Tom Cruise’s Persian Princess

By Karmel Melamed

Published April 28, 2006, issue of April 28, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Persian Jewish actress Bahar Soomekh earned some serious attention last year when she played a young Iranian in “Crash,” the Academy Award winner for best picture. She’s about to star in an even bigger role — playing alongside Tom Cruise in the thriller “Mission: Impossible III.” On the eve of the film’s debut, the Shmooze caught up with Soomekh to chat about growing up Persian Jewish in Los Angeles and about her road to becoming a star.

Can you share with us a little about your background?

I was born in Tehran. My father is a poet. We moved from Iran in 1979, but before the revolution. I pretty much grew up in Los Angeles and learned English by watching TV. I went to the Sinai Akiba Academy and later to Beverly Hills High School.

What sort of training have you had as an actor?

I played the violin for 13 years, but acting was always what I yearned to do. I went to U.C. Santa Barbara. There were no Persians or Jews there, and I was just able to lose myself and enjoy the college life. I studied environmental studies and did theater for fun — never thinking I could pursue it as a career. I later came back to Los Angeles, got a corporate job and I was just miserable. I did sales during the day and took acting classes at night. I did that for a couple of years to get myself trained and get a better understanding of the world beyond theater. The scariest thing I ever did was quit my job to pursue acting full time. That was two-and-half years ago. I quit my job, started pursing acting seriously and not even three months later I booked “Crash.”

How did you manage that?

I fought very hard to get the part. My agent at the time wasn’t very good. I read the script and I was dying, my heart was aching to be a part of it. I loved my character, Dorri, so much and really related to her. I kept calling my agent and he wouldn’t even try. I heard through the grapevine that they were going to offer another woman the part. So in desperation I called the one Hollywood person I knew, another Jewish Persian girl at William Morris named Ashley Daneshrad. She called them and said don’t give the part to this other woman until you give Bahar Soomekh a chance. I went in there and gave them my heart and soul. I went into my car and cried for about 40 minutes. And then two days later I got the call that I booked it.

What was it like working opposite a major Hollywood actor like Tom Cruise?

It’s so surreal. Tom Cruise was my childhood crush. I was obsessed with him since “Top Gun.” I can recite every single line of that film, and here I am I getting to meet him and work with him.

What was your family’s reaction when you told them you wanted to be an actress?

My parents were not encouraging in the beginning. Who wants to see their daughter out of work all the time? Every parent wants their child be a doctor or lawyer. At first they were definitely hesitant, but now they’re so proud and excited.

How important is Judaism in your life now, and how are you involved in the community?

I think Judaism has enriched my life and developed who I am. I hope to instill in my family a belief in tikkun olam. One of my dreams is to bring attention to environmental and children’s issues.






Find us on Facebook!
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.