

No matter how many great things happen to him from now on, Yelzhas Rakhimbekov will remember the Astana International Action Festival as one of the best moments of his life.

Yelzhas, a hunky 23-year-old who reminds me of a bigger version of Jackie Chan, stood up at a press conference to ask “Avatar” star Michelle Rodriguez a question.

Rodriguez didn’t answer the question – at least not right away.

The first words out of her mouth were: “You know, you’re really handsome. Have you thought about being an actor?”

Yelzhas beamed, and the surprised crowd of journalists laughed and applauded.

Just how distracted Michelle was by Yelzhas’ looks became even more apparent when she told him: “I forgot the question. Could you repeat it, please?”

Yelzhas’ moment in the sun was one of the most captivating at the film festival, which produced a lot of zesty moments.

So I rushed up to him after the press conference to find out who he was, and what he thought of Michelle’s comments.

After all, it’s not often that a beautiful Hollywood star suggests to an unknown young man in front of a roomful of people that he has the potential to become a star, too.

After talking with Yelzhas, I want to pass on two secrets to you, Michelle.

First, his dream since he was a child has been to become an actor – so you certainly got that right.

And, second, he will be in Hollywood within a few months.

He even has a stage name picked out for all those Americans who would have trouble pronouncing a Kazakh name.  He’s going to call himself Zhack Mahawk.

Yelzhas, who is 6-2 and about 185 pounds, is a film-making student at the Academy of Art in Almaty. He also is a freelance journalist, which is why he could attend press events at the action film festival.

In January, he’s going to be studying movie production at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles.

Yelzhas said he was pleased that Michelle thought he has what it takes to be an actor. He said he thinks she could feel some kind of energy emanating from him that indicated he was an artist like her.

“I think she understood this,” is the way he put it.

He didn’t react to her comments in front of the crowd except to smile, but he said he was thinking: “Michelle – fine, good!”

Yelzhas said he’s interested in all facets of film making, including acting, directing and producing.

“I decided I wanted to become an actor when I was 5 or 6 after seeing American and Russian films,” he said. But he was a good athlete, so he shifted his career goal for a number of years to becoming a professional soccer player.

“But when I was 18, I decided becoming a football player wasn’t the way to go,” he said.

Yelzhas is so passionate about becoming an actor that whenever Western actors or directors come to Kazakhstan, he tries to talk with them to soak up their ideas about their craft.

He huddled with the Hollywood actor and director John Malkowich in Almaty last year, for example.

Malkowich, who is from Chicago, told him about what’s called the Chicago Theater approach to acting and the method-acting approach known as the Stanislavsky System.

“And he told me, ‘You have a great chance to become an actor, but you must study, you must work,’” Yelzhas said.

Yelzhas also talked with Kevin Costner when the actor brought his rock band to Almaty last year. Costner also was encouraging, Yelzhas said.

But no one from Hollywood will be able to match what Michelle Rodriguez said: “You know, you’re really handsome. Have you thought about being an actor?”

If I had been Yelzhas, I would have grinned and responded: “I didn’t quite catch that, Michelle. Could you repeat it, please? And louder – so that everyone can hear it?”


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