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Oleg Vidov--coming To The Mountain At Last

September 02, 1985|DEBORAH CAULFIELD | Times Staff Writer

Shortly after he had completed the role, Vidov was given 72 hours to return to Moscow. Rather than comply, he said he decided to defect. An Austrian actor brought Vidov an Austrian visa, the two flew to the Yugoslavian-Austrian border and prepared to drive across. Ironically, he never had to use the visa. The border guards were so engrossed in a televised soccer match that--recognizing the Austrian--they simply waved the car through.

Even before his defection, Vidov had fallen out of favor with Soviet authorities, the actor-director said.

The Soviet system of film making, he explained, rewards actors who perform in politically themed films--often paying them three times as much money as those who act in fantasies (or "fairy tales," as he described them). Vidov said that for most of the 37 films he made in the last two decades, he consistently opted for "fairy tales." While that decision didn't endear him to the authorities, he said, "my public recognized and appreciated my stance."

However, even creating Russian fables and other escapist fantasies "took a special kind of talent to maintain a film's vision," he said, "because the committee members had to edit a film; otherwise, why were they getting paid?"

One director, he recalled, inserted numerous shots of a white dog running about in a film. "When the committee asked about the dog, he told them it represented the freedom of the soul. They said, 'That's dangerous, there will be no white dog in this film.' "

So the director removed all of the offending scenes, ending up with the original version of the film he intended to make.

After his defection, Frederick arranged for Vidov to fly to Rome, where he stayed with actor Richard Harrison and his wife. He also met with director Franco Zeffirelli, who promised him a role in his next film--the story of the friendship between Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

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