Failed Detochkin, Manager Bunsha and Ivan the terrible: why Yuri Nikulin refused cult roles
In the creative Arsenal of each actor there are roles that become his business card and bring fame, recognition and success to millions of viewers. For Yuri Nikulin, these were the roles in Gaidai’s comedies. However, they could have been more, if the actor himself did not miss the chance to play in the cult films of Riazanov and Gaidai, which brought popularity to other actors, although initially these roles were written specifically for Nikulin.
Eldar Ryazanov knew in advance who was to play Detochkin in His Comedy “Beware of the car” – the script was written under Yuri Nikulin. However, shortly before the start of filming, it suddenly became clear that the circus where Nikulin worked was going on tour abroad for several months. Riazanov didn’t see anyone else in this image, and besides, the actor had already started learning to drive specifically for this role. The Director even appealed to the Minister to release Nikulin from foreign tours. But that only made it worse.
The Minister not only did not help the Director, but also rejected his idea altogether. In his book “Undefined results”, Riazanov said: “Alexey Vladimirovich said that the script seemed bad to him. First and foremost, in the educational sense. After all, after the release of such a picture, Soviet citizens will start stealing cars, the film will encourage bad instincts. So not only is he not going to call the “Soyuzgostsirk”, release Nikulina from touring, but will stop production of our tapes. Under the pretext that the picture was left without the performer of the main role, the film Committee “mothballed”the picture.
Then Riazanov and his co-author Braginsky decided to remake the script into a story and publish it in the magazine “Young guard”. Both critics and readers received it with delight. Literary success prompted Riazanov to come back to Mosfilm with an offer to screen the story. This time permission was obtained, but then Nikulin again went on a business trip abroad. Riazanov decided not to repeat the mistakes and not to ask for help from his superiors. He decided that it would be better for the film to be released with other actors than not at all. The Director rejected the candidates of Leonid Kuravlev and Oleg Efremov. So Innokenty Smoktunovsky got one of his best roles, and Efremov appeared in this film in a different image-the investigator Podberezovikov.
Yuri Nikulin was torn between circus and cinema almost all his creative life. Because of his work in the circus, he did not play in the films of Sergei Bondarchuk. He was approved for the role of captain Tushin in ” War and peace “and for the role of an English officer in” Waterloo”, but again was forced to choose between the cinema and the circus and again chose the latter. According to other reports, he did not play at Waterloo due to illness. And to Bondarchuk got only on the third attempt, starring in the film “They fought for the Motherland”. Nikulin also refused the main role in the Comedy of George Danelia “Thirty-three”. Instead, the role was given to Eugene Leonov, who later became a kind of mascot for this Director – Danelia invited him to almost all of his films.
The success of the Coward-Seasoned-Stooge trio after the release of Gaidai’s comedies was so loud that other Directors wanted to shoot them in the same images. So, they were supposed to appear in “Gentlemen of fortune”, however, instead of Morgunov planned to shoot Eugene Leonov. Nikulin said: “vicin and I stayed, but I categorically refused: if you shoot, then all three of us. In addition, I felt that we were thereby betraying Gaidai. We have already made two appearances with other Directors: Riazanov in the film “Give a plaintive book” and Karelov in “Seven old men and one girl”, appeared in the roles of the same characters and with the same displaced psyche. But there our episodes somehow did not roll, and I realized that only Gaidai, who created our trio, could use us correctly.”
The roles of the superintendent Bunshi and Tsar Ivan the terrible in the script for the film “Ivan Vasilyevich changes his profession” were also written exclusively for Nikulin. Just at this time, the journal “Science and life” published the results of research by the anthropologist Mikhail Gerasimov, who was engaged in reconstructing the appearance of Tsar Ivan the terrible from the bones of his skull. They say that when Nikulin’s wife Tatyana saw this portrait in a magazine, she allegedly said: “Oh, but Yura is surprisingly similar to him!”. It is unlikely that the similarity can be called obvious, but Gaidai really did not represent anyone else in this role. And after the incredible success of “the Diamond hand”, the Director counted on the fact that in the new film Nikulin will star in a duet with Andrey Mironov, whom Gaidai saw in the role of Miloslavsky.
There are two versions about the reasons for Nikulin’s rejection of this role. According to the first, it happened again because of employment in the circus. According to the second version, Nikulin did not want to star in a film based on the work of Mikhail Bulgakov, as he was sure that it would be “wrapped” and put “on the shelf”.
As a result, Yevgeny Lebedev and Georgy Vitsin auditioned for the main role in the film “Ivan Vasilyevich changes his profession”, but Yevgeny Evstigneev looked more convincing than the others. It was on his candidacy that Gaidai wanted to stop, but after a conflict on the set, he refused the role. And then someone suggested that the Director invite Yuri Yakovlev, with whom he had not worked before. So the actor played one of the most striking roles. They say that later, after watching this film, Yuri Nikulin was very sorry about the missed chance. And Gaidai no longer took it in his paintings.