International Achievement Award in Filmmaking: Sergei Bodrov


Russian director Sergei Bodrov, who grew up in Siberia, was about to embark on a career as a space shuttle engineer -- until he got kicked out of technical school. When he landed a job as a Moscow studio electrician and worked with famed auteur Andrei Tarkovsky (1972's "Solaris"), he discovered his true calling. Now the director -- whose films include the Oscar-nominated "Prisoner of the Mountains" (1996) -- is back with the Oscar-nominated "Mongol," an epic account of Genghis Khan's early years. Bodrov spoke to The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Galloway.

The Hollywood Reporter: How much has life changed for filmmakers in the former Soviet Union?
Sergei Bodrov: It has changed dramatically. My first movies were banned and then put on the shelves, which was nothing unusual -- the great Russian filmmakers had their movies on the shelf for 20 years! My second movie, "Non-Professionals" (1985), was banned for two years because I mentioned the (Soviet-Afghan War). You have to understand the psychology of the people who worked in Soviet times. Nobody believed our life would change. When I made "Prisoner of the Mountains," I knew it would
never be shown in my life in the theaters -- and suddenly it changed and I was amazed, because ("Prisoner" was about) a pretty dark subject for Russia, the (First) Chechen War.

THR: Was it easy to find the money for "Mongol"?
Bodrov: It wasn't difficult to get the first $10 million. I gave the script to (Picturehouse president) Bob Berney, an old friend who had released "Prisoner of the Mountains," and he liked it. But after we went to China to shoot, it was different. There are great people there, but they never say no. I'd ask, "Can I make this for $10 million?" And they all said yes, but that meant no.

THR: Was it difficult to shoot partly in Inner Mongolia and partly in Kazakhstan?
Bodrov: It was extremely difficult logistically, with a limited budget that ended up around $20 million. I was working with a 600-person crew speaking 11 languages, with 40 translators, 1,000 extras and 1,000 horses.

THR: This was Kazakhstan's first high-profile movie since "Borat." What impact did that have on you?
Bodrov: People took ("Borat") very personally. They couldn't believe that happened! It was easy for me to get money for my film, and that was one of the reasons. I said, "Let's make another movie -- it will be different!" And they agreed. But to be honest, I also joke that "Borat" was my inspiration.