From “Big change” to “Spider-Man”: how did Ilya Baskin become his own in Hollywood.
Ilya Baskin. Photo: Irina Khozyainova.
The first thing that somehow caught my eye when I parked at the house of actor Ilya Baskin, & # 8212; mailbox. The one that so often appears in American cinema and is associated with a green lawn, a swimming pool, smiling neighbors and, of course, the house itself “# 8212; cozy, large, tastefully furnished, & # 8212; a symbol of success and embodied in the life of the American dream. In this sense, the actor’s house fits perfectly into a number of other houses in one of the quiet areas of Los Angeles.
The difference is felt already inside, thanks to the owner and the hospitality that gives his origin. Our conversation does not begin until coffee is prepared and the table is covered with sweets.
Ilya Baskin & # 8212; of those actors who are “betrayed” by the person. Even without knowing the name, many probably remember the face of the curly student from the “Great Change”, Mr. Ditkovich from the blockbuster series “Spiderman”, the failed defector of the clown Cherkasov from the movie “Moscow on the Hudson”. In addition, Baskin worked in the films “President’s Airplane”, “The Name of the Rose”, “Space Odyssey 2010”, in the series “Slaughter Force”, “McGiver”, “Castle” and many others.
Baskin was born in 1950 in Riga. In Moscow, he graduated from the department of colloquial genres of the variety circus school, worked in the theater, acted in film, was awarded a prize “# 8212; as the best young actor in the Moscow Comedy Theater. But, despite a bright start on the Soviet screen, in 1976, the actor decides to leave for the United States. To do this, we had to redeem & # 187; the state itself: for its right to leave it was required to pay 700 rubles & # 8212; the amount equal to the actor’s salary for several months. Thus, the departed refused Soviet citizenship and the opportunity to return.
Shot from the movie “Big Break” # 187; (directed by Alexei Korenev)
With what expectations and hopes for the acting profession went to Hollywood?
I did not go to become De Niro. I just wanted to leave. I was very disgusted with life in the USSR, where you can not be yourself. You must think correctly, behave in a certain way, you must be loyal to the authorities. Back in Moscow, I was friends with Savely Kramarov: this man was such a star that he could not go anywhere with him, he was hurried and pestered. But even he was so dependent on them that, for example, when he came to the store, he almost had to arrange a concert for the director to get some scarce food. It was so humiliating and disgusting that when I found out about the opportunity to leave & # 8212; I left. I was afraid that there might not be such a possibility anymore. I rode and hoped that, maybe, something would come out, but there was no certainty.
So you were ready for the fact that you might have to part with the profession of an actor?
Yes. In addition, during the transit, they all told me: “forget it,” “just change your profession,” “the actors have such a competition.” But you listen, you listen, but still you hope and you know that you will still try.
Seven years later, the young actor “tried”: he taught the language, went on casting, and acted in small episodes. Difficulties were added by an emphasis limiting the choice of roles. For a long time, in order to support yourself, you had to work part-time where you have to: wash dishes in a restaurant, sell insurance and even # 8212; to publish a newspaper.
How did you manage not to be disappointed, not to give up trying?
There were moments. I then had a newspaper, I thought in general to break with my agent and leave. Also has torn. And then I realized that without this I can not. I can not # 8212; and that’s all. Returned to the agent and said “let’s try again.” And it all began.
It began in 1984, thanks to the picture of Paul Mazursky “Moscow on the Hudson”. Baskin plays the clown of Anatoly & # 8212; an ardent opponent of Soviet power, dreaming to escape to the West. Ironically, instead of him during a tour of the troupe, his colleague escapes & # 8212; saxophonist Vladimir (Robin Williams). Next, the picture tells about the fate of Vladimir, about how the hero adapts and tries to find his place in capitalist America.
Shot from the movie “Moscow on the Hudson” # 187; (directed by Paul Mazursky)
How did this role appear?
Accidentally. The character was originally written in a different way, and Alexander Godunov, the dancer, wanted to take the role. he was a defector (defector). But Godunov did not want, because the role is not the main thing. When I met Mazursky, I suggested that I make my hero a clown, showed him some of his tricks. He laughed & # 8212; and so it went, we completely remade this character.
This picture is very dear to me. Mazursky & # 8212; stunning director, Robin & # 8212; great. We shot in different places: in Munich, New York, and always around there were wonderful people, the atmosphere. It was a celebration of life.
Saveliy Kramarov also took part in the film, and also moved to the United States by that time. Friends by coincidence met in the picture, which for both was crucial. For Ilya Baskin, this role served as a stepping stone to a full-fledged acting career. After the success of “Moscow”, he finally was able to give up additional work and live solely at the expense of filming.
In general, in the actor’s fate very much depends on the circumstances. If Mazursky at that time did not shoot “Moscow on the Hudson”, perhaps today I would run to some small rollers. But the circumstances were the same, once. and went. I was invited a lot, I had a very serious agent.
The next major picture was “Space Odyssey 2010” and the role of cosmonaut Brailovsky. After her, Baskin was invited to all sorts of talk shows: among others he was with Johnny Carson, David Letterman. The recognition came: the actor began to stop on the streets.
Shot from the movie “Space Odyssey 2010” & # 187; (directed by Peter Hayams)
How did people react to you? Have you requested an autograph?
Approached, said some words, who asked for an autograph, someone did not. Basically, these were very pleasant moments, and I will not lie. I really liked it.
Later there were roles in such major Hollywood projects as “The President’s Airplane”, “Austin Powers & # 8212; international man is a mystery, “” Spiderman “,” Transformers “and others. During his career, Baskin participated in filming of various scale and got an opportunity to see the work of the “Dream Factory” mechanisms from within.
It’s no secret that Hollywood & # 8212; is a system aimed primarily at making money. Is the actor able to realize creatively?
Yes, Hollywood & # 8212; it’s business. If you’re lucky and you stumble upon an interesting director, you get into an interesting project. But in principle we are engaged in the fact that we are fooling around. We change clothes, make faces, we become different people. Of course, if the project for ethical reasons does not suit me, then I will not be busy in it, but in principle, I have much less interesting pictures than any bullshit. And any nonsense is more, because they pay for it, and then you are in any case doing your favorite thing. Actors in fact & # 8212; these are the actors. We turn into other people & # 8212; sheer pleasure.
Is it possible to improvise on the set, to compose. Or is everything clear and according to plan?
Again, it depends on the director. For example, everything you saw in “Spiderman 2” and “3”, I improvised, in the script, none of this was. I came up with this small little thing with my daughter (Ursula, the daughter of Mr. Ditkovich), and he was completely abandoned. And sometimes it’s the other way around. I remember at the beginning of my career, when I still did not know how it worked, there was such a movie “Being there” with a bunch of stars, with Peter Seilers, Shirley MacLaine. I began to invent on the court all sorts of things. Everyone laughed, everyone liked it, everyone took it off. But then it all turned out in the basket. Then the same lesson was taught to me by the wonderful actor Jamie Farr from the series “MESH”. We played the scene together, and I also started to invent. And he says: “You understand that this will not happen in the film.” I ask: “Why? This is ridiculous! “. He replies: “Yes, it’s funny, but it has nothing to do with history.”
Shot from a movie Spider-Man 2 & # 187; (directed by Sam Raimi)
Colleague “stars” for his career, Ilya met a lot, with some he still maintains friendly relations, and one speaks with special warmth.
In a human way, I had a special relationship with Robin (Williams.). We talked pretty close. Except for the last 4 years, when he was already very sick.
Who else made a great impression of the stars he had to work with?
Each in its own way. Sean Connery really liked me as a person, very kind-hearted, simple. But, in general, the impression he produced, of course, because of its magnitude.
I’m friends with Richard Dreyfuss (Oscar winner, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Degree & # 8212; also simple, warm person.
What is, in your understanding, a “successful actor”?
One who can do what he likes and feed himself with it. If there comes fame, success and big money, this is a bonus. But I always wanted just to do my job well. It did not always work, but when it turned out & # 8212; this is a great pleasure. I’ve never had this: “He has a bigger house, I want the same.”
And “he has more role, I want the same” # 187 ;?
Well, you never know what I want. I understood that I did not get this, but that. I was happy and that.
And got not so little: the full filmography of Baskin has more than 90 roles in film and television. The actor continues to withdraw. Often roles are offered with one call, without having to go through the casting.
Ilya, you’ve been working in Hollywood for about 40 years, have your notions changed over the years?
Hollywood has changed. He became more corporate. When I came here and got to my first studio “Twentieth Century Fox”, I had a feeling that I was at “Mosfilm”. There was a more family atmosphere. Then the studios were owned by people who loved this business and put their soul into the work. And today they are owned by huge corporations, who are interested in one & 8212; profit (profit & # 8212; Auto.). So now, mostly, these horrible comics. Because it is guaranteed to bring profit. Why take chances? He has a salary of several million a year, he is the director of the studio, and if he removes something that does not collect money, he is immediately thrown out. And then & # 8212; these people grew up, mostly on television and video games, they just do not know anything else.
It’s sad. But, on the other hand, there is a whole army of people in Hollywood who read everything that comes out in the literature. Even the most insignificant. They are looking for something to catch on to make a movie. That is, the process is still going on, and along with the garbage, absolutely beautiful, human pictures suddenly appear on the screen.
Is it true that Russian and Soviet actors often play “bad guys”, bandits?
Yes, such roles are, in principle, the most, anywhere from this can not escape. They often call and offer “mafia boss”, the killer is some kind of bandit. But I have a lot of other roles, the bad ones are just less than the good ones. I’m just not yet a villainous person. And that’s bad. (Smiling).
In general, I’m probably lucky: I managed to get rid of “Russianness”. I played Germans, Dutch, Romanians, Bulgarians, even the Irishman played with the French director Jean-Jacques Annot.
Jean-Jacques Annot filmed the painting “The Name of the Rose” based on the eponymous novel by Umberto Eco. Ilya Baskin plays the monasterial herbalist Severin, and in the role of William Baskerville & # 8212; Sean Connery. Baskin refers this painting to one of his most interesting works.
Shot from the film “Rose” & # 187; (directed by Jean Jacques Annot)
Ilya, you make a wonderful impression of a person in complete harmony with the world and yourself. What’s the secret?
There is such an old Jewish saying: “Everything could be much better. But it could have been much worse. So thank God. “(Smiles).
That is, the risk has justified itself?
Yes, I think so. I am very pleased that I made such a choice. I have no negative feelings for Russia, but then I had a lot of them for the USSR. And since my main life passed here, this is my home & # 8212; here are my friends, here everything is mine. When I come to Russia now & # 8212; I come to visit. And, as they say, “at a party is good, but at home … & # 187 ;.
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