Oleg Vidov, a box-office star in the Soviet Union who defected to the U.S. and appeared in Red Heat with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wild Orchid opposite Mickey Rourke, has died. He was 73.
Vidov died Monday from cancer-related complications in Westlake Village, Calif., his friend Kathy Jura announced.
Born in Filimonki on the outskirts of Moscow, Vidov was the son of a schoolteacher and a Finance Ministry deputy. He graduated from the acting and directing departments of VGIK, the USSR’s acclaimed film school, and appeared in several features in his native land, including The Headless Horseman (1972).
Although Soviet actors at the time were generally not permitted to work abroad, Vidov was allowed to travel to Denmark to star in The Red Mantle (1967), directed by future Babette’s Feast helmer Gabriel Axel, and to Yugoslavia to co-star in The Battle on the River Neretva (1969).
Producer Dino De Laurentiis then hired Vidov for a role in Waterloo (1970), a Russia-Italy co-production that starred Rod Steiger, Christopher Plummer and Orson Welles.
In 1985, Vidov immigrated to the U.S., taking up residence in Los Angeles, and went on to appear in films including Love Affair (1994), The Immortals (1995), Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies (1998), Thirteen Days (2000) and Monkey Love (2002) and on TV shows including The West Wing and Alias.
The state-owned Soviet TV channels stopped playing his movies after his defection but eventually bowed to popular demand and broadcast them without using his name. Only after perestroika were his credits restored in 1987.
After the fall of the USSR, Vidov returned to Russia numerous times. In honor of his 70th birthday, Channel One Russia gave him a primetime party on its popular Let Them Talk program hosted by Andrey Malakkov.
In 2015, Vidov served as the voice of Andrei Tarkovsky in a documentary called Time Within Time, based on the revered Russian filmmaker’s diary. It was directed by P.J. Letofsky, son of the late entertainment journalist Irv Letofsky.
Vidov and his wife, Joan Borsten Vidov, formed Films by Jove, a production and distribution company, in 1988. Four years later, they obtained international distribution rights to the Soyuzmultfilm animation library, which held about 1,200 Russian films produced from 1936-91.
They financed digital restoration of several works, including Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Stories From My Childhood, which aired on PBS in 1998, helping to popularize Russian animation around the world.
The Vidovs sold rights to the library to Russian businessman Alisher Usmanov in 2007.
In addition to his wife, survivors include his sons Viacheslav and Sergei. A memorial service will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.