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Arsinée Khanjian

(b. September 6, 1958 Beirut, Lebanon)

Atom Egoyan has described wife and actor Arsinée Khanjian as his vision of an “Armenian princess” and in relation to his creative process has stated that “our relationship is part of the alchemy of the films themselves.” Featured in all of Egoyan’s films and described as his muse, the elegant, intelligent, articulate and ambitious Khanjian has broken free from the icy, repressive acting style she used in Egoyan’s earlier films and established a substantial body of work in film, theatre and television as a vivacious and volatile performer of enigmatic characters.

Born in Lebanon to Armenian refugees, Khanjian grew up speaking Armenian at home, Arabic with friends and French in school. Her family moved to Montreal when she was seventeen and insisted she focus on her education. She studied theatre in French at the Conservatoire Lasalle, earned her B.A. in Spanish and French from Concordia University and began her master’s degree in political science at l’Université de Montréal. While rehearsing an Armenian theatre production in Montreal, she was introduced by her first husband to Egoyan, who was auditioning talent for his debut feature Next of Kin (1984). After being cast in the starring role and becoming involved with Egoyan, Khanjian moved to Toronto and finished her M.A. at the University of Toronto.

After graduating, she worked briefly at the Ontario Ministry of Culture and Communications before becoming an associate officer for film, photography and video for the Ontario Arts Council (OAC). She continued to work in Egoyan’s films and also appeared in Jean-Pierre Lefebvre’s La Boîte à soleil (1988), and then quit the OAC in the early nineties to pursue acting full time. In 1993, shortly after shooting Exotica(1994) – in which she gave a provocative performance as the pregnant proprietor of the elegant, titular strip club – Khanjian and Egoyan celebrated the birth of their son Arshile, named after the famous Armenian painter Arshile Gorky, who is prominently featured in Ararat(2002).

In the late nineties, after years of feeling snubbed by Toronto’s theatre community (“I never got theatre work in Toronto. First I was Atom’s ‘muse,’ and then I was French, and then I was ‘ethnic.’ So they never offered me work.”), she began appearing regularly on the Toronto stage. She has also worked in a number of stage productions in Paris, toured France and Japan in a French-language version of Brian Friel’s play Dancing at Lughnasa, and has appeared in several French films, including Michael Haneke’s Code Unknown (2000) with Juliette Binoche, Catherine Breillat’s Fat Girl (2001) and Olivier Assayas’s Irma Vep (1996) and Fin août, début septembre (1998). More recently, she won a Gemini Award for her role as a desperate mother in Ken Finkleman’s CBC drama series “Foolish Heart” (1999) and received a Best Lead Actress Genie for her stirring performance in Ararat.

Film and video work includes

La Boite à soleil, 1988 (actor)
Looking for Nothing, 1988 (actor; TV)
Chickpeas, a.k.a. Midnight Escape, 1992 (actor)
Street Legal, 1993 (actor; TV, one episode)
Side Effects series, 1994-1996 (actor; TV)
2 rue de la memoire, 1995 (actor)
A Portrait of Arshile, 1995 (appears as herself; translator)
Dinner Along the Amazon, 1996 (actor; TV)
Irma Vep, 1997 (actor)
Ms. Scrooge, 1997 (actor; TV)
Sarabande: Bach Cello Suite #4 from Yo-Yo Ma Inspired by Bach, 1997 (actor; TV)
Fin août, début septembre, 1998 (actor)
More Tears series, 1998 (actor; TV)
Sentimental Education, 1998 (actor)
Foolish Heart series, 1999 (actor; TV)
Code inconnu, 2000 (actor) Hokees, 2000 (actor)
A ma soeur!, 2001 (actor)
Foreign Objects series, 2001 (actor; TV, one episode)
Black Hole High series, a.k.a. Strange Days at Blake Holsey High series 2002 (actor; TV, one episode)
Made in Canada series, 2002 (actor; TV, one episode)
Opening Night series, 2002 (host; TV, one episode)
Mentors series, 2003 (actor; TV, one episode)
Acting in Film, Actor's Notes series, 2004 (appears as herself; TV, one episode)
Sabah, 2005 (actor)
Slings and Arrows series, 2005 (actor; TV, one episode)
Where the Truth Lies, 2005 (actor)