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'The main Russian' in Hollywood: how a Ukrainian became a sought-after actor in the USA

The series "Friends", the films "Double", "Mission Impossible" and more. In such famous films he starred Ukrainian Ilya Volokh. He was able to achieve what the thousands of young actors who come to Hollywood every year dream of. The publication told about the life of the actor "Voice of America".

“A lot depends on how you look. They are looking for some type, and you get into it. How are stars born? It's hard to say, this is a combination of everything: both talent and luck. Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time, ”says Ilya Volokh.

Ilya was born in Kiev (Ukraine), studied to be an actor at the Moscow Art Theater in Moscow. At the age of 25, he married an American and moved to Los Angeles in 1990.

Without knowing the language, but knowing the acting craft, Ilya began to adapt to the new, as he says, “colored” reality.

“Of course, I didn’t manage to get a job right away, and I had to look for something just for the sake of money. Then our marriage broke up, and I began to live alone. At some point, I was covered with panic. But gradually life entered a more or less familiar course. In the first three years, I changed many jobs: I cut sandwiches in a cafe, looked after the sick, even worked in a cemetery. At the same time, my comrades who remained in Russia also had a hard time. The 1990s came, and in order to feed the family, the actor of the Moscow Art Theater had to sell sneakers on the market, "the actor notes, writes "Film Search".

When I learned the language, I did what the career of all Hollywood actors begins with - I found an agent.

On the subject: Seven Hollywood Stars with Ukrainian Roots

“The agent picked me up and started sending me to audition. I didn’t get one role, I got another one, and so on every other time. After a while, I regularly began to go to auditions, the casting directors already knew me, - says Ilya. - They began to take on roles more often. But there must be constancy. You have to take and go to the tests, regardless of the result. "

His first film was the 1994 comedy Ave Caesar. Ilya immediately fell into the category of Eastern European actors who receive roles typical of Hollywood films - gopniks, crime bosses or immigrants from the USSR.

“They don't care what potential an actor has, that you can play a romantic role, for example. In Hollywood they think more in clichés, ”the actor shares.

It was difficult for Ilya to get out of the typical image through accent and Hollywood stereotypes. But, according to him, there was less competition. After all, the role did not have to compete with the Americans. He also tried to apply the Stanislavsky system. Subsequently, he built a reputation, and roles in large commercial projects fell one after another.

“In Friends season XNUMX, I play the principled owner of a stellar laundry. Naturally, a native of Russia. He has portraits of the most famous clients on his wall, but he refuses to hang a portrait of Joey for the reason that he plays in a series where Russians, his compatriots, are exposed as negative characters. Joey counters that there are good films with bad Russians, for example, "The President's Airplane" (and this is the film where I played one of the main roles). My character calmly replies to him that he has not seen this film and will not hang a portrait. This is certainly not a deliberate joke. The script for the episode had already been written when I got that role, ”the actor recalls.

“The well-being of an actor in Hollywood depends directly on membership in the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). It is difficult to get there. It's such a vicious circle: to get into the guild, you need to act, and to act, you need to be in the guild. For many, this journey can take years. The easiest way to get there is through advertising, but that's if you're lucky. It is also possible as an actor of extras, although this is quite long: you need to get three vouchers for shooting in three projects, filmed according to the rules of the guild. Fortunately, I did it right away. The director and producers of Ave Caesar wanted exactly me, and therefore convinced the guild to quickly accept the newcomer, the actor notes. - What does a guild membership give? First of all, this means that your fee cannot be lower than the established minimum. In addition, you are entitled to royalties from any commercial use of the film or series in which you have starred. "

“I get into the 3% here in Hollywood who can make a living from that. In a year I can work for a month in total, but the system of payment and copyright is what generates income. You get money from a movie that came out 25 years ago, ”says Ilya.

The most successful film in this sense can be considered "Airplane of the President": deductions exceeded the fee three to four times. From the TV series, this is probably "Friends".

Ilya also worked with cult directors, and each of them, according to him, has its own peculiarity.

You may be interested in: top New York news, stories of our immigrants and helpful tips about life in the Big Apple - read it all on ForumDaily New York.

“Here is Oliver Stone, with whom I worked in the film“ The Turn, ”he spoke to the actors himself. I must say, his mood changes quickly. Now he is praising you, and through the double he swears on what the light is. Steven Spielberg, on the other hand, is laconic. "Go there. Stand there, ”is the maximum that can be heard from him. During the break, I talked to him more, and he turned out to be a surprisingly gentle and intelligent person. Directors can also differ in meticulousness: some do fewer takes, some do more. There are perfectionists like Fincher, who can shoot the same scene 30 times, ”said the actor.

In 2021, Ilya can confidently say that an era of change has begun in Hollywood. Due to the pandemic, the American film industry is less concentrated in Los Angeles. Actors can submit self-recordings from anywhere in the world.

Also, casting directors take less emphasis. So Ilya only this year, for the first time in 26 years of work in Hollywood, will play the main role in the film - not a criminal authority, but just a father.

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