December 27 marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of Sergei Bodrov Jr., 20 of them he is not with us. Sergey died in the Caucasus Mountains a few months before his 31st birthday. Together with Sergei Bodrov, more than a hundred people are still missing — their bodies have not been found.
Sergey Bodrov, Jr.
By the age of 30, Sergey had played the main roles in films that, largely thanks to him, became iconic, he himself shot a full-length feature film “Sisters”, was a presenter on television in the programs “Look” and “The Last Hero”. He managed to become a beloved husband and father of his daughter and son, who was born a month before his death.
How an excellent student became a fighter for justice
Nationwide popularity fell on Bodrov after the release of the film “Brother”, where he played Danila Bagrov. Sergey was not a professional actor, the more surprising is how organically he looks in the role of Danila. It’s amazing because in life he was the complete opposite of his hero. Graduated with a red diploma from the Faculty of History of Lomonosov Moscow State University, spoke excellent French. At the university he defended his diploma on the topic “Architecture of Venetian Renaissance painting”, and later wrote a dissertation, which he brilliantly defended. Sergey’s classmates recalled that he was a round excellent student. They couldn’t remember him getting any grades other than “excellent” at all.
To be fair, I must say that right after school Sergey wanted to get an acting education. But he was dissuaded by his father, director Sergei Bodrov Sr. He later confessed: “I resisted it. He said that an actor is a very dependent profession. You are constantly being chosen, but you need to choose yourself.”
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Sergei obeyed his father. I chose the profession of a historian for myself and in this sense followed in the footsteps of my mother, who taught art history. Mom’s colleagues at the historical university called the young Bodrov “our boy” because he often accompanied them on expeditions. Sergey studied with passion. I spent a lot of time in the library. His classmates remember him as a delicate, tactful, well-mannered person. He was the same on the set, where he often visited his father when he was on vacation.
From “Caucasian prisoner” to “Brother”
When Sergei graduated from university, Bodrov Sr. began filming “The Caucasian Prisoner”, where Oleg Menshikov was approved for the main role. But there was also a second main role, for which the director still could not find an artist. It was assumed that Sergey’s son would work on the picture as his father’s assistant, that is, as an assistant director. And as a result, he played the main role in a pair with Menshikov. Bodrov Sr., having not found an artist who would meet his vision of the hero, felt that his son was suitable for the role, but was afraid to admit it to himself. I was afraid until I made a screen test. Then the last doubts disappeared.
“The Prisoner of the Caucasus” received many prizes, but perhaps the most important thing is that thanks to this film, Sergei was seen on the screen by director Alexey Balabanov. I saw and realized that this is the hero of his future picture, which is destined to become a cult film of the next few decades. And again the paradox: as an excellent student, a connoisseur of the French language and the Renaissance, he suddenly turned out to be consonant with his character — Bagrov, a demob who returns to his hometown after serving in the army. Mother sends Danila to her brother Victor in Petersburg. She calls Victor a “big man.” In fact, Victor turns out to be a killer named Tatar. Once in the world that his brother dragged him into — where they betray, sell and kill – he will not only be able to save his life, but also his ideals.
“Spend knowledge on cigarettes?!”
The film “Brother” breaks all records in popularity, and Balabanov decides to shoot a sequel – “Brother 2”, where the action moves overseas to America. Viktor Sukhorukov, who played a Tatar in the film, recalled how Bodrov congratulated him on his birthday, which fell on their business trip to the States. Sergey flew into his room, congratulated him, left a package and rushed off to the set. The package turned out to be a sweater that Sukhorukov noticed in a shop window on his first day in America. By the way Victor stared at this sweater, Sergey realized that he liked the thing. Sukhorukov was touched by such an attentive attitude.
Everyone who communicated with Sergey noted his kindness and sincerity. Even the fame that has befallen him has not changed his character. “He was a very creative person, not about money at all—” recalled one of Bodrov’s fellow students at the university. — Once I told him about the fact that I got a job in the advertising part of a large tobacco campaign. It was hard for historians to make money back then. So I had to. And he was so surprised: “Do you want to spend all your knowledge on cigarettes?!””.
When fame fell on Bodrov, his fans began to pursue him. They were on duty at his entrance and at his house. Attacked while traveling. And he treated them like a teacher, taught them manners. Once a bunch of girls recognized him on the street. They started taking pictures right away. Sergei was wearing a cap pulled down over his eyebrows, it was obvious that he wanted to remain unnoticed. He kindly addressed the fans: “It’s not good. You need to ask the person for permission before you start taking it off.” It was a culture — a culture of life in society, which he mastered perfectly and which was remembered by everyone who had ever encountered him.
“We were like twin brothers”