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'To Russia with love': how Sean Connery rested from fans in the Soviet Union

British actor and producer Sean Connery, who became famous all over the world as a reference agent 007 - James Bond, trying not to become a hostage to one role, tried to try himself in completely different characters. He twice starred in Soviet cinema, where few people knew him. Journalists dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the legend with the BBC collected interesting information about his visits to the Union.

Photo: Shutterstock

Connery's popularity skyrocketed with the outbreak of the most intense conflict between the USSR, Britain and the United States. The first film about 007 was released a year after the Cuban missile crisis during the escalation of the Cold War.

Despite this, already in the second film about James Bond - "From Russia with Love", you can see signs of a release of tension. The producers decided to move away from the original text of the novel, where General SMERSH Rough-cutters was the main criminal.

So, in the film, Bond fights with some mysterious criminal group SPECTR. According to the plot of the film, Agent 007, performed by Connery, not only falls in love with Tatyana Romanova, an employee of the Soviet consulate in Turkey, but also snatches the Soviet encryption machine "Lector" from the hands of the villains.

After the fifth film about agent 007, Connery began to get tired of this role and was increasingly worried that the image of James Bond would not allow him to receive other exciting roles from the directors. And the producers of the film could no longer keep Sean on the project. Connery began to hastily look for a new job, and then he received an interesting offer to play in the joint Italian-Soviet film "Red Tent".

"One at the destroyed table"

The large-scale epic film about the rescue of the Arctic expedition by Umberto Nobile was directed by Mikhail Kalatozov. He is the only winner of the Palme d'Or awarded by the Canadian Film Festival in Soviet history.

From the Italian side, Franco Cristaldi helped to produce the tape. One of the main roles in the film was played by his wife, actress Claudia Cardinale.

The role of the discoverer of the South Pole, the fearless Roald Amundsen, was planned to be given to Laurence Olivier - the star of Western films, Paul Scofield or John Wayne. However, they did not want to work with Soviet filmmakers in protest against the introduction of Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Unexpectedly for everyone, Sean Connery, who was just looking for a new role after Bond, agreed to participate in the project.

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At the time of filming this film, Sean was 40 years old, Amundsen, the hero of the tape, was 55 years old. In this regard, a whole workshop of make-up artists worked on Connery, who each time before filming applied gray hair to the hair and other complex elements. The British actor pronounced all his lines in English. During the scoring of the picture, it was dubbed by another actor - Yuri Yakovlev.

In his book “In the credits, the last one,” the director of the film about the expedition, Boris Krishtul, recalled that in the Soviet Union no one knew Connery by sight, since the Bond films did not go to Soviet cinemas. Before meeting Sean at the airport, Soviet filmmakers had to hastily search for his photograph in order to immediately recognize the star among those who arrived.

Photo: Shutterstock

“Our citizens showed no interest in the appearance of a world screen star on Soviet soil,” recalls Boris Krishtul. - No one pointed a finger at him and no one rushed for an autograph. At first, it seemed to me, Connery was even happy about it. But while they waited for the luggage, bewilderment slowly began to appear in his eyes. On his face one could read "why am I not being torn apart?" Perhaps he wanted to ask me this question while still at the airport, but he asked it two days later at Mosfilm.

- And what, - he asked, - hasn't Bond come out in Moscow yet?

"And he won't come out," I answered. "

The theme of the arrival of a world-class star from Hollywood to the Soviet Union was later ironically presented by Vladimir Vysotsky in his "Song about James Bond, about agent 007". In it, he noted that the Soviet people did not pay attention to the famous overseas film actor at all, but happily greeted the clay target shooting champion who had arrived with him.

“Glad that he was not recognized,

He took off the blanket at the National

But despite the personality and accent,

They called him a ragamuffin there,

Who pretended to be a foreigner

And he declared that, they say, he is an agent ”.

In his speeches, Vysotsky said that at the end of his stay in the Soviet Union, Connery was exhausted from loneliness and lack of attention from fans. He decided to organize a feast for his fellow filmmakers and set an excellent table: he bought delicacies and drinks in the Beryozka store. But at the same time, due to the language barrier (in the Soviet team, no one knew English) and the abundance of alcoholic live communication did not work.

“In general, we drank everything, ate it, and left. And he (Sean Connery) was left alone at the destroyed table and probably repeated for a long time: "Yes, this is really a mysterious country!" - said Vysotsky.

Despite this, they tried to pay maximum attention to the legendary actor and fulfill almost any of his requests. His first thought upon arrival in the USSR was not to walk around Red Square and the souvenir shops, but to watch Andrei Tarkovsky's film Andrei Rublev, which at that time, although completed, was “resting on a shelf” due to fears of Soviet censorship.

As Boris Krishtul wrote, Kalatozov, by some incredible effort, managed to get the picture shown for Connery. In addition to Sean, there was only the captain of the Soviet national hockey team Boris Mayorov, along with his wife. On the wide screen, although in limited release, the tape hit only a few years later - in 1971.

Soviet sailor and British publisher

After "The Red Tent" Sean Connery once again returned to the role of James Bond and moved on to active filming in completely different projects. However, he managed to work with Soviet directors only 20 years later, not long before the collapse of the USSR.

In 1989, Connery was invited to play the role of the commander of a Soviet submarine in the thriller The Hunt for Red October. The film was based on the novel by Tom Clancy. The plot consisted of Captain Marco Ramius planning to flee the Soviet Union and surrender to the American side during a Northern Fleet exercise.

Sean not only played the main role in the film, but also took an active part in writing the script, and he paid special attention to Russian characters.

“It seemed to me that the Russians (in the script) expressed themselves too American. I thought that they should sound somehow different, have a different outlook on things, build sentences in a different way ... that's what interested me, ”the actor shared his thoughts in an interview with the Los Angeles Times during a break between filming.

Shortly after Red October, the British actor had a chance to re-visit the Soviet Union, this time to take part in the filming of the spy film Russian Section. The painting was created in Leningrad, Zagorsk and Moscow. Some episodes were filmed in Peredelkino, near Moscow.

Sean Connery played the role of British publisher Barley Blair, who fell in love with an employee of the Moscow publishing house, Katya. Out of love, he is drawn into the convoluted spy games between Britain and the Soviet Union. “Russian Section” became the second exclusively Hollywood film filmed in the USSR (the first was the action movie “Red Heat” with Arnold Schwarzenegger).

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During the filming, Sean lived at the Ukraine Hotel, often complained about the cold weather and, like on his first visit, was deprived of the attention of Soviet citizens, although by that time several films with his participation had already hit the Soviet theaters. Connery was also angry at the slow work of his Soviet colleagues.

“We found that they (the Soviet members of the group) work in a more relaxed rhythm, and I think Gorbachev is trying to change that. What takes them a few days, we usually do in a couple of hours, ”Connery said in an interview with the Washington Post.

Making a film in such difficult times (the era of perestroika and general deficit), of course, did not go without scandals. The largest of them flared up around Sean's partner in the film - the famous actress Michelle Pfeiffer, who played the role of Katya. She was outraged that on lunch breaks her Russian colleagues could not eat what Western actors get. She refused to work until everyone was provided with the same conditions.

“In a country where you can't get food, where you can't find soap, they watched us devour bowls of hot, steaming spaghetti. I didn’t sleep that night, it was very hard, ”Pfeiffer shared her emotions in an interview with Esquire magazine.

After the end of filming in the “Russian Section,” Sean no longer visited the USSR and Russia, although it was with the fall of the Iron Curtain that the peak of his immense popularity among Russian viewers came, who, 30 years later, finally had the opportunity to watch all the James Bond films.

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