Next to the name of Kristina Orbakaite, Rolan Bykov put three bold minuses

Initially, Rolan Bykov (left) categorically objected to the candidacy of Kristina Orbakaite, and the role of her heroine’s grandfather was not to be played by Yuri Nikulin, but Bykov’s father-in-law Vsevolod Sanaev.  Photo: Nikolay MALYSHEV/TASS

Initially, Rolan Bykov (left) categorically objected to the candidacy of Kristina Orbakaite, and the role of her heroine’s grandfather was not to be played by Yuri Nikulin, but Bykov’s father-in-law Vsevolod Sanaev. Photo: Nikolay MALYSHEV/TASS

By the time Rolan Bykov learned about the existence of Vladimir Zheleznikov’s story “Scarecrow,” he had not filmed anything as a director for seven years: he could not find interesting material, and besides, Bykov’s films were not approved by Goskino. And at the very end of the autumn of 1981, director Savva Kulish, who filmed Bykov in “Dead Season,” brought a book to his house with the words: “Read it, guys, it seems this is what you need.”

Rolan Antonovich’s widow, Elena Sanaeva, recalled: “I started reading first, then my son read in the toilet, because it was already late, and he did not want to part with the book. Having cried over the story of Lena Bessoltseva, I told Roland: “I think this is what you are looking for.” At five o’clock in the morning the lights were still on. The book flew to the ceiling. “What, are you going to bet?” – I asked. “Where are you going?” – Roland answered. But the script was written very long and hard. Bykov initially wanted to shoot an “easy” picture, in terms of the effort expended. And in the end, “I suffered more than I’ve ever experienced before.” At Goskino, the picture and the themes raised in it were simply frightened; everyone was especially struck by the scene with the burning of the effigy. But nevertheless, the film was put into production, apparently having decided – let him shoot it first, and then we’ll figure it out…


In less than six months, Bykov looked through 17,000 (!) children in search of leading roles in the film. And I found everyone. The only problem was with the actress for the main role. As you know, in the end Lena was played by Alla Pugacheva’s daughter Kristina Orbakaite, but her confirmation was a whole epic.

As Elena Sanaeva recalled, Orbakaite was number 342 in the first thousand children. Bykov subsequently wrote: “When I saw Kristina Orbakaite, I immediately rejected her at first sight. Against her last name, I put three minuses with my own hand, which meant not just “not the same,” but completely the opposite of what I was looking for, “so that even similar ones would not be offered.” She played her scenes well, but she didn’t suit me in any way.” She was rather tough, strong, strong-willed, and Bykov saw the girl as “naive, with eyes wide open to the world.”

And Bykov went to try out hundreds and thousands of other girls for the role. Gradually it became clear to him that he would not find his ideal Bessoltseva. There were no naive ones. Or rather, there were, but “of two types: one – naivety, turning into underdevelopment, this was not needed; another – five minutes of conversation with “naive eyes” – and you see that they will fool you ten times, you won’t even groan.”

Bykov had to come up with a new idea for Bessoltsev. “Like an identikit, I gradually compiled an “oral portrait” of the future heroine. The collision of high ideals with the elements of the philistine worldview, I thought, probably today requires special efforts from a person. The tradesman laughs at kindness as stupidity, at naivety as underdevelopment, at gentleness as weakness. In order to withstand all this, you must probably be a strong person, even strong-willed, maybe even closed (not to open your soul to everyone). And then I remembered my three disadvantages against the name Kristina Orbakaite. Maybe she?..”

As a result, Orbakaite entered the final four contenders for the role. When Mosfilm director Nikolai Sizov watched the audition, he said to Bykov: “You’re lucky with the girl.” And it was clear that we were talking about Christina.

True, the crew was afraid of Pugachev. But Bykov said: “I’ll take charge of Mom,” and personally settled all the issues with the singer. At the very beginning of filming, Orbakaite fell unsuccessfully and broke her arm, and everyone was worried that her mother might then take her away from the set forever. But, as Sanaeva recalled, “the fracture was easy, my mother understood everything.”


The heroine’s grandfather was to be played by actor Leonid Obolensky, an elderly man with a noble appearance (many people remembered him for his role as Lord Warbeck in “A Purely English Murder”). But he was busy. Bykov was thinking about playing the grandfather himself, but it turned out completely different from what was needed; each attempt was more unsuccessful than the other. As a result, Vsevolod Sanaev, Bykov’s father-in-law, was approved for the role. Elena Sanaeva was happy that her father and her husband would be able to work together. Alas, at the last moment Vsevolod Vasilyevich’s heart ached, and he was replaced by Yuri Nikulin. Which turned out to be the ideal performer and a wonderful partner for Orbakaite. “He quickly helped her overcome her natural shyness,” Bykov recalled.

Well, at least Elena Sanaeva’s son Pavel got the role of Lena’s classmate in the film – the same Pavel who would later write the great book “Bury Me Behind the Baseboard.” Grandfather Vsevolod Vasilyevich, grandmother, mother, and Rolan Antonovich will become the prototypes of her heroes.

The filming of “Scarecrow” went smoothly. The problems began further: the censors were going to properly shred the film. Bykov fought like a lion for every scene. And he won: the film was released virtually without cuts.

The film caused a storm of emotions among viewers. Bykov saved about a thousand letters addressed to him personally, of which only 49 were abusive, but how they scolded him!.. “You can’t direct films, it’s better not to do it. You should be put behind bars for “Scarecrow.” “I worked at school for 47 years, I’m ashamed that an insincere, poorly gifted person (and that’s exactly what I consider you to be) took up his own business.”

But mostly they admired Bykov: “This is not a film, this is life, this is the truth, spoken to the face, this is a pure, high flame.” And today the picture is remembered exactly like this. Compared to later films of the perestroika era such as “Little Vera” or “My Name is Harlequin,” “Scarecrow” looks so innocent that it is difficult to even imagine what kind of controversy it could have generated at all. But in the first half of the 80s, it really stirred up souls. And this film is still alive, although forty years is more than a serious age for a film.


Departure for Australia and a happy marriage

None of the young performers of the main roles in “Scarecrow”, except Kristina Orbakaite, became a star. Moreover, almost no one continued to act in films.

Dmitry Egorov (Dima Somov)

Dima Somov.  Photo: Still from the film

Dima Somov. Photo: Still from the film

Bykov at some point began to try children from acting families for roles – for example, Philip Yankovsky and Maria Mironova. Dima Egorov was the son of actress Natalya Kustinskaya and cosmonaut Boris Egorov. Egorov’s further fate is sad. He got married, had a child, but did not live long, and the marriage fell apart. Natalya Varley was friends with Kustinskaya and told how she once met Dima in the 90s: “Instead of the confident guy I remembered him to be, sitting in front of me was a thin, almost transparent – what kind of soul is there! – a sufferer with big, confused eyes…” It turned out that Dmitry had been on heroin for a long time. Then it turned out that he was HIV-positive… In 2002, Dmitry died. He was only 33 years old.

Ksenia Filippova (Mironova, Iron Button)

Mironov, Iron Button.  Photo: Still from the film

Mironov, Iron Button. Photo: Still from the film

This role was to be played by Tatyana Protsenko, Malvina from The Adventures of Buratino. But, in her own words, “as I grew up, I could no longer play negative characters.” So the role was played by Ksenia Filippova – an ordinary girl “from the street”, who later acted in films only once and chose a different path. She graduated from the Faculty of Economics of MGIMO and worked in her specialty. They say that “Scarecrow” brought her happiness in her personal life – one fan wrote her a letter after the film’s release, she replied, the young people met and got married a few years later.

Marina Martanova (Marina-Motya)

Marina-Motya.  Photo: Still from the film

Marina-Motya. Photo: Still from the film

Initially, she auditioned for the role of Mironova, but then Bykov remade one of the other roles for her (in the original version, the character was a boy). After “Scarecrow” she didn’t act anywhere. She married a foreigner and went to Australia, where she opened a business in the field of figure correction.


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