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Sergey Ursulyak: If the cinema did not distract me, I would only bake pancakes for my granddaughter

Date: June 22, 2024 Time: 08:41:30

Sergey Ursulyak was born on June 10, 1958 in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, in the family of a military man. Photo: Gennady Avramenko


– For three months you have already headed the jury of the third festival: first it was the Zabaikalsky festival, then the Pilot festival in Ivanovo, and now Vyborg. Do you feel like a teacher?

– No, i do not do it. And because?

– Well, a venerable director is usually invited as president of the jury…

– I only understand that it is very difficult to find a person for this role, everyone is busy. And I am free. Well, on top of that, in the last two years, I promised a lot of people that I would come to the festival and chair the jury. He was always busy, making movies, saying “Later, later.” And then this “after” came.

Are you satisfied with the reception of your latest film, The Righteous One?

– More than. She was seen by a very large number of people, in that sense she exceeded the best expectations. She raised money that in theory she could not claim. I saw how the number of viewers was growing, and I understood that this was not due to advertising, but to word of mouth: people advised each other to go see this film.

But it was also criticized. I heard with my own ears how Nikita Mikhalkov, one of the producers of The Righteous, told the MIFF press conference that he already had enough complaints about the film. For example, he thinks it’s tight. Even if he understands you: it was a pity that you threw out the scenes for which you suffered …

– Well, a lot, not a little! (Laughter). Yeah, The Righteous isn’t perfect because I don’t make a perfect movie. Some things are tight for me and some are not. Well, you just can’t watch my movies in this case. But people watch them and understand the movie with all its pros and cons. Otherwise, it doesn’t happen. Any movie, even the most classic and beloved one, can be flawed if it is strictly approached. And not in terms of “it seems to me that it is tight”, but simply something was mounted incorrectly, the light was placed incorrectly somewhere, the sound was unsuccessfully recorded. There is a typo in the first credit of “Irony of Fate” (instead of “exclusively” write “exclusively”. – Ed.). And? Still, it’s a great movie. I do not compare my film with her, but… If Nikita Sergeevich said that “The Righteous” is a bad film, it would be unpleasant. And that it’s a bit wordy, well, yes, maybe. This also happens.

– Since 2002, starting with Agatha Christie’s “Poirot’s Failure”, you have only worked on television. The Righteous is your first feature film in all these years. Will you finally return to the big cinema after that?

– You see, what a story: if I filmed the series in a different way than the “Righteous” himself, your question would make sense. But I also shoot TV shows and movies in exactly the same way. If someone said to me: “We decided to cut El Justo into four forty-minute parts and show it as a series”, I said: “Okay, let’s do it”. And if someone decided to show “Life and Destiny” in theaters as a big feature film, I wouldn’t argue with it. Nothing will change from this. The only question is time. So, whether it’s a series or a movie, I don’t care: it will be with the same artists and with the same rhythm.

– It turns out that the three-hour “Righteous Man” is just a short film for you.

– By my standards, yes, a short film in its purest form! Because normally I don’t shoot for less than twenty hours. (Smiling).

– If you look at your filmography, it becomes clear that you film exclusively about the past. You got as close to the present as possible in “Bad Weather,” where the action partially took place in 1999.

– Because I love the past and I don’t really feel or understand the present. That’s all.

– It seems to me that this is a general trend – love for the past: just look at how many programs are released on television dedicated to old songs, films, actors…

– Certainly. But I made my movies before retro came, so it suits me, not me. You see, I only make movies about what interests me. Movies I would be interested in seeing and doing. About the time in which I am interested in digging. I don’t think about what they wear now.

– You’re an actor by education. In this sense, you are similar to Leonid Gaidai, also originally a professional actor. He once starred in the movie “12 chairs”, perfectly playing Varfolomey Korobeinikov. Why don’t you act in your own movies?

– I never have that desire, because there are people who will do it better. If I could play like Mikhalkov himself on the first “Burnt by the Sun”, I probably would have dared. But I can’t play like this. And then it’s better to call Nikita Sergeevich for the role!

– You once said: “The actor must not be too smart, the director is tremendously annoying”…

– Rather, it shouldn’t be smart. An intelligent person is generally a rare thing… But there is no need to be intelligent. I don’t like it when an actor starts talking about a role, it’s an attempt not to go on stage as long as possible, not to rehearse, in a word, not to work. I know those tricks from my acting youth: when you don’t feel like rehearsing, ask the director a trick question so that he goes off into the wild, and if he’s older, to the memories. And that’s it, the rehearsal is interrupted, you can relax. It’s even worse when an actor has read two books, one of which is something by Carl Gustav Jung, and the second is something by Sigmund Freud, and he starts to get smarter… But it all ends when he enters the site and finally begins to pronounce the words on the paper And the sooner you get it, the better.


– What are your plans for the near future?

– In the cinema – none. That is, there are talks, but they are just talks… A terrible thing happened: I gave my consent to the Mayakovsky Theater in the person of Yegor Peregudov and to the Bolshoi Theater in the person of Vladimir Urin to set up a drama theater. show and an opera. The Naked King, a fantasy on a Schwartz theme, and the opera Eugene Onegin.

He filmed Agatha Christie’s “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” under the title “Poirot’s Failure”, then directed the hit series “Liquidation”. Photo: Gennady Avramenko

– And what is new that can be learned from “Eugene Onegin”, rearranged-rearranged?

– Nothing really new can be done with this opera. Now I have immersed myself in it, I have seen fifty performances by different directors and I understand that there is nothing that has not been. Therefore, it is important that at least the orchestra plays well, the artists sing well, and I really do not hinder them in this. My task is modest. I love music, you can see it in my paintings – they are filled to the brim with music, it would be nice to turn the volume down. I regularly watch opera, listen to it, go to it, and in this regard, friendship with Vladimir Georgievich Urin educates me a lot. But you have to pay for everything, and now I have to pay for Onegin’s production (laughs).

– Shooting a movie is very hard work, and I know directors who sometimes wanted to send everything to hell and leave the profession forever. Have you been visited by such desires?

– Give up forever – no. But every time I go to the set, I dream that today the shooting is canceled, for some not dramatic, not global, but funny reason. And I would go home. Before, he was very shy about these thoughts, he thought it was cowardice. And then gradually it became clear that they are present in a huge number of directors. You arrive, the trailers loom on the horizon, 300 people are waiting for you, the film crew is ready, and all this must pass from your words, stand in the position that you imagined. This, of course, loads life a lot.

– But, on the other hand, this is power. Lots of people like it.

– No, I really like to obey. And I enjoy doing it at home.

– Do you think there are many good young directors now?

– And there were never many good ones. Basically, they are few. And then, now they still love not well, but complacently. It is quite difficult. Several times they asked me: “Advise us a director.” I advised, and they immediately answered me with horror: “What are you talking about, he is crazy, it is impossible to negotiate with him!” But here – either you want one or the other… And now it’s time for the complacent. Whereas directing is a very independent thing.

– Can you name your worst movie?

– You know, I don’t… (pause) I won’t name him. I will not say that all my films are favorite and wonderful, I know that I did something better and something worse. But I also know that I did each painting with all my might. And by calling any movie the worst, I will offend myself, that I died making this movie. Like everyone, I do some things and don’t do some things, but I’ve never made a movie worse than it could. At that point, I just couldn’t do better. And this is the case when it is better for the viewer to choose.


– Columnist “KP” Denis Gorelov in his review of “Quiet Flows the Don” wrote: “Ursulyak’s creative method is the adaptation of a hyper-violent Russian epic for the needs of an eternal second grader who is weak-minded. and he still does not read a lot of books, because there are “a lot of letters” True, there he praises your daughter Daria, who played Natalya.

– You know, I treat Denis very well, he is one of the most witty film critics, I always love reading him, and I am sorry that he never writes a good word about me. (Smiling). Well, it means that I am a second grader in terms of thinking and worldview, and Denis passed to the third grade. And in general, we are with him in different schools, what can you do. And thank you for my daughter.

Sergei Ursulyak has two daughters and four grandchildren. Photo: Gennady Avramenko

– Is it easy for you to work with your daughters, Daria and Alexandra? The feeling that you held back for a long time before you started filming them, and then one got a role in The Quiet Flows the Don, and the second in Bad Weather.

– I didn’t hold back. I just take it seriously. And I do not think that I should shoot my wife (actress Lika Nifontova. – Ed.) And daughters just because they are my wife and daughters. Finally, I would like it to work like this. In the end, this is what is called “too close”. But if there is a material that seems suitable to you, why not? It is not difficult for me to work with them. In my opinion, it is much more difficult for them with me: they have to separate me as a parent from me as a director. My friend, the director Denis Evstigneev, was originally a cameraman, and his father, Evgeny Evstigneev, starred in the film. And you didn’t know how to address dad, just “dad” or by his first name? In the end, she started addressing him “Hey you!” So it’s not easy for everyone to work with parents.

– And how do you develop personal relationships with Alexandra and Daria? Are you, as a grandparent, raising grandchildren?

– I think we have a close relationship. Grandfather? Rather, my wife is raising Dasha’s daughter, Ulyana. Here she is more of a grandmother, and I am with her. But girls often turn to me with some questions, the youngest knows that I have the most delicious pancakes…

– Do you bake pancakes for her?

– Yeah! At the same time, I feel great excitement and great happiness when she likes it. If movie business didn’t distract me, I’d do just that, and gladly.

– You mentioned once in an interview that your wife and daughter often advise you on actors…

– It’s true. I did not know Zhenya Tkachuk, but my wife and daughter told me about him, I went to the theater, saw him in the play, and in the end he played Grigory in The Quiet Don. This does not mean that I take actors because they advised me. But I pay attention to them. My wife and daughters are not envious and sincerely admire other people’s talent, I really appreciate it in them. They don’t say “Take me for the part”, they say “Try me for the part”. And by the way, your opinion is very important to me when it comes to my films. They share it, even the youngest crackpots something: “It would be nice for you, grandfather, to shoot something like Cheburashka!

– And what do you answer?

– “I will definitely take it off in time!”

– But you’re cunning.

– I really hope that he will grow up and understand that I also make films, maybe worse than Cheburashka, but still it is some kind of film. And I would very much like to make a movie that would become HIS movie. The old people have such images, but she and my only grandson, Volodya, have not yet. I would very much like to have time to do something that would brighten her childhood.


Sergey Ursulyak was born on June 10, 1958 in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, in the family of a military man. In 1979 he graduated from the acting department of the Shchukin Theater School. He worked with Arkady Raikin at the Satyricon Theatre. He graduated from the Higher Courses for Directors and Screenwriters (Vladimir Motyl’s workshop) and in 1993 made his sound debut with the film Russian Ragtime. He directed the films “Summer People” and “Composition for Victory Day”, after which he went to television in the early 2000s. There he filmed Agatha Christie’s “The Assassination of Roger Ackroyd” under the title “The Failure de Poirot”, then filmed the successful series “Liquidation”; It was followed by “Isaev” based on the works of Yulian Semenov, “Life and Fate” by Vasily Grossman, “Quiet Flows the Don” by Mikhail Sholokhov, “Bad Weather” by Alexei Ivanov.

Sergei Ursulyak has two daughters: Alexandra (b. 1983) from his first wife and Daria (b. 1989) from his current wife, actress Lika Nifontova. Both became actresses. Alexandra has three children: 17-year-old Anna, 13-year-old Anastasia and 5-year-old Vladimir. Daria has a six-year-old daughter, Ulyana.

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Puck Henry
Puck Henry
Puck Henry is an editor for ePrimefeed covering all types of news.

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