Hollywood star Tom Cruise & Marc Hairapetian (photo by Philipp von Studnitz / https://spirit-fanzine.de)

Marc Hairapetian: A True Devotee of Film

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YEREVAN/HANOVER – Marc Hairapetian was born in 1968 in Frankfurt am Main to an Armenian father and a German mother. At the age of 16 Hairapetian founded Spirit – Ein Lächeln Im Sturm (Spirit – A Smile in the Storm) https://spirit-fanzine.de, a magazine for film, theatre, music, literature and audio drama. He has often been a jury member for German and international film festivals and has worked for newspapers and magazines in Germany (for example Frankfurter Rundschau, Der Spiegel), Austria (Ray Filmmagazin), Switzerland (Neue Zürcher Zeitung) and the US (Factsheet Five, Traffic News To Go)

The co-writer of the biography Oskar Werner – Das Filmbuch (Vienna 2002), Hairapetian has conducted exclusive interviews with renowned personalities like Elia Kazan, Charles Aznavour, Billy Wilder, Gregory Peck, Sir Peter Ustinov, Christiane Kubrick, Quentin Tarantino, Ennio Morricone, Anne Hathaway, Kim Novak, Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale, Richard Gere, Tom Cruise, Felix Werner (son of Oskar Werner), Atom Egoyan, as well as Henry Kissinger. Europe’s highest-circulation daily newspaper, BILD, called Marc Hairapetian “Germany’s best film journalist.”

Since 2011, Hairapetian has served as a board member of Kinomuseum Berlin (Cinema Museum Berlin) and his film screenings of 70mm and 35mm prints of film classics are well known in Germany. In 2021 he opened the “Kinomuseum” Berlin pop-up store at the huge shopping center, Alexa. Since 1996, Hairapetian has also worked as an actor on television (“Tatort: Der zweite Mann,” “36 Stunden Angst,” “Verliebt in Berlin”) and cinema (“Nachtgestalten,” “True Love Ways”).

Marc Hairapetian (photo by Frank Seehausen / https://spirit-fanzine.de)

Marc, a Russian animation film song says: “There are lots of professions, But the best one is film; whoever appeared in that world, he becomes happy for God.” Are you happy?

My absolute favorite actor, Oskar Werner, asks in the role of ship doctor Dr. Schumann in Stanley Kramer’s masterpiece, “Ship of Fools,” Captain Thiele, played by Charles Korvin: “Who’s happy?” Happiness only exists in moments. But so far I’ve been able to enjoy a lot of them, which I owe to the practice of these two professions — (film) journalist and actor.

You are in the film world writing and acting. While acting, do you “write” also in your mind about directing and acting that is going around you?

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How do you know that!? (laughs) But I’d like to specify it a bit: Right before shooting, when I observe the scenery on the set and absorb it, it’s like this. And also afterwards, when the scene is in the can. However, if it says “Record please! Camera roles” something really magical usually happens: I melt into the character I’m supposed to embody. And this fictional world is then my reality, if only for a few minutes. Just as long as it takes to record a film take. Otherwise, I actually get my best ideas for writing while running with my Siberian wolfdog husky mix, Felix, or while taking a shower!

You met many legendary people from the film world. I am sure you have plenty of great stories with them. Please share some of them.

Even briefly sharing a few would fill an entire book! The wonderful thing is that friendships have developed from many encounters during interviews or on the set. So let’s start with Antje Weisgerber, the big love of my actor idol Oskar Werner. She herself was the greatest Gretchen in theatre history (“Faust”). I met her in 1993 in my early 20s when she invited me to her house in Rottach-Egern in Bavaria for an interview. That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship like the one at the end in “Casablanca” between Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains. Antje was graceful, warm, helpful, unpretentious and like a second mother to me. She was very interested in my Armenian origins and read many books about the first Christian people such as My Armenian Children by Lois Fisher-Ruge. She died in 2004. On May 17 she would have been 100. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Antje. But also the encounters with many Hollywood stars were great. So with Tom Cruise, whom I met several times, and who always turns the tables and asks me a lot of questions. When I showed him a photo of my then almost four-year-old daughter Laetitia-Ribana Orsini Siranoush when we first met in 2004, he held it in his hands for a few minutes and said to me: “I can’t believe it! She’s so beautiful!” You don’t forget something like that!

For whom did you have the greatest admiration and who was the greatest disappointment among the celebrities you met?

That’s difficult with so many positive experiences: In addition to Antje Weisgerber, Tom Cruise, the actor and audio play maker Konrad Halver, who unfortunately died in 2012 — my best human friend ever, my paternal friend Maximilian Schell, film composer Ennio Morricone, painter Christiane Kubrick, widow of the genius director Stanley Kubrick, who invited me to her property, Childwickbury Manor in the English county of Hertfordshire. I have to single out the French star Alain Delon. At the Berlinale press conference in the Congress Hall, I asked him a question: “You once said: in friendship there is no disappointment, only betrayal. Have you ever felt betrayed professionally or privately?” In front of hundreds of journalists and many television cameras in the crowded congress hall, he answered: “Yes, it’s true. In both cases. I’ll explain the background to you later in private!” And he kept his word and invited me to dinner after the press conference! Negative experiences can be counted on one hand. I was a bit disappointed in “Iron Man” star Robert Downey Jr. We conducted a really successful interview at the Hotel Waldorf Astoria. After that I asked him if we could take a selfie together. He refused with a reason that was strange: “If I take a picture with you now, I have to do it with everyone and I can’t get away.” But there was nobody in the room except us!

You acted in the erotic thriller “True Love Ways.” Were you involved in erotic scenes? If yes, how was that experience?

I’m lucky in answering this question! Although it’s a stylish black and white erotic thriller with horror elements, I didn’t have any nudity or erotic scenes. I basically played myself here, a host who is on a talk show discussing a horrific series of snuff murders with a detective. The scantily clad leading actress Anna Hausburg, who falls into the clutches of the cruel psychopathic killer a little later, has switched on her television and watches us spellbound and distraught.

Hollywood legend Richard Gere & Marc Hairapetian (photo by P. Kat for https://spirit-fanzine.de)

Marc, your father was the founder of the Armenian Cultural Association in Frankfurt am Main. Please tell us about him.

I owe a lot to my father, Ardavas Hairapetian (who let everyone call him Vasig) especially his love for film, music, literature, photography and painting. Although he was actually an engineer, he painted a lot, both in the Expressionist and Impressionist styles. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Vincent van Gogh were his role models. But he also made beautiful icons, all of which are on the walls of my German mother Mago’s living room in Hanover. He also taught me to take photos. He bequeathed his analogue Leica R3 to me. When he came to Germany from Iran in the mid-1960s, in 1968 he became a co-founder of the Armenian Cultural Association (Armenischer KulturVerein) in Frankfurt am Main, my hometown. He was very handsome and could have become an actor himself. He looked like a mix of Omar Sharif, George Clooney and Joachim Fuchsberger. But he preferred to play chess and won a number of titles in Iran. My father was more than an idealist: he was an altruist. The well-being of others was always more important to him than his own. At the time of the Islamic Revolution, he helped many friends and their friends to settle abroad. He was generous, never lending money but giving it away. A deep friendship connected him with Aram Khachaturian, to whom he showed Germany in the 1970s, where they partied together from time to time at Frankfurt nightclubs. Smoking was his only vice: he died of lung cancer in 2006 at the age of 65. When I was a member of the jury at the Yerevan International Film Festival in 2013 and was able to award the FIPRESCI Prize to an Iranian film in the sold-out opera in the presence of Charles Aznavour, I told on stage about my father and his friendship with Aram Khachaturian. There was applause and standing ovations. That was the greatest moment of my life in memory of my beloved father.

We met in 2013 and 2018 during your visits to Armenia. Even without knowing the language, it was obvious you were feeling yourself in your own country. Although you have written an article about your first visit, it will be great if you share about your trips one more time.

I have already mentioned the wonderful award ceremony for the tenth anniversary of Golden Apricot, which was also broadcast live on Armenian television. I felt at home when I first came to Yerevan in the hot summer of 2013! At the Grand Hotel, in that time called the Royal Tulip, I was amazed that I could talk to the young ladies at reception about the films and actors of the 1960s and 1970s. General education and cultural knowledge are very high in Armenia. And that fills me with pride. I will also never forget that I got to know the greatest Armenian of all, our Charles Aznavour, personally on the very first day. He was staying in the same hotel as me and was introduced to me by my good friend Atom Egoyan. A day later, Charles and I did an interview for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and my own culture magazine, Spirit – A Smile in the Storm after a reception at his own museum. Our acquaintance became so strong that almost a year later he invited my Vietnamese girlfriend and me to celebrate his 90th birthday after his concert in Berlin!

When I attended  a concert in Yerevan in the Khachaturian house, I cried. There were also tears of joy! The “Yerevan Nights” were wonderful and how we all — filmmakers, journalists, organizers, tourists and beautiful Armenian girls — celebrated together and danced to live music. Three years later, at the Marc Cain Fashion Show, where I as a guest of honor met you again, dear Artsvi, we also celebrated together again in a club and it was said: dance, dance, dance until dawn! Armenian hospitality and food — we also went to the famous “Dolmama” restaurant — are really unique. And the Armenian women — next to the Vietnamese — are the most beautiful in the world! Dear organizers of Golden Apricot, if you are reading this, you must know: your international film festival is one of the best ever and I would be honored to be one of your jury members again because – to quote my compatriot William Saroyan: my heart is always in the highlands of Hayastan!

Thanks, Marc! I wish your next visit to Armenia be connected with some interesting cultural project!

Thank you, Artsvi, for your interest in my life and work! Now that covid is almost defeated, I hope to visit you and my other Armenian friends again soon!

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