Evgeny Evstigneev

I want to see people, to the crowd,
In their morning animation.
I am ready to smash everything into chips …
B. Pasternak. “Dawn”

The Gorky (now Nizhny Novgorod) theater school has shown the world many talents. Ekaterina Vilkova, Alexander Dedyushko, Andrey Ilyin, Alexander Pankratov-Cherny, Lyudmila Khityaeva …

Since 2003, the Nizhny Novgorod Theater School has been named after Evgeny Alexandrovich Evstigneev.

An actor who has starred in more than a hundred films …

And who played just as fruitfully on the theater stage …
An actor who could have small, episodic roles, but there could not be minor ones played by dude, in a hurry.
They are so different, his roles.

And yet they are all played by him.
There can be nothing in common between Petliura in The Old Fortress, the director in Beware of the Automobile, the astrologer in Little Red Riding Hood and Dorn from The Seagull, can there? Just like between the underground millionaire Koreiko in The Golden Calf and Professor Pleischner in Seventeen Moments of Spring.
Yes, it cannot, except that all these roles were embodied by one person – Evgeny Evstigneev.

Children everywhere recognized him – they ran after him and shouted with delight:
– Comrade Dynin! Comrade Dynin!
Well, just like after Faina Ranevskaya with her “Mula, don’t make me nervous!”
Comrade Dynin is no longer an image, it is life itself. In every school, in every school, in every pioneer camp, there was such a comrade Dynin.
Do you find an easily recognizable, “typical” character easy to play? Try it yourself. Yes, bolder – Kusturica, Spielberg, Tarantino and Besson are already preparing offers for you that you simply cannot refuse.

Evgeny Evstigneev was born on October 9, 1926 in Nizhny Novgorod. In an ordinary working-class family, far from art. He grew up like everyone else – he graduated from the seven-year school and in the forty-first year he began working as an electrician. For one year Evgeniy studies at a diesel engine-building technical school, but circumstances force him to quit his studies and go back to work. Locksmith at the Krasnaya Etna plant. An enterprise with a communist-volcanic name produces bolts, nuts, springs and all that stuff. The company is old, founded at the end of the nineteenth century (then it was called simply “Etna”).

One day Yevgeny Evstigneev was going to be going to enter the Gorky Theater School, but his mother, Maria Ivanovna, would prevent this. Her husband’s son from his first marriage, who was an actor, quickly drank himself and died before he was thirty. The one who burned himself in milk, as you know, blows on the water – so Maria Ivanovna decided that she would not let her own son become an actor for certain and quick death.

Without thinking twice, Maria Ivanovna will come to an appointment with the head of the personnel department of the Krasnaya Etna plant and persuade him not to allow her son to leave the plant and not give him documents. The war was going on, every locksmith was counted, so it didn’t take long to persuade the head of the personnel department.
But fate – she will find it on the stove, and even more so at the Krasnaya Etna plant.

Evgeny Evstigneev does not leave thoughts of art – he not only works at the factory, but also actively participates in factory amateur performances. And besides, he plays in a jazz band. Drummer.

According to the recollections of his contemporaries, Evstigneev was a very musical person, capable of playing not only various musical instruments: from balalaika to grand piano, but in general on everything that is capable of making sounds.

The jazz orchestra, in which Evstigneev “sets the rhythm”, performs in clubs, palaces of culture and … in cinemas. Then it was common – before the start of the film, while the audience was gathering, mini-concerts were arranged, a kind of overtures that added festivity to watching the film. Although in those days when television seemed to be there, and no one had televisions yet, going to the cinema was a holiday in itself.

In one of the cinemas, where the jazz orchestra performed, there was a man who was to play a big role in the fate of Eugene. This person turned out to be the director of the Gorky Theater School, Vitaly Aleksandrovich Lebsky. They even say that Lebsky was in the same cinema at that time not by accident, but deliberately. I came to see the gifted virtuoso drummer, whom I had already heard a lot about.

Vitaly Aleksandrovich Lebsky himself was a talented person and valued talent in others. And he did not just appreciate, but tried to help everyone in whom he saw the “spark of God.” He found Evgeny’s playing excellent, but at first glance he was able to discern something more in the drummer boy, visible only to the experienced gaze of the Master.

After waiting for a break in the musicians’ play, Vitaly Aleksandrovich approached Evstigneev and, as they say, “immediately took the bull by the horns,” puzzling Evgeny with an unexpected question:
– Young man, do you want to become a dramatic actor?
Eugene was taken aback, at the first moment he thought that he had become the object of a joke, but immediately drove this thought away from himself, the person standing in front of him looked so solid. I thought for a few seconds and honestly admitted:
– I dont know.
– Then here are my coordinates, and I am waiting for you at my place, – said Lebsky, handing Evstigneev a piece of paper with the address of the school and his name.
Two days later, Yevgeny Evstigneev appeared at the school and was received very cordially.
Mother no longer objected – either resigned herself, or changed her mind.
So Eugene became an actor. From 1946 to 1951, he studied at the Gorky Theater School, after which he was assigned …
To Moscow?

No, in the Vladimir Regional Drama Theater named after A. Lunacharsky – a theater that not long before that celebrated its centenary. This theater could be considered truly folk – it was founded in 1848 with funds collected “by subscription”. The great Ermolova played on his stage, and she was not the only one.
The artistic consultant of the theater at that time was People’s Artist of the USSR B. Ye. Zakhava. In the postwar years, A. L. Abrikosov, V. V. Belokurov, A. N. Gribov, A. P. Georgievskaya, V. P. Maretskaya, I. V. Ilyinsky, A. K. Tarasova, G. P. Menglet …
The theater did not lag behind the times – both classical drama plays and works by contemporary authors – plays by Latsis, Pogodin, local authors Lipkind and Tolubaev, were staged on its stage.

By the way, Evgeny did not want to leave his hometown. He even tried to find a place for himself in one of the Gorky theaters, in the drama or in the Theater of the Young Spectator, but the management of both theaters gave the young actor a turn from the gate. As Evgeny Aleksandrovich himself later recalled with a grain of irony, “due to a lack of talent”.
As a result, Evstigneev made the right decision – the Vladimir Regional Drama Theater named after A. Lunacharsky became a good school for the young actor. It is not surprising that Evgeny Alexandrovich always remembered him with great warmth. In his first theater Evstigneev played more than a dozen roles – from a sailor in Lavrenyov’s Rift to Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. Not a bad start.

But Evstigneev is not going to stop there. In 1954, he resigned from the theater, having completed the three years assigned to the distribution, and came to Moscow.
Do not sip jelly and not stare at crows, but with a clearly defined goal – to continue their studies.
Evstigneev was generally a purposeful person.

He enters the Moscow Art Theater School. At the audition, Evstigneev read Brutus’s monologue from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
– Romans, fellow citizens, friends! – Eugene announced to the commission and, without changing his intonation, continued: – Sorry, I forgot!
He is accepted immediately for the second year. Course of Pavel Vladimirovich Massalsky, one of the luminaries of the stage.
With the participation of Evgeny Evstigneev, the student “Studio of Young Actors” was created, which soon became the base for the new capital’s theater “Sovremennik”.
In 1956 he graduated from the Moscow Art Theater School.

And he begins to work in the Moscow Sovremennik Theater, created with his participation. In the first theater of that era, not founded at the direction of the authorities or at the request of workers (which, however, is the same thing), but created by a group of creatively minded like-minded people.
The founders of the theater – Oleg Efremov, Galina Volchek, Igor Kvasha, Lilia Tolmacheva, Evgeny Evstigneev, Oleg Tabakov – were able not only to create the theater and defend it, but also to make it famous very quickly!

Was such a theater needed at that time?
Of course he was!
Sovremennik was conceived as a theater designed to destroy the inertia of the theatrical system, breathe fresh wind into the sails and keep up with the times, not in words, but in deeds.
Hence the name – “Contemporary”.
The newborn theater did not have a glorious history and legendary troupe, so acting skills became the subject of its pride – the ability to actually penetrate the inner world of the heroes and convey it in vivid, convincing natural ways …
A living person returned to the metropolitan stage. And he spoke in a living language, simple and clear.
And a great many other living people began to storm the box office of “Contemporary”.
I did not make a reservation, namely – to storm.
People tend to recognize the good quickly and get used to it just as quickly.
Sovremennik has become a favorite theater for young people and intellectuals.
The Sovremennik has become a favorite theater of Muscovites.
Sovremennik has become a favorite theater of almost the entire Soviet Union.
For many years, a ticket to this theater will become one of the most convertible currencies in the USSR.

In the first play by Sovremennik, Forever Alive, based on the play by V. Rozov, Evgeny Evstigneev plays the role of Chernov. The play itself has withstood several attacks from the censors.
– Rewrite your creation, there is no party line in it! – the censors frowned.
– I would be glad, – Rozov shrugged his shoulders, – but the line of the party won’t fit into my play.
“The play then attracted the main thing – Rozov wrote that there is true intelligence, decency in Russia. He wrote about what an honest person is and how he maintains honor in the most difficult circumstances. The play made it possible, as can now be seen, to gather a team, to unite the studio on the basis of some common idea that lies not only in the field of aesthetics, although aesthetics too. We perceived the play as an artistic manifesto, if you like, ”Oleg Efremov later recalled.

In 1957, two significant events happened in the life of Evgeny Evstigneev – he first appeared in a movie, playing the role of Peterson in the film “Duel”, and for the first time he got married. At her classmate at the Moscow Art Theater School, daughter of the famous cameraman and professor of VGIK Boris Volchek, Galina Volchek. Here is what Galina Borisovna herself writes about that time:

“Suddenly, an over-aged graduate of the Moscow Art Theater School appeared in my life: seven years older than me and of rural origin. He spoke in such a way that some turns of his speech could be understood only with the help of a special dictionary (for example, “swept floor” in his understanding – floor that was swept, “bleached soup” – soup with sour cream, “wind soap” – toilet soap and etc.). Outwardly, my chosen one looked also strange: bald, with a long fingernail on the little finger, dressed in a lilac Boston suit for growth (what if the balding groom stretches out), with a vest over the “bobbin” – a summer knitted shirt with short sleeves, at the collar over the “zipper “A crêpe de Chine bow tie was attached dignifiedly. This is how Zhenya came to my house.
At first, dad was in disarray, because he succumbed to the influence of the nanny, who commented on the appearance of my chosen one with the words: “He is not ashamed to go bald, even if he put on some kind of hat …”

I behaved independently and in a youthful way rejoiced at my inner protest against parental stereotypical thinking. But it was not only protest that motivated me, I wanted to be with Zhenya also because I had a whole complex of feelings towards him. I was attracted by his inner insecurity. In a way, I also experienced something maternal, because he was cut off from his parental home, from his mother, whom he loved, but who, due to circumstances, gave him only what she could give, and Zhenin’s intellectual and spiritual potential was much richer. And the most important thing for me was that I immediately saw in him a great artist, and therefore a personality …
Despite all the talk, we got married. At first there was a psychologically difficult period in relations with my father, his new wife and my nanny (and we all lived together in the same apartment). At some point, when the situation had already heated up to the limit, I declared with my characteristic maximalism: “We are leaving and will live separately!”
And we almost went out into the street. For some time we even had to spend the night at the station. We moved eight times because we rented one or the other room until we got a separate one-room apartment. Because of such a homeless life, we had no furniture or belongings.

Over time, dad fell in love with Zhenya, respected him and filmed in all his films, at least in a small episode. Yes, and the nanny Zhenya turned out to be close in spirit and perception of life. Later, she was never able to fall in love with my second husband, for her Zhenya always remained “her own”, and he was “a stranger”. ”

In 1960, Evstigneev will receive the first major role on stage – he will play the Naked King in the play of the same name based on the play by his namesake Yevgeny Schwartz. For Evgeny Alexandrovich, this role became a landmark. Critic Maya Turovskaya wrote about this work: “It is very difficult to play nothing, on which everything depends.” But Evstigneev did an excellent job with his task – he played an absolute insignificance, dictating his will to those around him.

Time is running. Evgeny Evstigneev continues to play on stage and act in films. Gradually they begin to recognize him, but they are still far from large-scale all-Union popularity.
And it is impossible even to imagine that Evstigneeva will glorify the role of a bald bore to the whole country who wants to do the best and at the same time interferes with everyone.
No, what are you! Evstigneev has never played Vladimir Ilyich Lenin! Never! Not in the movies, not on stage. He was too tall, he did not fit into the image. True, it was possible to play tsars – Ivan the Terrible and Alexander II.

In 1964 Evgeny Evstigneev starred in the comedy film “Welcome, or No Unauthorized Entry” directed by Elem Klimov. Plays Comrade Dynin, director of the pioneer camp, a positive person in all respects.
Remember his pearls?
– “Cheerful” should be said more cheerful, and “cheerful” – more fun.
And this one:
– I freed the instrumental quartet from sleep – let them train.
Or this one:
– This song, comrade Mitrofanov, Gagarin sang in space.

The painting “Welcome, or No Unauthorized Entry” was the debut of Elem Klimov in a feature film. The Arts Council (there was then such a body that allowed or prohibited films for distribution) took the picture coolly, but still released it on the screens of the country. According to the director’s own recollections, at the first “popular” premiere there was such wild laughter that he could not hear the picture.
Now the directors are vying with each other to invite Evgeny Evstigneev to appear in their films.

They call in, one might say. For two years, Evgeny Aleksandrovich has starred in a dozen films, including Eldar Ryazanov’s beautiful and touching comedy Beware of the Car. In this film, Evstigneev will play an unsinkable and self-satisfied mediocrity, a former football coach, transferred to the place of an amateur theater director. The film “Beware of the Car” began the long-term creative collaboration between Evgeny Evstigneev and Eldar Ryazanov.
Once Evstigneev was asked how he wants to see the modern viewer. “Talented. Those who know how to associate freely, who are not afraid to be sentimental, ”answered Evgeny Alexandrovich without hesitation.

In 1968, Oleg Efremov staged Gorky’s play At the Bottom in Sovremennik. Evstigneev plays Satin. He plays in a new way, breaking the stereotypes of the Soviet socialist theater, plays without far-fetched pathos. Konstantin Raikin recalls Evgeny Yevstigneev’s performance in this way: “It seems to me that Satin is his highest work. It absolutely overturns the stereotype of a certain edifying pathos and declamation that has developed in connection with this image. It was played extremely lively, unexpectedly, funny, poignant, bitter, even bitter, paradoxical, but as a result left a feeling of rare significance and power. I remember his monologue about a proud man. Heavy bulging eyes. A mouth curled up in a caustic grin. The condition of a person who is heavy from drinking and at the same time experiencing some strange inspiration. A tense forehead, a body thrown back on a bunk, raised on arms wide apart, and a desperately overturned head. The utmost expressiveness of each pose, almost monumentality. ”
Efremov and Evstigneev had strong and friendly relations. When in 1970 Oleg Nikolaevich noisily leaves Sovremennik and becomes the main director of the Moscow Art Theater, Evgeny Evstigneev, without hesitation, will follow him.

In 1968, Evgeny Evstigneev will receive the title of Honored Artist of the RSFSR.
In 1974 he will become the People’s Artist of the RSFSR, and in the same year he will receive the USSR State Prize for the role of Khromov in the Moscow Art Theater play “Steelworkers” (not to be confused with the role of Lame in the dynamic Ryazanov comedy “The Incredible Adventures of Italians in Russia”).
In 1982, Evstigneev will be awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor for services in the production of Soviet television films and active participation in the creation of the film “Seventeen Moments of Spring”.
In 1983 Yevgeny Aleksandrovich will become the People’s Artist of the USSR.
In 1990 he will receive the State Prize of the RSFSR for the role of Professor Preobrazhensky in the television film Heart of a Dog based on the story of the same name by Mikhail Bulgakov.
The director of the film Heart of a Dog, Vladimir Bortko, recalled that at the very beginning of filming, when Professor Preobrazhensky left the cooperative store with a package of Krakow sausage, it seemed to him that Evstigneev was continuing to play the role of Professor Pleischner from Seventeen Moments of Spring.
– Stop! – Bortko exclaimed and turned to the actor: – Evgeny Aleksandrovich, the professor doesn’t walk like that.
“You don’t need to tell me, I’ve already played one professor,” Yevstigneev answered displeasedly.
– But this is completely different! – insisted Bortko. – This is … Mendeleev!
Evstigneev hesitated, then returned to the store.

A moment later, it was not Pleishner or Mendeleev who came out of the store, but Professor Preobrazhensky. So recognizable and so unique.

Evgeny Aleksandrovich himself said about himself like this: “I have been gaining skill all my life. Gradually. I haven’t had any creative ups or downs. He worked, he moved. I am a typical actor, therefore I played different roles, mostly not the main ones. I believe that an actor should be able and willing to play everything, that is, as a professional I should be able and willing to play both Shakespeare and Shkvarkin. Another question is whether the actor should be allowed to play whatever he wants, but he must be able to do it.
Evgeny Alexandrovich Evstigneev died at the age of 66 in a London clinic, where he was being prepared for complex heart surgery.

“He was a rather closed person. He kept his troubles and joys to himself. In many respects, by the end of his life, his heart was not left at all, physically, I mean, ”the son of Evgeny Evstigneev and Galina Volchek Denis will say later.
He was buried at the Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow.

At home, in Nizhny Novgorod, a monument was erected to him. Not a monumental pedestal, but very simple and humane. The same as the great actor was.
Yevgeny Alexandrovich sat down on a bench, put his cloak on his knees, took off his hat, and thought about something. It must be about his current role …

4 thoughts on “Evgeny Evstigneev

  1. Актера, у которого могли быть маленькие, эпизодические роли, но не могло быть незначительных, сыгранных тяп-ляп, на скорую руку.

  2. Evgeny Evstigneev does not leave thoughts about art – he not only works at the plant, but also actively participates in the factory initiative. And besides, he plays in a jazz band. Drummer.

  3. Yevgeny Evstigneev was born on October 9, 1926 in Nizhny Novgorod. In an ordinary working family, far from art. Grew up like everyone else – he graduated from the seven-year-old and in the forty-first year began working as an electrician. One year, Eugene is studying at the diesel-building technical school, but circumstances force him to quit his studies and go back to work. A mechanic at the plant “Red Etna.” An enterprise with a communist-volcanic name releases bolts, nuts, springs and all that jazz. The enterprise is old, founded at the end of the nineteenth century (then it was called simply “Etna”).

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