Soviet-Era Actor Who Inspired Vladimir Putin Dies at 90
Donatas Banionis' James Bond-style character in a 1968 film motivated Russia's president to work for the intelligence service
Donatas Banionis, a Soviet-era star whose character in a 1960s movie inspired Russian president Vladimir Putin in his first career choice, has died at the age of 90.
Media reports cited his son saying the iconic actor died Thursday of a stroke.
The Lithuania-born actor came into the limelight after starring as a James Bond-type Soviet spy in the 1968 thriller Myortvy Seson (The Dead Season), directed by Savva Kulish.
Later, Putin acknowledged that the character was the main inspiration for him to pick a career in the intelligence service. Banionis said in an interview that Putin even called him "a godfather" during a meeting in the Kremlin in the early 2000s.
Apart from The Dead Season, Banionis starred in dozens of films, including the 1969 Soviet-Italian co-production The Red Tent, directed by Mikhail Kalatozov, and the 1972 sci-fi movie Solaris written and directed by Andrei Tarkovsky.
Banionis' last film role was in the 2011 Lithuanian historical drama Fireheart: The Legend of Tadas Blinda.