15 March 2017

Rodion Nahapetov

Rodion Nahapetov (1944) works as an actor as well as a writer and director for both the Russian cinema and for Hollywood. He appeared in more than 60 leading roles, including his spot-on depiction of Lenin in Serdtse materi/A Mother’s Heart (1967).

Rodion Nahapetov
Russian postcard by Izdanije Byuro Propogandy Sovietskogo Kinoiskusstva, no. M 11 268, 1970. This postcard was printed in an edition of 250.000 cards. The price was 6 kop.


Rodion (Rodin) Rafailovich Nahapetov was born in 1944 in Pyatikhatki, located in the Dnepropetrovsk region of the Ukraine in the former Soviet Union. His mother, Galina Antonovna Prokopenko was a schoolteacher.

During the Nazi occupation, Galina was involved in the underground organization Motherland that operated in Krivoi Rog. Rodion was delivered by Russian soldiers during the liberation of the Ukraine. Galina aptly named her son Rodina, which means Motherland.

Later, his name was changed to Rodion. Rodion’s father, Raphael Nahapetov, never met his son. After the war, Raphael returned to his family. Galina never married. Rodion lived with his grandmother in the village of Skelevatka (a suburb of Krivoi Rog) until he was 5.

In 1950, Galina and Rodion moved to the city of Dniepropetrovsk. She found a job teaching in Elementary School Number 34. By the early 1950s she was suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. The management of the school decided to place Rodion in an orphanage, where he spent almost two years. Galina’s health improved and the school helped her procure a small room in a communal apartment. She brought ten-year-old Rodion home from the orphanage and he resumed his place in school.

Rodion was once asked to play the part of a bear in a school play celebrating the new year. Wearing a mask, he began to growl fiercely and imitate the bear so well the students applauded his performance enthusiastically. This experience influenced his professional path in the days to come.

In 1960, he travelled to Moscow after receiving his high school diploma. His goal was to be accepted in the prestigious acting department of VGIK (USSR University of Cinema). Rodion played the part of an old man for his audition, reading a passage from Maxim Gorky’s novel Childhood. Renowned masters of Russian cinema, Sergei Gerasimov and Tamara Makarova recognised the talent in the sixteen-year old, and he moved into the dormitory of the Institute of Cinematography in Moscow.

Rodion Nahapetov
Russian postcard by Izdanije Byuro Propogandy Sovietskogo Kinoiskusstva, no. A 093 45, 1968. This postcard was printed in an edition of 200.000 cards. The price was 8 kop.


Rodion Nahapetov acting career started in the third year of his studies. His film debut role was an engineer named Gena in the romantic comedy Zhivyot takoy paren/There Lived Such a Lad (Vasili Shukshin, 1966).

An important acting challenge was playing the young Vladimir Lenin in Serdtse materi/A Mother’s Heart (Mark Donskoy, 1967) and the sequel Vernost materi/A Mother’s Loyalty (Mark Donskoy, 1968). Rodion was only twenty-years-old and was required to portray the life of Lenin over a period of 31 years (age 16 to 47).

His talent to play much older people served him well. In response to his lauded performance of Lenin, Nahapetov received the Moscow Komsomol Award and was presented the Order of Merit medal. These roles in the 1960s made Nahapetov tremendously popular among a loyal following of fans.

Among his most famous films is the romance Vlyublyonnye/The Lovers (Elyer Ishmukhamedov, 1971) with Anastasiya Vertinskaya. During this period Rodion’s mother had become seriously ill. The last film she saw which starred her son was A Mother’s Heart. Galina Prokopenko died in Moscow in 1966. Rodion grieved deeply over the death of his beloved mother.

Despite his marked success in acting, Rodion chose to return to VKIG to widen the scope of his talent and study directing. His debut work as a director, S toboy i bez tebya/With You and Without You (Rodion Nahapetov, 1974) was filmed at Mosfilm Studios in Moscow. The film was popular among public and critics.

Nahapetov married actress Vera Glagoleva in 1974. They had collaborations in many films. Their first daughter Anna was born in 1978. Their second daughter Maria was born in 1980. They divorced in 1988.

In 1975, Nikita Mikhalkov chose Rodion for the lead role of Pototsky in Raba lyubvi/Slave of Love (Nikita Mikhalkov, 1975). This role brought him major fame. The film remains a classic of the Soviet cinema – applauded by both critics and audiences.

One of Rodion’s most famous roles was playing pilot Belobrov in the classic film Torpedonostsy/Torpedo Bombers (Semyon Aranovich, 1983). In 1985 he received The Gold Medal award (equivalent to an Academy Award) for this role. He also continued his directorial work. He directed such films as the comedy Vragi/Enemies (Rodion Nahapetov, 1979) after Maxim Gorky and the romantic drama Zontik dlya novobrachnykh/Umbrella for Newlyweds (Rodion Nahapetov, 1987).

Anastasiya Vertinskaya
Anastasiya Vertinskaya. Russian postcard by Izdanije Byuro Propogandy Sovietskogo Kinoiskusstva, no 1574, 1972.  This postcard was printed in an edition of 200.000 cards. Retail price: 5 Kop.


In 1987, Rodion Nahapetov filmed the epic Na iskhode nochi/At The Edge of the Night (Rodion Nahapetov, 1988) about the early days of World War II. Twentieth Century Fox purchased the film for international distribution. The studio sold the film to 91 countries around the world.

While promoting the international release of the film in Los Angeles he met media consultant Natasha Shliapnikoff. She started to manage Nahapetov’s career in Hollywood, and projects slowly started to materialize. Nahapetov and Shliapnikoff married in 1991. In 1995, he directed his first American film, Stir (Rodion Nahapetov, 1995) starring Traci Lords. Natasha produced the film.

Nahapetov wrote about this period in his biographical book In Love (1999). In 2000, the Russian TV channel ORT asked Rodion to direct three episodes of their TV series Uboynaya sila/Lethal Force (2000-2007). These episodes, filmed in Los Angeles, became the most popular of the entire series. ORT asked Rodion to create a series for them. This resulted in the 12-part series Russkie v Gorode Angelov/Russians in The City of Angels (Rodion Nahapetov, 2002) with guest stars as Gary Busey, Eric Roberts and Sean Young.

Rodion also directed the comedy Moya bolshaya armyanskaya svadba/My Big Armenian Wedding (Rodion Nahapetov, 2004) with the participation of Armenian and Russian stars, and the psychological thriller Contamination (Rodion Nahapetov, 2007) starring Karen Black.

Rodion Nahapetov’s oldest daughter Anna is a ballerina with the Bolshoi Theatre Ballet and an actress in films and theatre. His daughter Maria is an artist. Natasha and Rodion’s daughter, Katia, is a photographer and singer-songwriter who performs in Los Angeles clubs. Rodion has a granddaughter, Paulina, born in 2006 to Anna Nahapetova and Egor Simachev and a grandson, Kiril, born in 2007 to Maria Nahapetova and Eugene Dzyura.

Currently, Rodion Nahapetov is working on a new film, Dandelion Wine, based upon Ray Bradbury’s novel of the same name.

Hilarious scene from Vlyublyonnye/The Lovers (1970). Source: Александр Щипин (YouTube).

Sources: Rodionnahapetov.com, and IMDb.

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