How Sasha Kuritsyn conquered Hollywood

His story is like a tale. Yet he made it real himself.

In school he was shamefully called a wet chicken. The last name Kuritsyn (resembling "kuritsa" - a Russian word for "chicken") and appearance corresponded. A hatchback Moscow accelerate of two meters height and only 57 kilograms of weight.

Schwarzenegger became his teacher

He could not do a single pull up when was in grade 8. His "satisfactory" mark for physical culture was given only out of respect to all his other "excellent" grades in other subjects. Sasha read Dumas, Greene, Boussenard, and was disappointed to think his life is not adventurous any more. He read poems to girls. Tough guys who were foreign to poems, did not like this and punched Kuritsyn now and then. Desperate, he started doing boxing, but his might grew little.

Schwarzenegger's photo from "Conan the Barbarian" movie changed Kuritsyn's life altogether. He was shocked by this muscle hero. And decided to become same like Arnold.

He gave up boxing and started "pumping iron". Every day, working out to death. Forgot studying, so when the time came for university, he could not enroll into a management institute. This forced him to shorten gym hours and feed with textbooks. In a year he became a student.

Studied hard and grew muscles even harder. Participated in all bodybuilding competitions. Became famous as Alexander Nevsky (a nickname picked as a sign of respect to other hero of his childhood, Russian count Alexander).

Ten years ago a short article "Schwarz' Russian competitor" was published in "Komsomolskaya Pravda". A yellowed page still hangs on the wall above Sasha's mother's bed.

That article became prophetic. Nevsky have traveled all around the globe, won numerous prizes and titles, including "Mister World". His photographs appeared at the first pages in newspapers and magazines. He developed his own methodic for training and described it thoroughly in the book "How to become Schwarzenegger in Russia" (just like Arnold did issue a bodybuilding encyclopedia). From the TV screen taught teenagers how to become strong. However, loved to be photographed with a cigar in the teeth, copying the favourite Arnie again.

Dreams of the "Dreams Factory"

Sasha wanted to be like Arnie in everything. And the next barrier he wanted to take seemed insane even to his father: Hollywood.

In 1998 some people came from the States to find Russian talents and promote them internationally. They promised a fantastic carrier in Hollywood to Sasha, the same miraculous life was offered to a popular boys band and a trendy Moscow female singer. Nevsky raved me about key roles with Steven Seagull, Chuck Norris and certainly Schwarzenegger. I smiled skeptically. 

Soon he headed off to Hollywood with his new producers. Went to meet the stars.

Came back and turned up in our office. Solemnly showed his many photos with Seagull, Norris, Van Damme, then-famous Jed Allen. "I was in their homes!" Then his main hope: a thick contract between the American producers and Mr. Kuritsyn, in Russian and English.

In a few months he was gone again - to conquer Hollywood. With only one role in his portfolio: security chief in a Russian movie "Tihie omuty".

He called from Hollywood often. Congratulated on holidays. Sent interviews with Miki Rourke, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, Seagull and other stars. With a necessary photo of himself with his heroes. Only about own successes in Hollywood he stayed silent, and I did not ask.

Moscow forgot about promised world tours, platinum records of the boys-band and the trendy female singer.

Was framed, together with Seagull

Only recently Sasha told us how America met him.

Seagull was the first to give him a cold shower, having said: "People who got us acquainted didnot give me the money promised for a film. Be careful with them". An experience lawyer said the thick contract was meaningless. The producers themselves disappeared.

There was no way back. Everyone in Russia knew why Nevsky went to the States.

"For three weeks I was recovering from the shock", says Nevsky. "It helped that I came from sports, not from show business, and I can take a hit. So decided to begin it all from scratch. Thousands and thousands strong good-looking guys run to America from all over the world. They all dream to become stars. So the "Dreams Factory" did not really care for my body shape or bodybuilder's fame. What was needed first of all was language. I started learning it in California University. Paid for that, of course. Then in a few months commenced acting classes in the famous Lee Strasberg Academy, also not for free.

I was a successful man in Russia. Saved some money. But they were vapouring in America. We rented a small flat with wife. Could not afford restaurants, so she had to cook. She never accused me of being helpless loser, she trusted in me."

Refused Van Damme's offer

Now in America Sasha pumped a different kind of iron. Learned acting, English and losing 20 kilograms of muscles, not fat – in order not to look overly tough. And searched for new contacts.

Van Damme wanted to help a Russian guy framed by American producers. Offered a role in his movie "Order". Nevsky was thankful for help, but kindly refused the role, explaining he could not go to Bulgaria to participate in work on the film: he paid heaps for studying and can not just quit. Jean-Claude knew all his problems from own experience, as he once conquered America too. Yet Nevsky did not want to offend his hero telling the true reason for declining the offer: Sasha did not want to play a part of Russian "bull", principally.

Only in year and half Nevsky got his first role. The film was called "Indisputable". Nevsky laughs: "Certainly the "Indisputable" hero was played by Wesley Snipes. I can only be seen on the screen in the crowd of rebelling American prisoners, if you look very carefully. However my last name goes number one in the stunts list. Walter Hill, the director who also made Schwarzenegger's "Red Heat" liked it very much"

This tiny role allowed Nevsky to enter a film industry workers union. The next role in "Red Snake" was more solid.

And the last summer Alexander took entire squad of Hollywood actors to Moscow. Michael York, Adrian Paul, Richard Tyson, Joanna Pacula played in "Moscow Hear" action movie. Sasha as a screenplay author and co-producer got one of the key roles for himself. His hero, a Moscow cop, helps his American colleague (Michael York) fight against crime.

I ask Alexander if there is any connection to Schwazenegger's "Red Heat".

"Certainly. But we show a positive image of Russia in the movie. The world premiere will definitely happen here in Russia!"

He brought another Hollywood actress here in December: Mariel Hemingway, to shoot a TV film "Time of Changes" for Americans. The films is about recent years of Russia, and it is positive as well.

Nevsky's life in the States is now well. He lives in Los Angeles close to Steven Seagull, with whom they are friendly. His wife changed cooking ware to photocamera and takes pictures of Hollywood stars in house ambience. She even wants to have an exhibition in Moscow.

"And how is your hero Schwarz doing?", I ask Sasha in the end.

"Can't say we're friends. We see each other time after time. He is still an example for me"

So this is the fairy christmas tale about an ordinary Moscow school boy Sasha Kuritsyn. Yet he turned this tale into true story of his life.

Eugene Chernyh

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Author`s name Andrey Mikhailov