Sergei Fedorovich Bondarchuk (Russian: Серге́й Фё́дорович Бондарчу́к; Ukrainian: Сергі́й Фе́дорович Бондарчу́к September 25, 1920 – October 20, 1994) was a Soviet film director, screenwriter, and actor.
Born in Bilozerka, in the Kherson oblast, Sergei Bondarchuk spent his childhood in the cities of Yeisk and Taganrog, graduated from the Taganrog School Num.4 in 1938. His first performance as an actor was onstage of the Taganrog Theatre in 1937. He continued studies in the Rostov on Don theater school (1938-1942). After his studies, he was conscripted into the Red Army against Nazi Germany, and was discharged in 1946.
At the age of 32, he became the youngest Soviet actor ever to receive the top dignity of the People's Artist of the USSR. In 1955, he starred with future wife Irina Skobtseva in Othello and after four years, they married. He was previously married to Inna Makarova, mother to his elder daughter.
Bondarchuk's western fame lies with his epic production of Tolstoy's War and Peace, which on original release totaled more than ten hours of cinema, took seven years to complete, and won Bondarchuk, who both directed and acted the role of Pierre Bezukhov, the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1968. 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, directed by Veljko Bulajic.
His first English language film was 1970's Waterloo, produced by Dino De Laurentiis. This was remarked for the epic battle scenes. However, it failed at the box office. To prevent running into hurdles with the Soviet government, he joined the Communist Party in 1970. A year later, he was appointed President of the Union of Cinematographers, while he continued his directing career, steering toward political films, directing Boris Godunov before being dismissed from the semi-government post in 1986.
Bondarchuk's last feature film, and his second in English was an epic TV version of Mikhail Sholokhov's And Quiet Flows the Don, starring Rupert Everett. It was filmed in 1992-1993 but premiered on Channel One only in November 2006 , as there were disputes concerning the Italian studio who was co-producing over unfavourable clauses in his contract, which left the tapes locked in a bank vault, even after his death aged 74 of a heart attack.
Sergei Bondarchuk is buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow. His daughter Natalya Bondarchuk is remembered as a star of Andrei 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). In June, 2007, his ex-wife Inna Makarova unveiled a bronze statue of Sergei Bondarchuk in his native Yeisk.