March 01, 2005

Sergei Yursky

During a recent film festival in Anapa, a Black Sea resort town, Sergei Yursky would come to the beach early in the morning to do some gymnastics before the long working day. One day, when he had just begun his simple workout, Yursky noticed a photographer taking pictures of him. A couple of days later, the pictures of the exercising actor appeared in a local rag (with the circulation of 250,000). The article claimed that Sergei Yursky was actually a Chinese spy, who had secretly come to Russia 40 years ago with a reconnaissance mission and that he knew the unique art of hand-to-hand combat. The article insisted that Yursky’s work as an actor was only a cover-up. It all seemed amusing to Yursky at the time, but the story refused to die. It was reprinted not only in other towns, but other countries. Some time later, Yursky was astonished when, both in Nizhny Novgorod and Ottawa, he was asked by producers and spectators to demonstrate his combat technique.

Today, Sergei Yursky is a famous actor of stage and screen, a writer, playwright, poet, film and theatre director. Strangely enough, when he was young, his parents were against his entering the Theatrical Institute. After finishing school and receiving the Gold Medal, he therefore entered the university’s law faculty. Three years later, in 1955, he failed his third year exams and decided to enter the Leningrad Theatrical Institute, despite his parents’ opposition.

By 1957, Yursky was acting at Leningrad’s famous BDT (Great Dramatic Theatre). Two years later, he successfully graduated from the Institute. Remembering his early years, Yursky said that, in his youth, there came a point when he felt he had to decide whether to relax, live it up and enjoy life, or devote himself entirely to the Theater. He chose the latter, working exceptionally hard. In BDT plays staged by Georgy Tovstonogov, Yursky brilliantly portrayed Chatsky in Woe from Wit, Henry IV in Shakespeare’s play of the same name, and Victor Frank in Arthur Miller’s The Price. Yursky also directed and starred in Mikhail Bulgakov’s Moliere.

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