2 september, 1926
Evegeni Leonov was a Russian actor best known for leading roles in comedies, such as Kin-dza-dza! (1986) and Dzhentlmeny udachi (1971).
He was born Evgeni Pavlovich Leonov on September 2, 1926, in Moscow, Russia, USSR (now Moscow, Russia). He was the second son in the family. His father, Pavel Vasilevich Leonov, was an aviation engineer, his mother, Anna Il'inichna was a homemaker. Young Evgeni Leonov had a dream of becoming a pilot like the famous aviator Valeri Chkalov. During the Second World War his school studies were interrupted by invasion of the Nazi Armies. Leonov became a metal-worker after he completed only seven years of secondary school. Leonov worked in the aviation industry and studied at Moscow Aviation Technical School, named after S. Ordzhonikidze. There he started amateur acting at students club.
One day in 1943, Leonov decided to become a professional actor. He borrowed a coat from his brother and went to the Moscow State Theatre Studio. There he took an entrance exam: he presented monologues from Anton Chekhov and Mikhail Zoschenko to the State Commission of 25 professionals, including Andrei Goncharov and Rostislav Zakharov, the renown director from the Bolshoi Theater. After finishing the prepared monologues Leonov was asked to perform something else. "Something else is even worse", he replied. His words caused an explosion of laughter. The State Commission saw his great potential, and Leonov became a student at the drama class of the Moscow State Theatre Studio. There his teachers were Rostislav Zakharov and Andrei Goncharov. He continued his day job as an industrial worker, and studied acting at nights, graduating in 1947, as actor.
Leonov became a member of the Moscow Dzerzhinsky Borough Theatre, which was renamed the Stanislavsky Theatre in 1948. He had no serious roles for two years and struggled through working extras at the Mosfilm. In 1949 Leonov played his first cameo roles in 'Karandash na ldu' and 'Schastlivy reis'. His first big work in movies was the supporting role in 'Delo Rumyantseva' (1955). In the course of his film career Leonov played a dazzling variety of leading and supporting roles in more than 60 films. Leonov is best remembered for his roles in popular films from directors Vladimir Fetin, Leonid Gayday, Mark Zakharov, and Georgiy Daneliya. He was twice awarded the State Prize of the USSR, was designated People's Actor of USSR (1978) and received numerous decorations for his film roles and for his stage works.
Evgeni Leonov was among the leading comedians in Russian cinema of the Soviet era. He was best known for his roles in such films as Polosatyy reys (1961), Dzhentlmeny udachi (1971), Kin-dza-dza! (1986), Mimino (1977), and _Osenniy marafon (1979). Leonov also demonstrated remarkable range in dramas and period films, such as Belorusskiy vokzal (1971) and Chaykovskiy (1969). He was the voice of Vinnie the Pooh in the eponymous Russian cartoon. His happy face and a sincere smile was a guarantee for success of a film or a stage play. Leonov's stage career, spanning more than 50 years, really took off in 1954, with the role of Lariosik in 'Dni Turbinykh', a play by Mikhail A. Bulgakov. From 1974 - 1994 Leonov was a permanent member of the troupe at Moscow Lenkom Theatre under the directorship of Mark Zakharov. There his stage partners were such actors as Inna Churikova, Leonid Bronevoy, Oleg Yankovskiy, Aleksandr Abdulov, Nikolai Karachentsov, Aleksandr Zbruev, Aleksandra Zakharova, Tatyana Kravchenko, Aleksandr Lazarev, Dmitriy Pevtsov, and other notable Russian actors. Leonov gave a remarkable performance in the leading role as Tevye in 'Pominalnaya Molitva', an adaptation of Tevye the Milkman story by Sholom Aleichem, which was the last role of this great Russian actor.
Outside of his entertainment career, Evgeni Leonov was fond of fine art; he developed a passion for collecting Russian landscape paintings and graphics, as well as Russian period furniture and antiques. His home in Moscow looked like a museum of Russian art. He enjoyed treating his friends and guests to the highlights of his private collection. Leonov, a gourmet connoisseur, was famous for his remarkable hospitality and shared his passion with many friends and guests. He was married to Vanda Vladimirovna Stoilova, and the couple's son, Andrei Leonov, also became an actor. Evgeni Leonov died of a heart attack on January 29, 1994, in Moscow, and was laid to rest in the Novodevichy Convent Cemetery in Moscow, Russia.