Born: 25 September 1920 (Belozersk, Ukraine)
Ukrainian born, Bondarchuk made his debut as an actor at 17 years old onstage of the Taganrok Theatre in 1937. After graduating Taganrok School No. 4, he continued study in 1938-1942 at Rostov Theatrical Institute in Rostov on Don, after which he applied for studies at the State Institute of Cinematography in Moscow. Many years later, he become at the same Institute the leading professor. During World War II he was conscripted into the Red Army against Nazi Germany, and was discharged in 1946. His first film role was in "Young Guard" (1948). His diploma film "Taras Savchenko" (1951), about the classical Ukrainian poet brought him fame, title of the People's Artist of the USSR and international recognition and the prize at a film festival in Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic). Bondarchuk then also appeared as an actor in Roberto Rossellini's "It Was Night in Rome" (1960). His debut as a film director was also a big success. An adaptation of Mikhail Sholokhov's story about the hardships survived by a Soviet Army soldier during WW II "The Fate of a Man" (1959) gained him the Grand-Prix at the Moscow International Film Festival. Portraying the destinies of a whole nation and the drama of individuals expressive and very convincing way, made him the master of epic cinema.
Died: 20 October 1994
This genre mastership was the best proofed in his monumental 4- part epic "War and Peace" (1965-1967), based on Leo Tolstoy's novel, which took him almost seven years to finish. Beside directing this project, Bondarchuk played the major role of Pierre Bezukhov. Spectacular battle scenes near Borodino in 1812, around which centers the plot of the movie, involve 15 thousand men, so many horses were killed in this sequences, that the film was loudly boycotted in some American cities by the ASPCA. Uniforms and costumes in the movie are exact copies of 19th century clothes. "War and Peace" won in 1968 an Academy Award for the Best Foreign Film and the same year Golden Globes and National Board of Review. Bondarchuk tried to remain with epic genre also in his subsequent films, but none of those repeat his previous success.
The year after his victory, in 1969, he starred as Ivan Martik with Yul Brynner and Orson Welles in the Yugoslav epic "The Battle of Neretva". His first English language film was 1970's "Waterloo", produced by Dino de Laurentiis. In the early 90s Bondarchuk signed a contract with an Italian firm for a screen adaptation of Mikhail Sholokhov's novel "And Quiet Flows The Don", which he completed in 1993. The work was nearly over when October 24, 1994, brought news about Bondarchuk's death of heart attack.
Bondarchuk's childrens follow the acting talent of their father. His daughter Natalya Bondarchuk is remembered as a star of Tarkovsky's "Solaris", while his son Fyodor Bondarchuk (who starred with him in Boris Godunov) is a popular Russian film actor and director best known for his box-office champion "9th Company" (2005).
- Quiet Flows the Don, 2004, (also screenwriter)
- Boris Godunov, 1986, (also screenwriter)
- Red Bells II - 10 Days That Shook the World / Krasnye kolokola, film vtoroy - Ya videl rozhdenie novogo mira,
- 1983, (also screenwriter)
- Red Bells - Mexico in Flames / Krasnye kolokola, film pervyy - Meksika v ogne, 1982, (also screenwriter)
- The Steppe / Step, 1977, (also screenwriter)
- They Fought for Their Country / Oni srazhalis za rodinu, 1975
- Waterloo, 1970/I, (also screenwriter)
- War and Peace / Voyna i mir, 1968, (also as writer)
- War and Peace III: Year 1812 / Voyna i mir III: 1812 god, 1967, (also screenwriter)
- War and Peace IV: Pierre Bezukhov / Voyna i mir IV: Pierre Bezukhov, 1967, (also screenwriter)
- War and Peace II: Natasha Rostova / Voyna i mir II: Natasha Rostova, 1966, (also screenwriter)
- War and Peace I: Andrey Bolkonskiy / Voyna i mir I: Andrey Bolkonskiy, 1965, (also screenwriter)
- Fate of a Man / Sudba cheloveka, 1959, (also screenwriter)