Russia's Aleksei Guskov
When Aleksei Guskov leaves his native Russia, it’s to get some breathing space. The star of big and small screen has the luxury of taking the métro in Paris or walking the streets of Rome without being recognised by passers-by. It’s a rediscovery of anonymity for this actor who has shaped his career around the search for freedom of expression.
“I am a citizen of the world,” Guskov smiles. He is one of the most famous actors in Russia. Born 30 May 1958 in Poland, he has some 40 film and 30 theatre roles under his belt. After being trained in classical theatre, his cinema debut came in 1985.
He was propelled to glory in the 2000s thanks to his roles in television series, a genre that Russians are particularly keen on. The series The taiga affair, where he played a 1970s Soviet border guard who gets embroiled in smuggling with a group of Chinese, was seen by millions of Russians.
This success did not earn him international fame, but it opened up personal creative opportunities for him. His new projects appeal to a different audience – it’s smaller, but they’re proper movie buffs.
“When an actor needs to say more, he goes into production,” he says.
Following the example of Clint Eastwood or Mel Gibson, actors who have their own production companies, he has produced several films where he himself plays the lead role. Raguine in 2004, for example, which is based on a Chekhov story, won a prize at the Karlovy Vary festival, and The father, in 2007, based on The return, an Andrei Guskov short story that was banned for years in the USSR.
They’re about the shattered fates of strong men.
“Humanism is the most important thing in art,” he explains.
This need to express himself and to “say more” has pushed him towards the theatre. He studied for four years at Bauman, a prestigious Russian engineering school. He left in 1979 and went to MKHAT drama school in Moscow.
“It was a good moment for theatre,” Guskov remembers. “We read between the lines.”
The shows of Efros, Ploutchek and Vassiliev are proof, he says, that in spite of censorship these directors managed to express themselves with the language of Aesop – with fables and parables.
His formative experiences of film were literally a guilty pleasure for him. One flew over the cuckoo’s nest by Milos Forman and The deer hunter by Michael Cimino, with its famous Russian roulette scene, made an indelible impression on him. These two films were banned in the Soviet Union.
“I saw Cimino’s film at a friend’s house. He was a diplomat and had managed to get it secretly into the country.” Guskov remembers.
Guskov played the lead in Franco-Romanian director Radu Mikhaileanu’s The Concert. This film, which tells the story of a conductor who is dismissed from the Bolshoi for defending Jewish musicians, came out in France in October 2009.
The collaboration brought him into contact with the French film scene, which he likes so much it even leaves him a bit dreamy. A lot of big names from French cinema came to the film’s premiere at the Châtelet Theatre, including Luc Besson – whose work he admires. Learning that the actor went to engineering school Besson exclaimed: “Ah, that’s why you look so intelligent!”
Maybe one day they’ll work together…?
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