By MCN Editor editor@moviecitynews.com

PAUL SCHRADER PENS BIOPIC OF NOTORIOUS RUSSIAN BALLERINA

For Immediate Release

Acclaimed screenwriter-director will write the story of Kschessinska, legendary prima ballerina and mistress to the last Russian Tsar, for film financed by Kremlin-backed Culture & Arts Fund

May 17, 2012, Los AngelesPaul Schrader has signed on today to write the story of the ultimate femme fatale, “prima ballerina assolutaMathilde Kschessinska, for Russian entertainment powerhouse Vladimir Vinokur and his partner the Russian ballet impresario Vladislav Moskalev, in collaboration with American producers David Weisman and Anatoly Davydov. The film is financed by the V. Vinokur Fund for the Support of Russian Culture & Arts under the auspices of the Kremlin. Never before has a renowned American screenwriter written a Russian film about an iconic figure from Russian history. The film will be shot in English with mixed Russian and American Star cast, and will be helmed by an internationally acclaimed director to be announced soon.

“Kschessinska’s life is a powerful metaphor for Russian culture and evokes the best of Russian arts,” said Schrader.  “She was a first native prima ballerina in the country that saw the highest achievement in that art form. She was not only a witness to the critical period of Russian history, she was a player in that history, only to be thrown aside.”

As the Russian Empire was falling apart, a tiny ballerina caused scandal, heartbreak, and intrigue among the royal family. Kschessinska played mistress to at least four aristocratic men who controlled the crumbling Romanov dynasty, including Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II. Rising from poverty, through her extraordinary gift for ballet, Kschessinska lived a life of mind-boggling luxury during a time of monumental despair and chaos. Despite her relentless ambition and charismatic power, she never got what she really wanted. Although her son certainly had Romanov blood, his paternity remained in dispute—and her dream to become mother of the Tsar would never be realized—due to revolution, murder, and unrequited love.

“Kschessinska’s story gives me an exciting opportunity to create historical fiction not only through direct narrative—but also through the ballets she danced and defined,” Schrader continued. “Oftentimes, the most interesting perspectives on history come from those seemingly off to the side but actually in the center—its artists.”

“Kschessinska was worshipped and reviled,” said Weisman. “Nicknames such as ‘Black-eyed She-Devil of the Imperial Ballet’ and ‘Mathilde the Magnificent’ echo the seething jealousy and boundless admiration Kschessinska provoked during her time.  Having narrowly escaped the Bolshevik bloodbath, for fifty years she taught ballet in Paris where she died only a few months before her hundredth birthday, in 1971.”

“Kschessinska’s life begins in the world of Imperial St Petersburg—Russia’s window on the West—where Russian culture attained arguably the highest achievements in both lyric epic and in the novel,” Schrader added. “I’ll draw on all that to explore the inner-life of Kschessinska at the same time I explore the splendor of Russian culture. Russia, which like the Romanov imperial eagle looks both east and west, is uniquely positioned to take a dominant role in the renaissance of global cinema.”

“This project is not just about making a movie for the international market; It is a window into true understanding of the Russian soul,” said Moskalev.

About Schrader:

Paul Schrader’s screenwriting credits (including Taxi Driver and Raging Bull) and directing credits (including American Gigolo and Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters) may be found at: www.paulschrader.org

About Vinokur:

The Vinokur Fund was established several years ago under auspices of the Kremlin by its founder-namesake Vladimir Vinokur—celebrated comedian, pop-singer, TV-host and actor, widely beloved by the Russian people.

About Moskalev:

Entrepreneur Vladislav Moskalev has been influential at the Bolshoi Ballet for years and organized the Kremlin Gala: Ballet Stars of the XXI Century (featuring the top international ballet superstars) that has thrilled audiences from Moscow to Paris, Toronto, New York. Moskalev was also the producer of John Daly’s 2003 film St Petersburg-Cannes Express. With business partner Vinokur, Moskalev stages culturally significant charitable events in Russia. The V. Vinokur Fund has produced documentary films for children on the theme of ballet.

About Weisman:

David Weisman is the former graphic designer and assistant to Otto Preminger who co-directed Edie Sedgwick in the ‘60s cult classic Ciao! Manhattan, then produced the groundbreaking Oscar-winning film Kiss of the Spider Woman. He is currently working with Schrader, Mushtaq Shiekh and Shah Rukh Khan, on the Bollywood-Hollywood fusion project, Xtrme City.

About Davydov:

St Petersburg Russia native Anatoly Davydov was a Japanese scholar and journalist who became special assistant to Akira Kurosawa on Dersu Uzala, then worked as technical advisor and actor for Michael Apted on Gorky Park, for John Schlesinger on The Falcon and the Snowman, for John McTiernan on The Hunt for Red October, and for Richard Donner on The Assassins, among other Hollywood productions.

The deal was negotiated by attorney Chase Mellen III for the Producers, and by Gersh agent Frank Wuliger/manager Johnny Planco for Paul Schrader.

One Response to “PAUL SCHRADER PENS BIOPIC OF NOTORIOUS RUSSIAN BALLERINA”

  1. Stephen de Angelis says:

    I Have translated the Diaries of Nicholas II, in which there are entries about Matilda Kshesinskaya. Would be glad to forward them to you.

    Stephen R. de Angelis, Ph.D.
    Palm Beach

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Tsangari: With my next film, White Knuckles, it comes with a budget — it’s going to be a huge new world for me. As always when I enter into a new thing, don’t you wonder how it’s going to be and how much of yourself you are going to have to sacrifice? The ballet of all of this. I’m already imaging the choreography — not of the camera, but the choreography of actually bringing it to life. It is as fascinating as the shooting itself. I find the producing as exciting as the directing. The one informs the other. There is this producer-director hat that I constantly wear. I’ve been thinking about these early auteurs, like Howard Hawks and John Ford and Preston Sturges—all of these guys basically were hired by the studio, and I doubt they had final cut, and somehow they had films that now we can say they had their signatures.  There are different ways of being creative within the parameters and limitations of production. The only thing you cannot negotiate is stupidity.
Filmmaker: And unfortunately, there is an abundance of that in the world.
Tsangari: This is the only big risk: stupidity. Everything else is completely worked out in the end.
~ Chevalier‘s Rachel Athina Tsangari

“The middle-range movies that I was doing have largely either stopped being made, or they’ve moved to television, now that television is a go-to medium for directors who can’t get work in theatricals, because there are so few theatricals being made. But also with the new miniseries concept, you can tell a long story in detail without having to cram it all into 90 minutes. You don’t have to cut the characters and take out the secondary people. You can actually put them all on a big canvas. And it is a big canvas, because people have bigger screens now, so there’s no aesthetic difference between the way you shoot a movie and the way you shoot a TV show.

“Which is all for the good. But what’s happened in the interim is that theatrical movies being a spectacle business are now either giant blockbuster movies that run three hours—even superhero movies run three hours, they used to run like 58 minutes!—and the others, which are dysfunctional family independent movies or the slob comedy or the kiddie movie, and those are all low-budget. So the middle ground of movies that were about things, they’re just gone. Or else they’re on HBO. Like the Bryan Cranston LBJ movie, which years ago would’ve been made for theaters.

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~ Joe Dante

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