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The (Really) Big and the Beautiful

October 5, 2011 By:
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Scott L. Schwartz

Scott L. Schwartz just may be the inverse of the Timex watch: He gives a licking and keeps on ticking.

You just don't want to get him ticked off.

The native Philadelphian is billed -- and built -- as "The Ultimate Bad Guy" by the Hollywood industry. His bruising brooding looks do nothing to dispel the notion that this is a massive man you don't want to run into in a dark alley.

Or even in sunlight.

Just how does one wrestle with an appearance that got him the ongoing role of "The Bruiser" in theOcean's 11 trilogy?

Why bother; he also had a successful career as a wrestler, trained by the legendary "Killer" Kowalski. Throwing his weight around -- and tossing opponents, as he did for 20 years -- Schwartz took to the mat in the guise of "Joshua Ben-Gurion, the Israeli Commando."

Commanding attention is his gimmick, argues -- and who's to argue with him? -- the former football, baseball and hockey star at George Washington High School who is also a Temple University alum; he attended Temple from 1977 to 1979 before throwing his kipah (and massive body) into the wrestling ring.

Talk about your tough love -- he loves playing the tough guy. But what better time than Yom Kippur -- a time for atonement -- to discover that his tough tone has more to do with body shape than the condition of his soul. This incredible hulk has a hunk of burning love inside for the Jewish rights and rituals that make the religion so important to him.

And it all goes back to the woman who helped the wrestler-to-be pin his hopes on the goodness of the world. "I was in my bubba's house," he recalls of these long-ago Philly days, "when I heard her from the other room screaming."

Running in to make sure she was OK, the youngster -- "I was 9 or 10 at the time" -- found his diminutive grandma yelling at the TV, where the biblical matchup of good versus evil was being played out by two huge wrestlers.

Wholly agitated as she watched them administer half-nelson holds, she had her grandson laughing at the very site of her. "My going into wrestling was a tribute to her," he says of the woman he adored.

At 6-ft.-10-inches and some 300 pounds -- "I got this way by eating mega-matzah balls" -- Schwartz concedes there aren't many people he can look up to; Israeli-born Bubba Anna Daskell was one of them.

But there were those who looked down on him -- and took the life right out of him. These family feuds were no game show. "When I was a kid, I was severely beaten by my father," he says of the man who would, he claims, steal his childhood -- and "all the gelt I got for my Bar Mitzvah," that makes his Philly days a time of unhappiness.

But Schwartz had help from a local real estate company owner "who would protect me," he says of his boyhood hero.

And, now, the man built to bully is anything but. As the Jewish new year begins, Schwartz continually makes book on a promise he made 13 years ago to be a better person and help others help themselves.

The man who once towered over and got top billing on national wrestling cards has made a heart-felt pledge card of his own: From death -- his beloved sister Beth died of lung cancer at the age of 37 in 1998 -- comes a life committed to blowing through the smoke and clearing the air for others.

So, retired wrestler Joshua Ben-Gurion -- David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first president, was a hero to Schwartz for his ability to stave off the Goliaths of the world -- has evolved into a gentler giant, a bear baring his soul to others: One of Schwartz's must-dos in any city he visits -- and they are all over the world thanks to a film schedule that has seen him as a featured actor in dozens of movies -- is to visit children's hospitals for heart-to-hearts with ill kids.

Indeed, this actor who portrayed the strange and evil Deevak on TV's Angel is no stranger to the halls of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where he lets his angelic side roam the rooms.

"I love doing good for charities," says the soft-spoken near seven-footer, who also stoops to conquer by taking time to talk to youth groups.

These are changing times for the actor, whose 2010 40-minute short film, Changing Hands, may wind up changing his life even more; the fulminator-cum-filmmaker is working on expanding it into a feature of more than 90 minutes.

With his eclectic and electric background -- the tough guy as lawman; he's a deputy sheriff for Los Angeles County -- Schwartz counts his life as a lucky one.

And, maybe, so does Hollywood? His life story as screen saver? Just who would play the man who, through the Ocean's series, gave a whippin' to pretty boy George Clooney?

"There is nobody around who is big enough and ugly enough to play me," says Schwartz, Philly's "Ultimate Bad Guy" -- who's good to the bone.

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