Yuri Yakovlev could not stand Ippolit from “The Irony of Fate”, but he treated Ivan the Terrible kindly

Yuri Yakovlev as Bunsha in the film "Ivan Vasilyevich changes profession".

Yuri Yakovlev as Bunsha in the film “Ivan Vasilyevich Changes His Profession.”

Photo: still from the film

This is a rare case when, even after half a century, the film is not outdated. In 1973, Leonid Gaidai’s film “Ivan Vasilyevich Changes His Profession” became the leader in Soviet film distribution, watched by 60 million viewers. Well, these days, December 31 is invariably shown on TV to lift the New Year’s mood.

Leonid Gaidai not only made a film masterpiece, but also released Mikhail Bulgakov’s brilliant text to the people. “Why are you looking at me like that, dear father? There are no patterns on me and flowers don’t grow” – all this (for Georges Miloslavsky and not only for him) was invented by Mikhail Afanasyevich.

Before Gaidai, the play “Ivan Vasilyevich” had a difficult fate. Bulgakov finished it in 1936. While still in the process of writing, the Satire Theater began staging it, but the performance was closed after the dress rehearsal. And the play was banned from publication. This was the case until the mid-60s, when “Ivan Vasilyevich” was published for the first time.

Several theaters took up the production. But for some reason the performances went past the garden and failed miserably.

And Gaidai succeeded. He did not make a literal film adaptation, but transferred the events from the 30s to the 70s of the twentieth century, when the film was shot. I changed the name of the main character: the inventor Timofeev’s name is not Nikolai Ivanovich, but Alexander Sergeevich, otherwise they say Shurik. The director added his signature Gaidaev eccentricity, into which the wonderful music of Alexander Zatsepin fit stylistically perfectly.

Photo: still from the film

Photo: still from the film


Many famous artists auditioned for the role of the house manager and the king. The first number was Yuri Nikulin. For some reason, the director convinced himself that Nikulin and Ivan the Terrible were the same person.

But Nikulin unexpectedly flatly refused to act. According to the official version, he was not allowed to go on the set of “Soyuzgostsirk”; Yuri Vladimirovich had a busy touring schedule that he could not disrupt. Unofficially, he refused because he was sure that the film would not pass the censorship. Nikulin read the script and sadly said to Gaidai: “Lenya, this is a film “for the shelf”… When and who will see it? I don’t want to waste a year of my life for the film to gather dust.” And this mortally offended Gaidai, who no longer invited Nikulin to his films.

Evgeny Evstigneev was very good both in the role of the house manager Bunshi and in the role of Ivan the Terrible, but he did not get along with Gaidai. Georgy Vitsin, according to the director, could play, but the artistic council was against it: Vitsin was associated with the Coward from the famous Gaidaev trinity, and looked unconvincing in the image of Ivan the Terrible. Evgeny Lebedev, on the contrary, was very good in the role of the tsar, but did not convince in the image of the pathetic house manager.

Vladimir Etush also auditioned (he was eventually entrusted with playing the dentist Shpak), Georgy Burkov, Georgy Yumatov, Sergey Nikonenko, Anatoly Kuznetsov… But the role went to Yuri Yakovlev, who managed to convincingly “split into two” into the timid Bunsha and the formidable king.

During the filming process, Yuri Yakovlev pleased the director with his acting improvisations. At his suggestion, Ivan the Terrible listened to a tape recording of Vladimir Vysotsky and stabbed the sausage with an ancient dagger.

When Bunsha/Grozny was found, there was a problem with his partner: who would play Georges Miloslavsky? According to the original plan, Andrei Mironov was supposed to play. But the Yakovlev-Mironov duet did not work out. Everyone who didn’t qualify for the role of tsar and house manager began to audition for Miloslavsky: Burkov, Yumatov, Nikonenko… And Gaidai chose Leonid Kuravlev.

By offering Alexander Demyanenko the role of inventor Timofeev, Gaidai completed the trilogy about the adventures of Shurik (“Operation Y”, “Prisoner of the Caucasus”). But even Demyanenko’s candidacy was not without alternative. Oleg Vidov, who in the early 70s was the main sex symbol of the USSR, auditioned.

It wasn’t easy with the female roles either. Natalya Selezneva, Natalya Gundareva (both also auditioned for Tsarina Marfa Vasilievna), Natalya Gvozdikova, Natalya Bogunova, Ekaterina Markova auditioned for the role of film actress Zina, Timofeev’s wife… In the end, Gaidai decided that horses should not be changed at the crossing. Selezneva has already acted together with Demyanenko, so be it.

Photo: still from the film

Photo: still from the film


Contrary to Yuri Nikulin’s forecasts, the film was not shelved. But there was a censorship edit. During the royal feast, Bunsha asks Miloslavsky: “At whose expense is this banquet? Who will pay? He answers: “In any case, not us” (censored version), in the original – “People, people, father.”

The scene where Ivan the Terrible was frying cutlets in Shurik’s kitchen was cut out – this scene was considered a mockery of the image of the Tsar.

Bunshi’s phrase was re-voiced in the episode where he addresses the Swedish ambassador. Instead of the script phrase “Peace, friendship!” it turned out: “Hitler kaput” (in Bulgakov’s play Bunsha at this moment says: “I only know revolutionary words in foreign languages, but I’ve forgotten everything else…”, to which Miloslavsky’s response follows: “Well, at least say revolutionary, otherwise you’ll you don’t say any words”).

In the scene of the interrogation of Ivan the Terrible by police officers, to the question “Where do you live?”, he answers: “In the wards” (censored version), according to Leonid Gaidai’s plan: “Moscow, the Kremlin.”

They also removed the ending of Bunshi’s line: “What kind of repertoire do you have? Gather the creative intelligentsia tomorrow. I’ll take care of you.”

They cut out close-ups of a fountain pen that Miloslavsky stole from Shpak and gave to the Swedish ambassador (the pen had a changing picture, it depicted a female figure, which is exposed if the pen is turned over). After making all the changes, the film’s running time was reduced by 10 minutes – 177 meters of film. But the original negative is in the archives of the Mosfilm film studio.

There is also a short film stylized as a silent film – “Black Gloves”. Few people saw her. It tells what happened to Georges Miloslavsky after he ran away from the police. It ends like this: Georges is sailing on a river bus, accompanied by two girls. When the boat emerges from under the bridge, there are not girls sitting on its sides, but two policemen.

By the way, in the film itself, in the scene where Miloslavsky calls Shpak and introduces himself as a woman, Kuravlev was unable to parody a female voice. Actress Natalya Kustinskaya helped out: during the dubbing she said this phrase for him.

Gaidai offered the role of the house manager’s wife to Natalya Krachkovskaya. While filming was going on, she suffered from pneumonia and lost a lot of weight, which she was incredibly happy about. Gaidai was horrified. Half of the film was shot, and in the finished scenes Krachkovskaya is quite plump. Leonid Iovich forced her to urgently gain weight.

Photo: still from the film

Photo: still from the film


The time machine for filming was created by wood sculptor and caricaturist Vyacheslav Pochechuev. The initial version, made by engineers, was a prototype of a standard computer. Pochechuev sketched out a sketch and, with the help of a designer, a mechanic and a glass blower, in a few days he created a new time machine that evokes a sense of miracle. By the way, his fee for this invention was modest – 40 rubles. The accounting statement says: “The money was given for the invention of the time machine.”

Everyone who was personally acquainted with Leonid Gaidai noted that in life he was a very serious and unsmiling person. He himself always repeated: “Humor is a serious matter.” And he strictly suppressed laughter on the set, believing that this was a bad omen. Yuri Yakovlev, when he looked at the draft version of “Ivan Vasilyevich,” was confused: it seemed to be a comedy, but not funny. But a month passed, Gaidai shortened the film, added music… And the next time the audience saw a completely different movie. And they fell under the chair laughing.

By the way, Yuri Yakovlev, according to eyewitnesses, could not stand his Hippolyte from Ryazanov’s “The Irony of Fate,” but he treated the manager Bunshe, and even more so, Ivan the Terrible very kindly.

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