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Alexander Godunov

Alexander Godunov

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Also Known As: Died:
Born: November 28, 1949 Cause of Death: acute alcoholism (body was discovered on May 18; but Godunov was presumed to have died days earlier)
Birth Place: Russia Profession: dancer, actor, ballet teacher

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Described as "a Pre-Raphaelite angel posing as a punk-rock idol", this tall (6'3"), blond star of the Bolshoi Ballet staged a dramatic, front-page defection from the Soviet Union in 1979. A Russian dance star since 1971, Godunov, a colleague of Mikhail Baryshnikov, became a principal with the American Ballet Theatre and in 1982, after he left under a cloud of bad feelings, danced as guest artist with various troupes. Spotted by director Peter Weir on a 1983 PBS special, "Godunov: The World to Dance In", he made his US acting debut as a somber Amish farmer in the thriller, "Witness" (1985). Unlike Baryshnikov, Godunov chose not to appear in dance films. Perhaps due to this--or to the alcoholism which eventually killed him--Godunov's film career fizzled. His lion's mane of long blond hair and his intimidating presence did help him get roles as an arrogant symphony conductor in "The Money Pit" (1986), a villain in "Die Hard" (1988) and an incestous madman in "Waxwork II" (1991). Godunov's final role was in the comedy "North" (1994). As an in-joke, he portrayed an Amish father, married to "Witness" co-star Kelly McGillis.

Described as "a Pre-Raphaelite angel posing as a punk-rock idol", this tall (6'3"), blond star of the Bolshoi Ballet staged a dramatic, front-page defection from the Soviet Union in 1979. A Russian dance star since 1971, Godunov, a colleague of Mikhail Baryshnikov, became a principal with the American Ballet Theatre and in 1982, after he left under a cloud of bad feelings, danced as guest artist with various troupes. Spotted by director Peter Weir on a 1983 PBS special, "Godunov: The World to Dance In", he made his US acting debut as a somber Amish farmer in the thriller, "Witness" (1985).

Unlike Baryshnikov, Godunov chose not to appear in dance films. Perhaps due to this--or to the alcoholism which eventually killed him--Godunov's film career fizzled. His lion's mane of long blond hair and his intimidating presence did help him get roles as an arrogant symphony conductor in "The Money Pit" (1986), a villain in "Die Hard" (1988) and an incestous madman in "Waxwork II" (1991). Godunov's final role was in the comedy "North" (1994). As an in-joke, he portrayed an Amish father, married to "Witness" co-star Kelly McGillis.

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Dogfighters, The (1996)
2.
 North (1994) Amish Dad
3.
 Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992) The Master
4.
 Runestone, The (1991) The Clockmaker
5.
 Die Hard (1988) Karl--Terrorist
6.
 Money Pit, The (1986) Max Beissart
7.
 Witness (1985) Daniel Hochleitner
8.
 Anna Karenina (1975) Vronski
9.
 Movie Awards, The (1991) Presenter
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Latvia
:
Mother took him to Bolshoi School at age nine; was selected with 12 others out of 250 applicants
1958:
Danced with the Moiseyev Ballet Company
:
Moved to Moscow and became principal dancer with the Bolshoi Dance Company
1971:
Made debut at Bolshoi Ballet, Moscow, in "Swan Lake"
1975:
Made film debut, played Vronski in the ballet version of "Anna Karenina"
1979:
Defected while the Bolshoi was on tour in New York
:
Joined the American Ballet Theatre, New York; three year contract was not renewed by ABT artistic director Mikhail Baryshnikov (official company statement said his repertory was too limited and the company could not afford his $5,500 per week salary)
:
Performed as guest artist with several dance companies; formed his own temporary dance troupes for tours including "Godunov and Stars"
1983:
US TV debut on PBS special, "Godunov: The World to Dance In"
1984:
Gave final dance performance
1985:
US feature debut, played an Amish farmer in "Witness"
1987:
Became a US citizen
1991:
Attended and taught at Lichine Ballet Academy in Beverly Hills
1994:
Final feature, cast as an Amish dad in Rob Reiner's "North"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Riga Choreography School: -
Stella Adler Conservatory: New York , New York -
Riga Music School: - 1958 - 1967

Notes

"I had offers to play dancers, defectors, whatever -- my own story. It was actually before 'Witness'. But ...I didn't want to do it. I'm not saying the ballet movies are bad and shouldn't be done. But my personal feeling about me is that I don't want to mix this up. And I thought I would probably dominate stories about ballet with my ability in ballet. So I stayed away. And now, it's too late for me! But I wouldn't do it anyway." --Alexander Godunov discussing his decision not to appear in dance films as Baryshnikov did at the beginning of his film career from LOS ANGELES TIMES CALENDAR, September 8, 1991

"It's a stange thing to say about dancers who come from a country that is completely consumed by communism, but they have a very imperial air. I think they've dance one too many princes." --Evelyn Shriver, Godunov's publicist since 1981 to LOS ANGELES TIMES CALENDAR, September 8, 1991

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Ludmilla Vlasova. Ballet dancer. Bolshoi ballet dancer who returned to Russia without Godunov when he defected in 1979; divorced in 1982.
companion:
Jacqueline Bisset. Actor. Together 1981-88.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Boris Ilaryon Godunov. Army officer.
mother:
Lydia Nicolaivna Godunov. Railroad engineer. Lives in Riga, Latvia.
brother:
Oleg Godunov. Lives in Riga, Latvia.

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