Actor Igor Zhizhikin.
Photo: Ivan MAKEEV
Russia will soon have its own Chekago (not to be confused with American Chicago), a fictional but quite realistic provincial city in Siberia – the crime drama of the same name opens on big screens on February 23. The plot is based on four boys from the fictional mining town of Chegarinsk, which is jokingly called Chekago (with a reference to the youthful phrase “Che Kavo”). This point is located in the path of the intense Central Asian drug traffic, and almost all the locals use or distribute, breaking their lives…
About the filming of the film and not only the KP.RU site spoke with Igor Zhizhikin, who has one of the main roles in the film – a crime boss and leader of the Siberian drug cartel.
“THIS FILM CAN BE A SHOCK”
– Igor, your new film is not the most optimistic…
-And what, the cinema of course must be optimistic? It’s strange to me: what kind of narrow-gauge railway? Cinema must be multifaceted, including revealing problems. To eradicate something you have to prove it, there is no other way. So, our movie is about the problem of drug addiction. There are areas all over the world where this is true: where people have nothing to do, where there are few opportunities to earn money, where civilization has not fully arrived. And our task is to encourage people from these areas, to show that it is possible to live in another way: to dream, to make music, to be creative, to fight for more. You can always choose other circumstances for yourself, but many do not think about it.
Yes, the movie is kind of depressing. It shows how bad it can be if you just go with the flow and don’t try to change anything. And for those who are stuck in a quagmire, this film can be a shock – a person will understand that it is impossible to live like this any longer.
In “Chekago” Igor Zhizhikin played the leader of the Siberian drug cartel. Photo: frame of the film.
– There are stunts, chases, shots in the frame – Was there an emergency on set?
– No emergencies: we had great stuntmen and the entire film crew was great. Filmed, by the way, in Khakassia, a very picturesque region. I almost went crazy with this beauty: around the mine, snow-white marble, incredible forests through which we ride ATVs…
Kolya Rybnikov, the director, also surprised me: he is a beginner, young, but he already knows how to set tasks for actors. When I hear, well, you starred in Hollywood, you know everything how to play, let’s play, I immediately understand that this is not mine. I love directors who know what they’re doing and can’t be beat. So Kolya was not afraid to argue with me and defend his vision of his character.
– You once said that you do not watch movies with your participation. What about Chekago?
– I was at the premiere, so I saw the movie. But in general yes, I try not to look, because I am a Samoyed: every time I think that I could have played differently. And besides, I don’t like to get attached to images, neither to strangers nor to my own. By the way, Tarantino taught me this. He told how at one point he made a big mistake: working in a video store, he saw everything in a row. But you don’t have to do that. Tarantino is sure that everything should be treated selectively.
PRAGMATIC AMERICAN AND RUSSIAN WOMEN AT HEART
– You lived in the United States for a long time. Are there things that are difficult for a Russian person to get used to in the United States?
– Yes, that’s right, a million examples. Starting with the homeless, as many as in the United States, they are nowhere to be found. I am not inclined to criticise: there are also positive things that I would like to borrow. It’s just a different life, different people. For example, I had wives, both American and Russian – I experienced this different mindset on my own. An elementary thing: when you come home from work and say how your head hurts, the American wife answers: “Why are you complaining to me about this? You know where the headache pills are.” And you come to the Russian, she will ask for everything: “Wow, but why, why? Maybe you were nervous, can you have a massage?” For me, as for a Russian man, this is of great importance.
The tape talks about the problems of drug addiction. Photo: frame of the film.
– It turns out that it is not customary for American women to take care of their husbands?
– No it’s not true. They just do it differently. American women are more pragmatic, they think more about the budget, they know where to save money, how to save money. But delay and save is not my mentality. I have not saved anything, I have no savings. But I have another wealth, interior, that warms more. I am closer when my beloved woman is next to me, with whom I can share something.
– You worked in Hollywood, filmed with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Many are still wondering: why did they leave everything and return?
– Yes, I did not go anywhere, I did not throw anything away. I live where they need me. I like that in Russia I have many offers, interesting work. A couple of years ago, I was shooting with Jackie Chan at a movie studio, I lived in China. Good people, they surrounded me with love, I was able to see how Jackie Chan and other professionals work. But this is not my culture at all, I couldn’t live there.
You need to be busy with what you love, be close to loved ones, have like-minded people – this determines your location in space. Now I look out the window and see my native Leningradsky Prospekt, where my grandparents still lived in barracks. Then they were demolished, houses were built, in these houses I, my sister, was born. I knew who lives here in every window. I went to the school where my mother had previously studied. And it’s worth it. I come here and I feel like I’m in the right place. This is my mentality, my roots.
– And if we compare our cinema and American cinema: why isn’t Mosfilm Hollywood?
– There are simply more movie studios in Hollywood, they are huge, brilliant. And we only have one big one. There is a difference in the approach of filming. The Americans conclude a contract with themselves for long-term cooperation: they take a project and give it their last money, look for sponsors for the film to be shot and bring billions in dividends.
And in our country, for example, in the nineties, what was it like? We find money – we need to quickly scatter it in our pockets and take something away for the rest. So it turned out to be consumer goods. Thank God, he’s better now: I feel it in the scripts, in the samples, in the proposals. Even quantitatively, many more movies are being made, online theaters are competing with each other. Perhaps this is due to sanctions – Hollywood movies are gone, and we have an incentive to show ourselves. There is fresh blood in today’s cinema.
Yuri Kuznetsov in the film “Chekago”. Photo: frame of the film.
THE HOLLYWOOD EPISODES ARE NO LONGER PLAYING
– You, as a Russian actor, have not been affected by the global cancellation? Are you invited to projects abroad?
– I have no idea of any cancellation. There are foreign proposals: I am considering some, some do not interest me. Now in Hollywood they call me for bit parts, but I’m not ready to just drop the ball and go. There will be something worthy – I will go, take pictures.
I would not like to say that I am old, but it was because of my youth that I was able to make drastic decisions: move somewhere, give up something or start. Now there are other priorities. I like my stable state, I am not willing to change it for some momentary projects. In addition, during the years of work in the Soviet circus, the Russian circus, in the circus du Soleil, I received many injuries and a million operations on all parts of the body. My arms and legs are torn off, and this makes itself felt. For example, for the last six months we have been shooting in St. Petersburg a wonderful series “Dog Special Forces”, where I play a colonel of the SOBR. And even four hours on Sapsan is already a test for me.
Mila Ershova and Eldar Safikanov in the film “Chekago.” Photo: frame of the film.
– What can you say about the cancel culture in Russia? For example, movies with actors who have spoken out on politics are no longer available for distribution. Do you think they should be cancelled?
– I don’t think movies should be canceled at all. We, for example, canceled the film about Pelevin “Empire V”. A wonderful novel that has been published in large numbers. And for some reason the film was taken away, the rental certificate was taken away. I don’t know the details, but it never came out. We spent a lot of time and effort, I have a wonderful role, the first one in which I sang, although I’m not singing. And, of course, I am very sorry to Vitya Ginzburg, the director who spent so many years on its creation, raising money through crowdfunding. People invested as much as they could. And in the end, nothing. Of course, this is happening not only in Russia. There are things that are prohibited in all countries. Take Hollywood for example: they have their own list of what’s possible and what’s not. The same is true in Europe and Asia. But this is a topic for a separate discussion.
Let me say that for me the question of limits in creativity is very thin. I think there should be no vulgarity on the screen. I have a young son and I would not want him to see something like this. And so I will return to “Chekago” again. I hope people will see this film, recognize the director Nikolai Rybnikov and meet new faces. For example, Danila Steklov is one of the coolest young actresses of the moment. I am sure that we will make the viewer think about how to choose her path in life.