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Lev Prygunov - 82: Why the famous actor was blacklisted by Mosfilm, and how he became famous abroad
Lev Prygunov - 82: Why the famous actor was blacklisted by Mosfilm, and how he became famous abroad

April 23 marks the 82nd anniversary of the famous theater and film actor, artist, People's Artist of the Russian Federation Lev Prygunov. He played more than 120 film roles, of which the most famous were the roles in the films "I'm Going Into a Thunderstorm", "Heart of Bonivur", "The Lost Expedition", "Tavern on Pyatnitskaya", "Charlotte's Necklace", etc., was filmed in the USA, Great Britain and Germany. But at one time his acting career was under threat - the actor was blacklisted by Mosfilm. However, this did not prevent him from making a successful career both at home and abroad. But there he is not known as an actor …

Family drama

Actor in his youth

The maternal grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather of Lev Prygunov were priests. During the Civil War, his grandfather, Archpriest Nikolai Rzhevsky, was taken to execution by the Red Army, dragging him by the hair through the entire village, but the believers fought him off. And a few days later he died. The family was forced to flee and went first to Tashkent, and then to Alma-Ata. Leo's mother was a teacher of Russian language and literature, his father was a biology teacher, an ornithologist. He went through the whole war, returned safe and sound, and after 4 years died - he took the schoolchildren on an expedition to the mountains and fell off a cliff, trying to examine the nest of a rare bird.

Lev Prygunov in the film Shore Leave, 1962

Leo at that time was only 10 years old, and he shared all his father's hobbies. After the tragedy, the mother fell ill for a long time, and the son was actually left on his own. He disappeared all day in the mountains and in the forest, could recognize any bird a kilometer away, and re-read the entire extensive home library on biology. Of course, he wanted to continue the work of his father who died early, and after school he entered the Pedagogical Institute at the Faculty of Biology. But after 2 years he realized that in fact he was fascinated not by studies, but by the rehearsals of the student theater. And then he left the institute, went to Leningrad and entered LGITMiK.

Terry anti-Soviet

Actor in his youth

Lev Prygunov admitted that at the age of 12 he had become a "terry anti-Soviet": at night he caught the Voice of America on the radio and eagerly absorbed everything that he heard there. And in his student years he got into the company of students of the philological faculty, who introduced him to jazz, poetry, world literature, cinema and foreign painting. When he saw the paintings of the Impressionists, then, in his words, he simply "went crazy." This art gave him that feeling of incredible inner freedom, which was so lacking in the surrounding Soviet reality. And with this feeling he no longer wanted to part. He himself said that he was accepted into the Komsomol without his consent, and later Prygunov burned his Komsomol card, and at the theater he stated that he had never been a member of the Komsomol. At the same time, one of his most famous film works was the role of a Komsomol martyr in the film "The Heart of Bonivour".

Shot from the film The Heart of Bonivour, 1969

In the early 1960s. Prygunov made friends with the Leningrad poets Leonid Vinogradov, Mikhail Eremin, Vladimir Uflyand and Alexei Lifshits - friends of Joseph Brodsky, and then met him himself. Prygunov knew by heart almost all of his poems, they became friends. In 1972 Brodsky emigrated, and the next time they met only 17 years later, when Prygunov came abroad and lived with the poet for 3 days.The actor called him the smartest person he ever knew.

Lev Prygunov and Joseph Brodsky

The film debut of Lev Prygunov was very bright and successful: in the early 1960s. he played the leading roles in the films Shore Leave and Morning Trains, and after that the actor received an offer to star in a joint film project of the USSR and Italy, They went to the East. On the set, Prygunov exploded: he saw that the Italians were being fed in a separate restaurant trailer, and Soviet actors were standing in a 40-degree heat in a queue for a common boiler. The attitude to foreigners on the set was completely different, the truth-seeker Prygunov was outraged, and he sharply expressed his claims. And then he was reminded of his grandfather, a priest, and dissident moods, and friendship with Brodsky. After that, the actor was blacklisted at Mosfilm - he was no longer offered roles here, he could only act at the Odessa and Belorussian film studios, and he was not allowed to go abroad, considering it “extremely unreliable”.

Lev Prygunov in the film Children of Don Quixote, 1965

When, 2 years later, Prygunov, the Romanian director Francisc Munteanu, wanted to shoot, he was told that this actor was a drunkard and crazy, but when they met, the director's doubts were dispelled. Then Ceausescu came to power in Romania, the USSR did not want to spoil relations with him, and Prygunov was allowed to act.

Actor in the mid-1970s

And in the 1970s. The taboo on his name was removed at Mosfilm. Surprisingly, this was thanks to the card player Lucic Hardt. Even Sergei Gerasimov did not manage to remove the unspoken ban on filming from the actor, and the "tsekhovik" Lyusik, who had acquaintances among the higher ranks of "Mosfilm", made only one call - and the actor was again taken to the film studio. After that, Prygunov played dozens of roles, and after the collapse of the USSR, he realized his old dream and starred a lot abroad.


Lev Prygunov in the film Midnight in St. Petersburg, 1995

In addition to theater and cinema, Lev Prygunov has another passion - painting. As a teenager in Alma-Ata, he took painting lessons from a professional artist from Moscow, in his student years he began to paint pictures, and in the 1980s. regularly participated in art exhibitions in Moscow, St. Petersburg and London. In 2009, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the actor and artist, his exposition was presented at the State Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia. Lev Prygunov was admitted to the World Association of Artists. Abroad, he is known primarily as an artist, and not as an actor, because his canvases are very popular there.

Actor and artist Lev Prygunov and his works

About his hobby Prygunov says: "". In recent years, he has appeared in films only from time to time, and painting and the restoration of paintings have become his main occupation. And in 2015, Prygunov published a book of memoirs "On the Other Side of the Camera".

Actor and artist Lev Prygunov and his works

In his personal life, the actor also had to endure many trials: Why Lev Prygunov sent his son to a boarding school.

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