Olam Haisha, Monthly Magazine - February, 2003
Rinat Gur

Good Quality

Ohad Knoller owes his big breakthrough to the successful drama Yossi & Jagger, the love story of two gay IDF officers, in which he co-starts next to Yehuda Levi. He tells about the famous kissing scene with Levi, and that the success has not yet gone to his head.

Ohad Knoller, the Jerusalem "Han Theatre" actor, was suddenly brought into the spotlight thanks to the drama Yossi & Jagger - a love story of two Israeli combat officers. Knoller is very honored to be a part of the movie, mainly because it is a "quality drama", and quality is certainly the operative word in regard to Knoller.

Actor Yehuda Levi is playing Jagger, the out-going gay that wants to go public and say out laud: "I want to go to Eilat with you, I want one queen-size bed, and not two separate beds, and I want to introduce you to my parents." Knoller is portraying the macho officer that has difficulties with coming out. He brings to the screen a full and rounded character, mainly because his character's homosexuality is expressed by small nuances: gestures, mimics and his big blue eyes. All of those indicate that Yossi is a truly loving person, and that's what it's all about.

I ask him if he thinks that he's the old-fashioned type: "I don't know. Some say I am, but no. I don't think so. I smoke." As I try to peal of his defense I notice that he light one cigarette after another. His answers are very thought-over, and yet, after a few hours I'm starting to find his own unique sense of humor.

Q: Was it difficult for you portraying a homosexual in Yossi & Jagger, as a heterosexual?
A: "No will be the most sincere answer. Also it wasn't the first time for me. In acting school I played a gay person. It wasn't hard because I didn't consider him being gay as the essence of the character. It was a person with something to hide, to conceal. Just as Yehuda didn't portrayed a gay person, but an open person, that accepts himself, and not necessarily gay. The movie is not set in necessarily gay surroundings. It doesn't deal with homosexuality much, apart from the kissing scene.

"It's about things we are all familiar with: love, secrets, macho behavior and army.
The homosexual theme derives from the other issues. I think that it would be more difficult for me to play a drag queen, or a more feminine-like character. It would have meant, for me, to change my whole body language and posture. Playing a gay person is no more difficult than playing a lawyer. It's just another characteristic you have as a human being."

Q: Was the kissing scene in the snow, up in the Golan Heights, difficult for you?
A: "It wasn't that easy, but it wasn't too difficult either. It was the first thing we shot. It wasn't something we rehearsed on. We had the whole day to shoot it, because of a snowstorm that prevented us from shooting other scenes. "

Q: And still, you didn't feel any embarrassment?
A: "Sure there were embarrassing moments. I was very self-conscious because of the idea itself, and yet, it wasn't the most difficult thing I ever had to do."

Q: What did you think about while closing you eyes?
A: "Not about my girlfriend, as opposed to Yehuda. Actually, my eyes were wide open for most of the time. If I remember correctly, in acting school they taught me that whenever I need to act as a person in love, I always need to think of what I like about that person, man or woman, so that the intimacy will be real. So, when I did the kissing scene, I thought of nothing else but the person I kissed."

Q: And what did you like about Yehuda?
A: "Yehuda? He is a very handsome man. Blue Eyes. I concentrated on the things I like more, and tried to ignore of the things I don't like, for example, his bristles. "

Q: He wasn't shaved?
A: "Men have small bristles even if they are shaved. They have a different feel, a different touch."

Q: What is the essence of homosexuality in your mind?
A: "Any view that differentiates between being gay and being straight can lead to stereotypes, and I didn't want to deal with stereotypes. For me, the search for homosexuality essence is the same as the search of heterosexuality essence, and I wouldn't stop to thing what the latter is. "

Q: Solitude maybe?
A: "I don't thing that solitude is the essence. It depends on the social context, and society is changing rapidly these past few years as regard to homosexuality acceptance. Solitude is related to the norm. It's more difficult to do things that are out-of-norm openly, hence the isolation. But today gay people are not as out-of-norm as they used to be, and it's still changing. Unlike heterosexuals, homosexuals are not allowed, by law, to be married or adopt children, and therefore their need for a long-term relationship is not that strong. "

Q: Have you even been picked up by a guy?
A: "Not explicitly. Maybe once, someone asked me if I wanted to come up for coffee."

Q: Was Yossi & Jagger good for you?
A: "In terms of public exposure - definitely. Even though it wasn't the first thing I did as an actor. I also played in Under The Domim Tree (1994), but now it's more apparent. And still, people don't stop me for signatures in the street. But for me, the goal is not the public exposure, but the part. I think that Yossi was a great part to play, and I enjoy knowing that Yossi & Jagger is a quality film and that I had a part in it."

Q: But it didn't have the same effect on you, as it did on Yehuda.
A: "I think that Yehuda's public exposure is mainly because he acted in a telenovella before the movie."

Q: Would you be willing to act in a telenovella?
A: "No, because the production system of telenovella is chapter per day, that doesn't allow you enough time to explore the character, and indorse improvisation, and that's not for me."

Q: You are definitely the last Mohican.
A: "I don't think so. There are many actors that telenovella is not their cop of tea. And sometimes the decision to act in a telelnovella is influenced by other considerations - financial or other - that are not my concern at the moment."