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 Oleg Basilashvili

Born:   September 26, 1934



It may be difficult to find in Russia an actor more famed, popular and equally beloved both by mass public and highbrow viewers, than brilliant Oleg Basilashvili.

Oleg Valerianovich Basilashvili was born on September 26, 1934, in Moscow into a family of intellectuals. As a child already Oleg was dreaming of theatre; in 1951 he entered the school studio of MXAT, where he studied under Pavel Massalsky. His group was one of the most talented: among his group mates there was Evgeni Evstigneev, Mikhail Kozakov and the inimitable Tatyana Doronina. Charming Oleg Basilashvili contrived to win the heart of the beauty. Their whirlwind romance soon resulted in a marriage. After living together for eight years the couple separated. (The second wife of Oleg Valerianovich was journalist Galina Mshanskaya.)


From 1967 Oleg Basilashvili was developing mainly the comic side of his talent. The main features of his numerous works of the late 1960s – 1980s were irony, certain detachment from his character and plastic virtuosity.

Basilashvili is a master of transformation. His best theatre works include the flitting Khlestakov ("The Inspector General" by N. V. Gogol, staged in 1972), the glittering and shallow Serpukhovski ("Story of a Horse” after L.N. Tolstoy, staged in 1975), the complacent philistine Basov (“Summer Residents” after M.Gorky, 1978), the grotesque Jingle ("The Picwick Club” after Charles Dickens, 1978), and the caricatured Mamayev ("Even a Wise Man Stumbles" by A.N. Ostrovsky, 1985).

Among the onstage roles of Basilashvili there stands out the role of Voinitsky (“Uncle Vanya” by Chekhov, staged in 1982), in whose character the actor managed to convey the genuinely Chekhov’s blending of tragic world-view and mild humour.


The Bride (1956)
Oleg Valerianovich himself believes that his best theatre work is the role in Energetic People after Vasili Shukshin.

Oleg Basilashvili made his film debut in 1956 with the role of Andrey Andreyevich in Nevesta (The Bride) (1956) directed by Grigori Nikulin and Vladimir Shredel. The actor has performed a great variety of roles, which reveal his wide creative range. In the picture Zhivoy trup (The Living Corpse) (1968), directed by Vladimir Vengerov after the story by L.N. Tolstoy he created an interesting image of Karenin.

Oleg Basilashvili has worked with many gifted film directors, such as Mikhail Shvejtser, Semyon Aranovich, Karen Shakhnazarov, Anatoli Bobrovsky, Vladimir Krasnopolsky and Valeri Uskov, yet he was the greatest success in films by Georgi Daneliya and Eldar Ryazanov.


Days of the Turbins (1976)
The late 70s and the early 1980s were the starriest years of Oleg Basilashvili in cinema. The first work that made Basilashvili really famous was the role of Samokhvalov in Eldar Ryazanov’s comedy Sluzhebnyy roman (Office Romance) (1977). The outer respectability and imposing appearance of his character hide nothing but a cowardly and mean being.

By the way, Basilashvili could have played in Ryazanov’s film even earlier, in the famous comedy Ironiya sudby, ili S legkim parom! (The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath!) (1975). He was to play one of the leads, namely the role of Ippolit. He had even a suit sewed for him and a few episodes were shot. Yet, a sorrow befell the actor – his father died. This is why he rejected partaking in the filming. So Ryazanov had to replace him with Yuri Yakovlev.


Autumn Marathon (1979)
In Osenniy marafon (Autumn Marathon) (1979) Oleg Basilashvili plays a person who experiences some existentialist despair and inner void. The lyrical comedy by Danelia is full of such sadness and sympathy with the main character, that piercing pity for oneself floods everyone who finds similar traits in one’s own life. Though the film features splendid actresses Marina Neyolova and Natalya Gundareva, yet the film mainly owes its success to Oleg Basilashvili in the lead.

The next success was the role of Merzlyayev, a St. Petersburg official at large in Eldar Ryazanov’s musical comedy O bednom gusare zamolvite slovo (Say a Word for the Poor Hussar) (1980). The official ventures an intrigue in order to check the loyalty in a hussar regiment. Mean and base Merzlyayev faces nobleness and dignity of hussars and actors.

Finally in 1982 Oleg Valerianovich starred in Ryazanov’s melodrama Vokzal dlya dvoikh (A Railway Station for Two) (1982). The picture differs from other Ryazanov’s works by the fact that it evokes more tears rather than laughter.

A Railway Station for Two(1982)
Amusing are the troubles that musician Platon Gromov (Oleg Basilashvili) faces when he misses his train. Yet, the situation becomes not that funny when it comes to light that he is not only the victim of railroad orders but also of somebody else’s ambition. He is to go to prison for the crime he never did. The duet Basilashvili - Gurchenko in this film is just excellent. It was after this work that Oleg Valerianovich came to always call Lyudmila Gurchenko his favourite actress.

Oleg Basilashvili has played lots of similar film roles, and yet he is never the same: such is his amazing capability to be different, always remaining himself. His characters always have respectable appearance, winning gentleness and slightly ironic tints. He is not only the performer of his roles, but also the co-author and co-director of the films featuring him.

Oleg Basilashvili: “I never agreed to act in the films I did not like. There are films where I play poorly. Then I am ashamed. Well, just did not cope. But there are not many of them. I always played in films that were interesting to me.”


In the late 1980s Oleg Basilashvili was a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.

In the 1980s he appeared in the splendid films by Karen Shakhnazarov. Those were Kurer (The Messenger Boy) (1987), Gorod Zero (Zero City) (1988), and Sny (Dreams) (1993). Dreams, a wild comedy about Perestroika is especially remarkable: in it Basilashvili tried on several images, such as the ones of a noble count from the past, a pornographer and a rock star.

In 1998 he starred in the satirical comedy Sudya v lovushke after Henry Fielding – it was the first Russian movie produced with the help of computer technologies. There was no scenery – everything was created on computer. Real crowded London was in fact only virtual reality. For those years it was a real breakthrough. Unfortunately the picture passed almost unnoticed by the mass public.

Yet, the role of a mafia boss in the series Chto skazal pokoynik (What Has the Deceased Said) (2000), after the same name detective by Joanna Chmielewska has had a great appeal for the viewers.


Poisons or the World History…(2001)
In 2001 Oleg Basilashvili starred in Karen Shakhnazarov’s eccentric comedy Yady, ili vsemirnaya istoriya otravleniy (Poisons or the World History of Poisoning) (2001). It is a sort of encyclopedia about poisoners and poisonings, from ancient to these days. The actor stars both as pensioner Prohorov and the Pope Alexander VI Borgia.

Among the actor’s other works of the early 21st century one can mention the role of Prof. Fyodorov in the historical film Romanovy: Ventsenosnaya semya (The Romanovs: An Imperial Family) (2000) and Prokhorenko in the TV series Banditskiy Peterburg 2 (Banditskiy Peterburg 2).


Master and Margaret (2005)

The year 2003 saw the release of the TV series Idiot directed by Vladimir Bortko after the famous novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It features Oleg Basilashvili as General Yepanchin, who sympathizes with everyone but can never conceive what is happening around. Before the filming started Oleg Valerianovich had had an accident that resulted in his pelvis and ribs fractures. The actor was about to abandon the role, yet the film director Vladimir Bortko insisted he was counting upon Basilashvili. The uplifted actor started working even before his complete recovery and carried it off very well. One of the recent noteworthy works by this prolific actor is the role of Voland in the TV series Master and Margarita after Mikhail Bulgakov’s legendary mystic novel.

Tags: Oleg Basilashvili Russian actors Russian cinema Russian theatre  

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