Russian cinematography has always been very different from cinematography in other cultures, and many people are curious to know what it’s like. To give you a better understanding, I decided to make this post where I’ll get you acquainted with the most popular film celebrities of modern Russia and bygone days as well as show you the ones who achieved success in Hollywood and took part in world-famous shows such as Game of Thrones and Stranger Things.
Famous Actors in Russia
First of all, let’s take a look at which actors are popular in Russia these days. Who are those Russian Leonardo Di Caprios and Angelina Jolies local viewers see on the screens of TV and in cinemas? Here’s my list.
Danila is the Russian Brad Pitt – famous and loved by millions of women across the country. He started his career with classic theatre, where he performed in plays by Shakespeare and Checkoff. Thanks to his talent and promise he was hired by Chanel to take part in a commercial together with Kira Nightly. In 2017 he played Oleg the Prophet in the 6th season of a famous series called Vikings. Today, he continues to work in the theatre, plays in movies, and takes part in charity projects that help children with EB or epidermolysis bullosa (often called “butterfly children”).
This actress is a fashion icon for many Russian women. She looks like a Paris sharp dresser of 30s. These days she is one of the faces of L’Oreal, Rado, and Volvo. She’s popular not just because of her style, but also because of her unique manner of acting in movies and on the stage. She’s well known in Russia for her unforgettable feminine movie characters, and it’s hard to believe that she had refused to be an actress for a long time. She believed that her true calling is to write, and actually, she had all the grounds to think so; her scenarios and novels have been noticed by both critics and directors alike.
Aleksei is a brilliant actor and has been playing in movies since childhood. He’s become known in the West thanks to his role in a very impressive and energetic movie called Leviathan. There’s no doubt that he’s a very talented actor, but in the local audience, he’s quite controversial. He openly criticizes the current regime and is not afraid of paying attention to an unpleasant truth. In 2012 he immigrated to Canada where he and his wife raise three children, two of whom were adopted from Russian orphanages. Aleksei still works in Russian cinematography and is getting ready to debut as a film director.
Dmitry’s career in showbiz started in radio. He was named best radio host four times in a row! Then, he and his colleague filmed hilarious sketches loved by Russians everywhere. Nowadays, he works as a showman and plays in sitcoms. Despite the fact that he seems to be a very communicative and social person, he says that he is an introvert and a homebody. According to Forbes he’s the richest Russian actor with an annual income of $3.2 million!
Russian Actors in Hollywood
Though many Russian names are in the public eye, very few of them may be named the “Russian actors who conquered Hollywood”. For instance, Mila Jovovich (born in Ukraine), lived in Russia for a long time, and in the 1980s her family immigrated to England and then to the US. Another famous actress, Mila Kunis, had a similar upbringing. Her family immigrated from the USSR in 1991. There’s no doubt that they are talented people, but most of them left Russia or the former USSR in childhood and their acting skills were raised far from their motherland.
I want to share celebrities born and educated in Russia, who played in famous American movies. Maybe you don’t know their names, but the roles they played must be familiar.
The talented Ukranian actress and model, who lived for a long time in Moscow, first became popular abroad thanks to her role in Paris, I Love You, where she played with Elijah Wood. In 2008 she became The Bond’s Girl. After that, she worked with famous actors such as Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams (To the Wonder, 2012), Colin James Farrell, Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths, 2012) and many others. She also played in main roles with Tom Cruise (Oblivion, 2013) and Pierce Brendan (The November Man, 2014). Nowadays she is one of the most famous Russian-speaking actresses in Hollywood.
Svetlana is a highly prolific and dedicated actress. Since the beginning of her career in 2003, she has played in more than 50 movies. In 2011 she played in the spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with Tom Hardy. Two laters later she shared a set with Hugh Jackman when they worked on the well-known Wolverine. In this superhero blockbuster, Svetlana is playing an evil snake woman. She says that she got the role through the routine procedure: they shot a sample episode and Hollywood producers picked her up out of many other contenders. Svetlana says that work in Hollywood was an amazing experience.
Having shown himself as a promising actor in Russia, Vladimir put in the effort to perform well on the international scene. After the Russian-French drama The Thief (1997), winner of the Oscar Prize, American directors noticed Russian star. In 2000 he got the major role in Dancing at the Blue Iguana and in 2001, in the thriller Behind Enemy Lines. Finally, in 2011 he was in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol with Tom Cruise.
Konstantin is another talented Russian actor who has worked in American projects. In 2011 he played secondary roles in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) and World War Z (2013). Though he’s extremely popular in Russia, the world fame passed him by. However, Mr. Khabensky doesn’t seem to be upset. In one of his latest interviews, he said that Hollywood is not his top priority. He plays a lot in classic Russian theatres, movies, and runs theatre studios for kids as well as participating in different charity projects.
Soviet Union Russian Actors
Despite strict censorship, Soviet cinematography was rich with bright and talented actors. Because of the country’s isolation, they were not world famous but were loved and admired all across the USSR. Here is a list of the most well-known names.
Oleg Tabakov played more than 100 roles in cinema, and was not only a talented actor but an influential figure in both professional and public spheres. It’s difficult to imagine, but in 1987 he established his own theater in Moscow. He had also been teaching since 1973 and there’s no doubt it was a huge honor for all actors to be enrolled in his course. Once he announced an audition, he invited more than 3 000 people and picked just 49. If you want to see an outstanding roleplay, see War and Peace, where he played Nikolai Rostov.
This name is well-known to every Russian citizen. At least three generations laughed at his unique and funny characters. Yuri was not only a bright film actor and comedian but also a mime and a clown. After the completion of his work on stage, he ran The Moscow Circus. He knew what was needed to bring joy in people’s hearts and under his management, the Circus was flourishing. When he died, the whole country was mourning his loss.
This actor’s shining moment has become with the role in d’Artagnan and Three Musketeers, where he played the starring role. The movie was made in 1978, but Boyarsky’s character was so memorable, that even today stand-up comedians and YouTubers make references to his role. His catchphrase – тысяча чертей! (by all the devils!) has become a well-known meme for many generations. Nowadays he lives in the center of St. Petersburg and you can meet him walking along the channels in his broad-brimmed hat and long black coat.
Inokenty was born in 1925 and together with his family went through war, poverty, and hunger. However, these obstacles didn’t stop him from becoming one of the most outstanding actors of his time. He was said to be the first intellectual actor of Soviet cinematography. He began as an extra, but once by lucky chance, he was offered to play as Prince Myshkin in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. Even today, his version of the feeble-minded knyaz is considered to be the best.
Russian Actors From Popular TV Shows
From time to time I notice Russian surnames in popular series, so I decided to find out who those people are that are lucky to take part in world-famous projects.
In Stranger Things there are three memorable characters who are Russians: a kind one and two evil ones. All of the actors are native speakers, unlike their American colleague, Brett Gelman, who also had to speak Russian in the show. Bill took multiple lessons and as a result, his Russian sounds really great!
This young man was born in Ukraine in the family of a heart surgeon and a music conductor. “Mother wanted to invest everything into our education,” Alec says in one of his interviews. So he went to school at Drama Centre London – one of the best drama colleges in the world. He was offered to take part in Chernobyl, but declined in favor of Stranger Things.
In the show, he plays the only kind Russian – a funny and naive scientist, who helps the main characters move towards their goal. He appears in only a couple of episodes, but his character was noticeable. He says that for American viewers this character is different from what they’re used to seeing.
The main character of the two “evil Russians” is Lieutenant Gregory by Andrey Ivchenko. When I first saw him on the screen I thought “is that a Russian-style Terminator?” And it’s true. There are many references to the James Cameron’s blockbuster movie. In the latest interview, Andrey says, “I wanted to say ‘I’ll be back’”.
During his career, Ivchenko played in a number of movies, but the whole time he appeared to be on the side of the Russian villains. Many people on the Internet joke: “We hate you because you killed Alexey (the kind Russian played by Alek Utgoff),”. But in reality, Andrey and Alek have become good friends.
It’s hard to find a better actor for the role of evil Russian interrogator Ozerov. His character looks really unpleasant, unlike the actor himself. Mikhail was born in Siberia and then, pursuing his dream to become an opera singer, graduated from the Leningrad Institute of Music. He continued his career in the US as an actor. Earlier, he got roles in Spike Lee’s 25th Hour (2002), as well as roles in TV series such as Law & Order (1990).
Game of Thrones
The third season of Game of Thrones was surprising for Russian viewers as they saw the familiar actor Yuri Kolokolnikov. During a couple of episodes, he played the leader of the cannibals. Yuri says that he had to train hard to lift the 10-kilogram sword.
The actor speaks English very well, but he had to speak it with a North Ireland accent. That’s why he had to spend many hours online with his tutor to perform well. However, he says that to play in English is sometimes much easier than in Russian.
Despite the fact that the action of Chernobyl takes place in the former Soviet Union, I didn’t find any Russian actor in the lists except for Natalia Radski, who played the secondary role of a news anchor. However, I think that the HBO team made this miniseries great even without hiring native Russian speakers.
Directors of the show rejected the idea to use Russian accents to avoid making another bunch of absurd stereotypes about Russians. The director Craig Mazin explains that he didn’t want to make a story of “Boris and Natasha” and turn it into another Russian parody. And he made the right choice: when you begin watching, you immediately forget that actors actually speak English.
I would like to know who your favorite actors are and how you know about them. Share your favorite Russian actors and characters in the comments below.