"White Nights" is the story of a ballet star, Kolya Rodchenko (Baryshnikov), who has defected to the West and finds himself unexpectedly dropped back into his Russian world after his plane crash-lands in Siberia. He is pressured by the KGB and their Col. Chaiko (Skolimowski) in an attempt to use him as a symbol of the repentant, returning defector. In his effort to regain his freedom, Kolya becomes involved with an American expatriate, Raymond Greenwood (Hines), Greenwood's Russian translator wife, Darya (Rossellini), and his former lover and ballet partner (Mirren).
The title "White Nights" is drawn from the film's opening moments of eerie, prolonged Siberian twilight known as the Midnight Sun. Filmed on location on the remote Finnish island of Reposaari, where the same unique quality of light could be captured, the other far-flung locations for this panoramic inter¬national drama included England, Scotland and Portugal.
Music has always been an important element in Hackford’s films, and superstars Lionel Richie and Phil Collins each contributed their talents to the film. "Say You Say Me" is written, co-produced and sung by Lionel Richie. Phil Collins duets with Marilyn Martin on "Separate Lives," the love theme from "White Nights," written by Stephen Bishop.
A flight from London to Tokyo has turned into a nightmare for a Russian who defected from the Soviet Union some 10 years earlier. One of the world's great ballet dancers, he is on a passenger plane that is forced into an emergency landing at a Soviet military air base in Siberia. In the Soviet Union this defector is still considered a criminal because of his illegal departure.
So starts "White Nights," with dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov in a dramatic role that is occasionally reminiscent of his own emigration to the West some 11 years ago.
Baryshnikov stars with Gregory Hines in this film from Columbia Pictures, produced and directed by Taylor Hackford and co-produced by William S. Gilmore. Co-starring are Isabella Rossellini, Helen Mirren, Jerry Skolimowski and Geraldine Page. The screenplay is by James Goldman and Eric Hughes, based on a story by Goldman.
Hines portrays an American dancer who several years earlier fled to Russia in a moral protest against America's involvement in Vietnam. Having fallen out of favor with the Soviet authorities and relegated to performing in the provinces, Hines is given a chance for redemption when he and his wife, played by Rossellini, are assigned to convince Kolya, played by Baryshnikov, to remain in Russia.
Pulling the strings on the operation is a KGB officer, played by the Polish director-turned-actor Jerzy Skolimowski, who has convinced American authorities through a switch in X-rays that Kolya is suffering massive head injuries and can't be moved from the hospital at the high-security military base. Needless to say, the Siberian base is off-limits to American visitors.
The pressure from the Soviet authorities ignites a conflict at first between the two dancers, from their two different worlds, but eventually, as the men begin to know and understand each other, the tensions dissolve into forging a strong friendship.
Kolya, recovering from his minor injuries, is moved to his former apartment in Leningrad, restored to its earlier comfortable ambience. Hines, as Raymond Greenwood, and Rossellini, as his wife Darya, are ordered to share the apartment, serving as companions and watchdogs. And close-by at all times is the KGB ensuring that Kolya cannot bolt and contact the American Embassy.
Attempting to use him as a symbol of the repentant, returning defector, the Russians are pressuring Kolya to rejoin the Kirov for a special opening-night performance. The pressure from the KGB mounts in the form of the boot and the carrot, bribes and threats. As they work on him, allowing him to resume his daily dance workouts, he is joined at the studio by Raymond, both intrigued with each other's dance styles.In the passage from antagonists to friends, Kolya and Raymond conceive the daring plan of action that will enable them, along with Darya, to obtain their freedom.
The break for freedom entails the resources of the CIA, the threat to the Russians of international reaction, the aid of a former lover and the bold athletics of Baryshnikov as he dangles high out of an apartment-house window.
The British actress Helen Mirren plays the former lover of Kolya who was penalized by the regime following his defection, but who has since returned to favor. Kolya has to gamble that she will put her career and safety in jeopardy a second time to assist in his second attempt to flee the country. Geraldine Page plays Kolya's agent, never believing the Russian story, demanding the American Embassy take steps to rescue him.
The title "White Nights" is drawn from the film's opening moments, set in Siberia, which are played against the phenomenon more popularly known as the Midnight Sun. In the Arctic Circle, day and night, of course, are theoretically six months long, producing one 24-hour period of daylight and one of night in each year. In reality, the actual periods of light and dark during the year are modified by a prolonged twilight.
"White Nights" is the first major feature whose concept Hackford has originated, a direct result of the major success of his "An Officer and a Gentleman" and his subsequent "Against All Odds."
When he began considering this project, Hackford reached back to his interest in music and dancers, searching for a story that would link them in a dramatic manner. His work has always focused on music, frequently making use of innovative contemporary vocal and instrumental music to underline action. His early rock featurettes led to his first feature, "The Idolmaker," which was set in the pop music world, using dance as a narrative element.
He and writer James Goldman came up with the premise that was to become the concept of "White Nights": What would happen if a celebrated Russian, a ballet star who adopted the West after a much-publicized defection 10 years previously, inadvertently were to be returned to Soviet soil when the airliner in which he is traveling crash-lands in Siberia? Would the Soviet authorities seize the opportunity to gain propaganda advantage by persuading him to perform again in Russia? What pressures would they employ? And what if a black American, who had expatriated to Russia in protest against Vietnam, were to be drawn by the KGB into a plot to coerce the Russian to dance again?
The two dancers he hoped to attract worked within very different traditions and styles: Mikhail Baryshnikov, considered the greatest ballet dancer today, and Gregory Hines, a tap dancer of genius. Two dancers entirely different in personality and background-- the classically trained Russian, the American schooled on the streets of New York.
"Each knew and admired the work of the other," says Hackford, "but I knew that it would require a story of substance to attract them to a project. Baryshnikov had turned down films time and again, and he had declined to film the story of his defection. As for Hines it called for him to play an American deserter. I was concerned that each might feel the story was too touchy, too close to sensitive areas; too near the edge for a black American to play, too close to reality for a Russian who has defected to the West to play."
To his delight, both men liked the idea, and work on the project began. Screenwriters Goldman and Hughes went on to flesh out the screenplay of what was to become "White Nights."
There was a great emphasis to root the film in reality, in dealing with the characters, locations and motivations.
The fictional Kolya and the real-life Baryshnikov have much in common--they both attained greatness as premier dancers at the world-famous Kirov Theater in Leningrad.
Despite its deservedly high reputation, the Kirov company, for all its technical magnificence, is limited by the rulings of the Ministry of Culture as to what it may perform, and this rigidly excludes the work of composers and choreographers in the West regarded as anti- social or decadent.
Baryshnikov, for example, as leading dancer with the company, wanted to dance Schoenberg and Webern, but the authorities regarded them as being ideologically unsuitable for ballet. Following his 1974 move to the West, he let it be known that it was this cultural conservatism of the Soviet system that drove him to leave Russia behind. "It had nothing to do with politics ... if only the Kirov had permitted me to dance with other companies in the West so that I could have absorbed new styles. If only they had asked foreign choreographers to compose works for us in which the contemporary approach to ballet is explored," stated Baryshnikov. Like his fictional character, Kolya, Baryshnikov fled his native land in search of artistic freedom.
Having signed for the role, Baryshnikov underwent two months of dramatic training with Sandra Seacat, a member of the Actors Studio. It is a training approach that has had its share of success in bridging the gap that sometimes exists between a natural talent and its orientation before the cameras.
Baryshnikov was not the lone major performer in the film to have departed from Soviet rule, with Polish film director Jerzy Skolimowski also knowing well of the cultural oppression behind the Iron Curtain, having fled to the West 20 years ago. Like Baryshnikov turning actor, Skolimowski is also breaking character, switching from director to portray the film's primary villain, the KGB's Colonel Chaiko: clean-cut, sophisticated, world-aware, slickly tailored and smoking American cigarettes. A major departure from the usual KGB cliche of the boorish, ill-clad provincial.
Do men like Chaiko exist? "Of course they do," says Skolimowski. "How otherwise would the whole system function? Chaiko is a very ,sinister character; he can be charming but he is cold inside. Such men are the polite faces of a repressive authority." It is 20 years since Skolimowski worked in the Eastern bloc. He studied at the Lodz Film School in Poland, contemporary with Roman Polanski, and made his first films under its socialist regime.
Since basing in London, some of his movies, like "Moonlighting" and "Success Is the Best Revenge," have expressed the alienation of the refugee, the problems arising from having to adapt to an English-speaking democracy after leaving a homeland whose values he couldn't accept.
While Gregory Hines had little historical relationship with Russia, he did study his character and made a trip to Russia shortly before filming started. But could Hines really get a feel for the lack of freedom in Russia on the strength of having briefly visited Leningrad as a tourist?
"You know, I did a lot of research before going," says Hines. "Russia is a society with varying degrees of privilege. To get into really good restaurants, you have to have money and a privileged job. There are stores some people can't shop in because they are only for the privileged."
Hines, however, could draw upon parallels of his own experience. "Sure, I was not really able to experience what it is like to live in Russia," he says. "But if you have known suffering and unhappiness yourself, you can read it in others. I have experienced what it is like to live in America as an unsuccessful black. It is only in the as four years that I have had some degree of success.
"I know what it is like not to have work, not to be able to go wherever you want, not to be able to buy things. I have felt very underprivileged in America. But being among the Russians, I knew for certain that it is better to be that way in America than in Russia. In America there are more opportunities to make things happen for you. You can get some luck. You can get some help, some guidance, some support from other people. Could that happen in Russia for a black dancer like me? I don't think so."
Helen Mirren, who played Kolya's former lover, had her own way of relating to the Russian role: Mirren is part Russian, the daughter of an emigrant to England, and has performed in Russia with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She understands why her character, Galina, chooses not to defect.
"It is hard to leave one's own culture," she says. "It is a hard choice to make. I have just spent five months in America and I am thinking of living there. But I would be leaving behind a country I understand and going into one I don't fully understand. You can tear yourself in half that way. As for Russians who have opted for the West, I can fully understand their reasons because censorship is still very strong in Russia."
Born in Rome, childhood summers spent in Sweden, a New Yorker by adoption, Isabella Rossellini has a vaguely Scandinavian-American accent.
It is an accent of great charm, but one that created a special challenge for Rossellini, who had to speak some of her lines in Russian, and was determined to have them sound authentic.
"It was really difficult to put a credible Russian accent on a voice that already has an accent," she says.
In "White Nights," her character, Darya, is a cultivated woman who was working in Moscow as an English-Russian translator when she met Raymond.
Wherever she went on location, the public gathered. They sought autographs, snapped her with cameras, while the professionals traveled from all over to interview her.
Even though "White Nights" is her first major film break, Rossellini is one of the most photographed women in the world, the face in the Lancome advertisements, a form of celebrity enhanced by the strong affection in which she is held as Ingrid Bergman's daughter, while being a remarkable lookalike of her late mother.
A director's responsibility on a film of this scale, involving varied skills and temperaments, approaches that of a general preparing for battle. While the scope is operatic, there is no pretension about Hackford. At 39 he has proven he can make commercially successful Hollywood films. He says he has no taste for fantasy; he is not absorbed by special effects. He sees his job as that of a story-teller.
"I think my films have been about people who work for a living," Hackford says. "I hope they have been about individual freedom too, about the need for people to free themselves from convention and betheir own persons. They are not consciously political. However, since I was a documentary filmmaker, my background is in reality. I made films that were politically and socially investigative, but my longer pieces were more humanistic, designed to get under the skin of a subject. I tried to get people to reveal themselves on camera as opposed to being just informational.
"I am interested in digging deep. I want to make films about real people, working people. I want audiences to get excited about seeing characters representative of themselves. I hope I am a story-teller."
In setting up the physical end of the production, Hackford tapped William S. Gilmore to repeat as co-producer, an assignment he'd had on Hackford's "Against All Odds." The team began to take shape with Hackford also lining up David Watkin as director of photography, Phi Harrison as production designer, Michel Colombier as composer and choreographer Twyla Tharp.
Watkin, who like Hackford, began his career in documentaries, has recently photographed "Yentl," "The Hotel New Hampshire" and "Chariots of Fire." Harrison designed "The Razor's Edge," "Never Say Never Again" and "Blue Thunder."
Colombier, who composed the music for "Against All Odds, " also has a role in the film as conductor of the small combo backing the Siberian production of "Porgy and Bess" which Hines is seen performing in that remote outpost.
Tharp, who has choreographed dances for director Milos Forman in "Hair" and "Amadeus," has worked with Baryshnikov in his concert appearances, creating highly stylized contemporary pieces for him including his "Sinatra Suite."
The far-flung locations include Finland, the Hippodrome Theater in Bristol, England, the Royal Air Force base in Scotland that doubled for the Siberian base, and the San Carlos Opera House in Lisbon that doubled for the Kirov in Leningrad. Other filming was done on sound stages at the Thorn-EMI Elstree Studios near London.
In selecting his locations, Hackford had an obvious problem: Most of the action of "White Nights" is set in the U.S.S.R.--in Siberia and Leningrad--where permission would not be given to film the subject and where Baryshnikov could not safely go. Nor could Siberian exteriors be built on sound stages because the quality of light of an Arctic summer night would be impossible to reproduce accurately in a studio situation.
In an Arctic summer there is virtually no night, only a lingering twilight. Faced with this challenge, the filmmakers made several reconnaissances in countries close to the Arctic Circle and eventually decided to shoot on the island of Reposaari, off the northwest coast of Finland, where in late summer they would experience the same unique quality of light required for the scenes set in Siberia.
It required great diplomacy on the part of co-producer Gilmore before this was allowed to happen, since most people in Reposaari (population 1,017) are Communists. They had to be satisfied that "White Nights" was not a run-of-the-mill anti-Soviet movie offensive to their enigmatic neighbor.
Finnish Communists, however, are pragmatists: The movie would bring in a considerable investment of money and some temporary jobs. The mayor canvassed his people, many of whom were unemployed. The island's once-thriving port was in decline, as were a mutually destructive chemical plant and a fish processing factory. Only three residents objected to the village becoming for two weeks a make-believe Siberian town.
Gilmore also discovered that in Helsinki, Finland's capital, there were sections that could double for Leningrad, backstreets and buildings that owed their "Russianesque" character to the fact that they were in a part of the city designed by 19th-century architects from St. Petersburg.
An important Russian interior remained to be found--the auditorium to double for Lengingrad's Kirov Theater.
Eventually, it was decided that the San Carlos Theater in Lisbon was the closest match in western Europe to the Kirov in terms of ambience and baroque elegance, a decision with which Baryshnikov agreed. The theater has been in continuous use for almost 200 years, a cherished symbol of Lisbon's rebirth after the catastrophic earthquake and tidal wave that destroyed the city in 1793. Over the years it has been host to dance companies, but is primarily an opera house, where Callas, Gobbi, Scotti, Gigli, Scippa, Sutherland and other greats have sung.
ABOUT THE CAST
MIKHAIL BARYSHNIKOV (Nikolai "Kolya" Rodchenko), considered by many to be the greatest dancer today, is appearing in his first dramatic film role in "White Nights," following two previous screen appearances, a cameo role in the recent "That's Dancing!" and a primarily dancing role in "The Turning Point."
In preparing for "White Nights," Baryshnikov studied two months with drama coach Sandra Seacat, an exponent of the naturalistic style of the Actors Studio.
Born in Riga, Latvia, he entered Leningrad's Kirov ballet school as a teenager and in 1962 he made his debut as a soloist with instantaneous impact.
In 1970, at the age of 22, he danced with the Kirov in London, his first appearance in the West. Four years later, while on tour in Canada with a company from Moscow's Bolshoi, he defected after the troupe's final performance in Toronto, giving as his reasons: "It had nothing to do with politics. What happened was that I found myself at an artistic crossroads. If I didn't take advantage of all the opportunities, I would remain unsatisfied for the rest of my life."
What he had done, Baryshnikov said, was called a crime in Russia; it was also the burden of never seeing friends again, his theatre or his public. Yet home would always be Russia and his soul would always be a Russian one. "I wish I could have spent the rest of my life in Russia because I love this country with all my heart, and I love the Russian people." But he explained, "My life is my art and I realized it would be a greater crime to destroy that."
Since leaving the Kirov, he has appeared as a principal dancer with both the American Ballet Theatre (1974-78) and the New York City Ballet (1978-79) and has made guest appearances with companies throughout the world, including Britain's Royal Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet and Roland Petit's Marseilles Ballet. For three years now, he has been artistic director of the American Ballet Theatre, creating new, contemporary work, restaging ballets from the classical repertoire, as well as dancing. He has also appeared in several TV ballet spectaculars in America.
GREGORY HINES (Raymond Greenwood), expanding on his dance background, is rapidly making a name for himself as a movie actor, coming to his starring role in "White Nights" following such previous films as "Wolfen," in which he made his screen debut in a dramatic role; Mel Brooks' "History of the World--Part I"; "Deal of the Century," in which he co-starred with Chevy Chase; a cameo role in "The Muppets Take Manhattan"; and the recent "Cotton Club," taking on a dancing-acting role.
Gregory Hines was born in New York on February 14, 1946, second son of Alma and Maurice Hines. From a very early age, he was teamed with his brother Maurice in an act called The Hines Kids. Later, joined by their father, they toured as Hines, Hines and 0 and worked with great success in cabarets and on television. When the act split up, Gregory formed a jazz-rock ensemble in California called Severance. He made his Broadway debut in the musical "Eubie," for which he was nominated for a Tony Award. He was nominated again for Tonys for his subsequent work in "Comin' Uptown" and "Sophisticated Ladies."
As a dancer, Hines' critics have compared his art favorably with that of a young Astaire, and he has undoubtedly contributed to the new awakening among the young to the appeal of tap.
HELEN MIRREN (Galina), outspoken, individualistic and intelligent has become one of England's most respected actresses, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1970s to play many of Shakespeare's leading women--Cressida in "Troilus and Cressida," Julia in "Two Gentlemen of Verona," Ophelia in "Hamlet," Margaret in "Henry VI," Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth.
Her recent film career was capped at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival, where she won a best actress award for her role in David Puttman's production, "Cal." She was seen on American screens recently in "2010" as the Russian scientist. Her other film roles include Michael Powell's "Age of Consent," Ken Russell's "Savage Messiah," Lindsay Anderson's "0 Lucky Man!," Tinto Brass' "Caligula," John Mackenzie's "The Long Good Friday" and John Boorman's "Excalibur."
She has appeared with Peter Brook at the International Center for Theatre Research in Paris, starred in contemporary plays at London's Royal Court, Lyric and Roundhouse theaters and has been seen on many PBS Masterpiece Theatre Shakespeare productions, most notably as Titania in their highly acclaimed "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
JERZY SKOLIMOWSKI (Colonel Chaiko), in portraying a Russian KGB agent in "White Nights," is taking a break from his own distinguished directing career that has stretched over 20 years, starting in Poland and continuing through Belgium and more recently in England.
Skolimowski's role of Colonel Chaiko is not his first stint in front of the camera, having appeared in his own early films and in Volker Schlondorff's "Circle of Deceit" in 1982.
His recent films as a director include "Moonlighting," which was shot in England, starring Jeremy Irons in a story of the alienation felt by Poles abroad. His other films in England include "Success Is the Best Revenge," the story of an expatriated Polish theater director establishing himself in a new country.
Born in Warsaw on May 5, 1938, Skolimowski had shown prowess as a boxer in college, and he used his knowledge of it in his first film, a boxing documentary which won the Grand Prix at Budapest in 1962.
His first feature was "Ryopsis" (1964), which he wrote, designed, directed, edited and played the leading role in. He also played the lead in its sequel, "Walkover" (1965). Then he made "Barrier" (1966). In Belgium, he made "Le Depart" (1967), which won the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Festival. In 1967 he completed the trilogy started with 'Ryopsis" and "Walkover" with a film called "Hands Up."
In its early stages, Skolimowski's career intertwined with that of Roman Polanski. They co-wrote "Knife in the Water," the film which triggered Polanski's international recognition. Years later, it would be said that both directors express in their films a common sense of anxiety and a profound feeling for human fate in an alienated society.
Although Skolimowski has not worked in Poland for 20 years, he did not finally give up those roots until martial law was declared there in 1981. By that time, his reputation had been further established with films like "The Adventures of Gerard," "Deep End," "King Queen Knave" and the Cannes Festival award-winning "The Shout." His current production is "The Lightship," starring Robert Duvall.
The unique acting skills of GERALDINE PAGE (Anne Wyatt) have won her a stream of awards over the years, including seven Academy Award nominations, three in the Best Actress category and four as Best Supporting Actress.
The former group includes "Summer and Smoke," "Sweet Bird of Youth" and "Interiors"; the latter category, "Hondo," "You're a Big Boy Now," "Pete Tillie" and "The Pope of Greenwich Village."
Her other film appearances include "Nasty Habits," "Toys in the Attic," "Honky Tonk Freeway," "The Day of the Locust," "Trilogy," "The Beguiled," "Dear Heart," "The Happiest Millionaire," "J.W. Coop," "Harry's War," "I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can" and "Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice?"
Her versatility was illustrated during the filming of "White Nights" when she was concurrently acting as Frankenstein's housekeeper in Franc Roddam's "The Bride," which was shooting at another British Studio.
Born in Missouri, she studied drama at the Goodman School in Chicago and made her New York debut Off-Broadway in "Summer and Smoke" in 1952. On Broadway, she has starred in "The Immoralist," "The Rainmaker," "Separate Tables," "Sweet Bird of Youth," "Strange Interlude," "Three Sisters," "Black Comedy," "Absurd Person Singular," "Clothes for a Summer Hotel" and "Mixed Couples."
She is married to Rip Torn and has appeared with him in his productions of "Richard III," "Macbeth" and "Hamlet." In 1982 she starred in "Agnes of God," for which she was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Actress.
ISABELLA ROSSELLINI (Darya) bears some very special bloodlines; born in Rome in 1952, one of twin daughters of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini. And the promise of those genes may be realized with her first major screen role in "White Nights."
She has appeared in the Italian films "The Meadow" and "Pap'occhio" and had a brief part in Vincente Minnelli's "A Matter of Time" in 1975, a film which starred her mother and Liza Minnelli.
Although she has become a familiar face on Italian television on the show, "The Other Sunday," she has become an internationally recognized face through her modeling career photographed by such camera trend-setters as Richard Avedon, Bruce Weber and Bill King, emerging as one of the world's leading models.
Rossellini's career began with summer jobs in the costume department of her father's movies--in Europe and Africa--in between stints of teaching Italian in New York. While working at New York's New School for Social Research, she also began working for RAI (Italian Television) in its New York bureau.
She married film director Martin Scorsese in 1979; they divorced in 1982. She has since married Jonathan Wiedemann, a Harvard graduate who went on to study for a master's degree in filmmaking at New York University. They have a daughter, 1-year-old Elettra-Ingrid.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
"White Nights" is director TAYLOR HACKFORD's fourth feature film. His highly regarded directorial debut was "The Idolmaker," about the making and managing of two early '60s rock 'n' roll stars. His second film was the hugely successful "An Officer and a Gentleman," which .received four Academy Award nominations and has earned over $100 million at the box office.
He followed this with "Against All Odds," which has also had international success. Hackford graduated from USC with a major in international relations and afterward served two years in the Peace Corps in Bolivia, during which time his goals changed from law and politics to communications and film.
The director spent most of the '70s at Los Angeles public television station KCET, a place that became a kind of self-made film school for him and where he created several full-length documentaries. His first dramatic effort, the short film "Teenage Father," which he wrote, produced and directed, earned him the 1979 Academy Award for Best Dramatic Short Film.
Co-producer WILLIAM S. GILMORE is reteaming with Hackford, repeating his same co-producer role from "Against All Odds." He has served as producer of "The Last Remake of Beau Geste," and executive in charge of production for the Zanuck/Brown Company, devoting two years to supervising the production of "Jaws."
Following his "Jaws" assignment, he became associate producer of "Swashbuckler" and went on to produce several television movies for EMI Television, "Just You and Me," "One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story," "The Legend of Walks Far Woman," and executive producer on "S.O.S. Titanic."
Gilmore was senior vice-president/production of Filmways Pictures, supervising literary development, production and post-production of Filmways projects worldwide. Other credits as a producer or executive producer include "Rock 'n' Roll Hotel" "Another Woman's Child," "Tough Enough," "Deadly Blessing" and "Defiance." He is currently in London, producing "Little Shop of Horrors" for David Geffen.
He started his career as a film cutter before becoming an assistant director and production manager at Universal Studios, where he worked on some 20 feature films. He became head of production for the Mirisch Company in Europe and supervised six pictures on the continent before moving over to th Zanuck/Brown Company as executive in charge of production.
Cinematographer DAVID WATKIN, whose recent films include "Return to Oz," "Yentl" and "Chariots of Fire," began his career filming documentaries from 1949-60 with the British Transport Film Unit, teaming with director Richard Lester on the 1965 Beatles film "Help!"
He has worked with some of the premier directors, including Lester on "The Three Musketeers" and "The Four Musketeers," Franco Zeffirelli on "Endless Love" and "Jesus of Nazareth," Mike Nichols on "Catch 22," Ken Russell on "The Devils" and "The Boy Friend," Peter Brook on "Marat/Sade," and Tony Richardson on "The Charge of the Light Brigade" and "The Hotel New Hampshire."
It was through her innovative dance company that choreographer TWYLA THARP first reached celebrity status, but in recent years she has expanded her interests to include choreography onscreen, on Broadway and for other dance ensembles.
Onscreen, she did the contemporary choreography for "Hair," the re-creation of period dances for "Ragtime" and directed the opera sequences for "Amadeus."
She has been a trailblazer in adapting popular music for the dance stage, creating, among others, "Deuce Coupe" for the Joffrey Ballet, based on Beach Boys music, and choreographing "Sinatra Suite," which Mikhail Baryshnikov included as part of his recent tour.
She has worked with Baryshnikov previously, including co-directing a PBS ballet special featuring him in three of her ballets.
She has created dances for the New York City Ballet, has won an Emmy nomination for her choreography of "The Catherine Wheel" and has received five honorary doctorate degrees in the performing arts. She recently directed and choreographed the Broadway adaption of "Singin' in the Rain."
Production designer PHILIP HARRISON has a list of films contrasting in style, ranging from the romantic period look of "The Razor's Edge" to the hard edge of "Never Say Never Again" and "Blue Thunder."
Born in London, Harrison studied at art school there and began designing for television. Several of the ABC-TV (UK) "Armchair Theatre" plays were designed by him. His first motion picture assignment was Karel Reisz's "Morgan," which he followed with Richard Lester's "How I Won the War." Other credits include "Work is a 4-Letter Word," "Duffy," the AIP remake of "Wuthering Heights," "The Final Programme, Lester's "The Ritz" and Ken Russell's Valentino" with Rudolf Nureyev.
Composer, arranger and pianist MICHEL COLOMBIER, who worked Hackford on "Against All Odds," has scored over 100 films (most of them produced in his native France) in addition to "White Nights" and has worked with such international talents as the Beach Boys, Herb Alpert, Supertramp and Paul Anka. His 1972 "Wings album earned three Grammy nominations and went on to win the Grand Prix Disque Francais Award. Colombier has recently recorded his debut album for Columbia Records entitled "Old Fool Back on Earth."
He composed the music for the much-heralded "Purple Rain," arranged a Gershwin album for flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal and is writing part of a solo album for Mau White of Earth, Wind and Fire.
Film editor and co-editor are the father and son team of FREDRIC STEINKAMP and WILLIAM STEINKAMP, who received an Academy Award nomination for their editing on Columbia's "Tootsie " In addition, Frederic Steinkamp received an Academy Award for film editing on "Grand Prix" and additional Academy nominations for "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" and "Three Days of the Condor." They recently completed work on Sydney Pollack's "Out Of Africa," starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.
MIKHAIL BARYSHNIKOV - Biography
Mikhail Baryshnikov, considered by many to be the greatest classical dancer in the world today, is easily one of the most adventurous. Not only has he enlarged his dance repertoire to include George Balanchine's neo-classicism, the sharply focused style of tap and jazz and the intricacies of modern dance, but he has also expanded his artistic ambitions to embrace acting.
He stars in Columbia Pictures' "White Nights" as Kolya Rodchenko, a Russian ballet star who has defected to the U.S. and finds himself unexpectedly dropped back into his Russian world after his plane crash-lands in Siberia. He is pressured by the KGB in their attempt to use him as a symbol of the repentant, returning defector. In his effort to regain his freedom, he becomes involved with an American expatriate, Raymond Greenwood (Gregory Hines), Greenwood's Russian translator wife, Darya (Isabella Rossellini), as well as his former lover and ballet partner, Galina (Helen Mirren).
Born in Riga, Latvia, in 1948, Baryshnikov began his study of ballet at age 12. At age 19, as protege of the great ballet teacher Alexander Pushkin, he entered Leningrad's famous Kirov Ballet School. In 1969 he made his debut as a soloist with instantaneous impact. In 1970, on tour with the Kirov in London, he savored his first triumphs in the'West, and caught a glimpse of the new choreographic approaches being developed outside the Soviet Union. He toured Japan, Australia, Spain, England and Holland and saw ballet reaching a wider public with new innovations and styles expressive of the contemporary scene, whereas in Russia, it seemed to Baryshnikov there was "a stifling lack of enthusiasm and a rigid conforming to political lines. In Russia, politics and art are indivisible, like Siamese twins."
In 1974, while on tour in Canada as a guest-artist with the Bolshoi Ballet, he decided to seek broader artistic horizons and defected to the West. He gave his reasons at the time: "It had nothing to do with politics. What happened was that I found myself at an artistic crossroads. I realized finally that if I didn't take. advantage of all the opportunities that came my way, I would remain unsatisfied for the rest of my life. If only the Kirov had permitted me to dance with other companies in the West, so that I could have absorbed new styles. If only they had asked foreign choreographers to compose work for us in which contemporary approaches to ballet were being explored."
Since leaving the Kirov, he has appeared as a principal dancer with both the American Ballet Theatre (1974-78) and the New York City Ballet (1978-79) and has made guest appearances with companies throughout the world, including Britain's Royal Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet and Roland Petit's Marseilles Ballet.
He has astonished audiences with his soaring technique,the depth of his dramatic interpretation, his humor and his versatility. Among the choreographers who have created works for him are Jerome Robbins, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Sir Frederick Ashton, Alvin Ailey and Twyla Tharp. The artistic collaboration of Tharp, who served as choreographer for "White Nights," and Baryshnikov has brought three exceptional ballets to the stage, "Push Comes to Shove" (1976), "The Little Ballet" (1983) and "Sinatra Suite" (1983). Baryshnikov has created ballets of his own: "The Nutcracker," "Don Quixote" and "Cinderella," all for the American Ballet Theatre, and in the fall of 1980 he was named artistic director of the company.
On television, Baryshnikov has received high praise for his specials: "Baryshnikov on Broadway" (1980), which was the first prime-time TV special for a classical dancer and which astounded the commercial television world with its unexpectedly high ratings, and "Baryshnikov in Hollywood" (1982). He also starred in the television versions of his "Nutcracker" and "Don Quixote" ballets.
He won an Academy Award nomination for his motion picture acting debut in "The Turning Point." In Baryshnikov's latest film, "White Nights," he stars with Gregory Hines. Director Taylor Hackford designed the film specifically for these two great talents, challenging them with equal parts of narrative.
Baryshnikov does perform ballet sequences from "Le Jeune Homme et la Mort." ""He is really a very great dancer," says Roland Petit, the veteran ballet presenter who came to England from Marseilles to advise during the filming of the sequences. "He has a body that was made to dance.
After the filming of "White Nights," Baryshnikov looked back 10 years to the moment of his decision to defect from the U.S.S.R. "It was a split-second decision," he says. "I realized I could not bear it anymore. In time, I knew Russian ballet would change, would experiment, but I couldn't wait. I just knew I didn't have the time. In every art, in every country, standards go up and down. Sometimes you wait for a new generation to see things and do things differently, per¬form with a fresh eye. Yet I would like to see Russia again, the true Russia, a different country. I hope I will one day go home, but I would not be able to live there. What I did, I did for myself."
For Baryshnikov, the greatest burden of his defection was never seeing friends again, his beloved Kirov Theatre and his Russian public. Yet his home would always be Russia in spirit. He could A a citizen anywhere, bit his soul would always be Russian. "My life is my art," he says, "and I realized it would be a greater crime to destroy that. I can only hope people in Russia have come to understand."
This was confirmed by writer Colin Thubron in his sensi¬tive book "Among the Russians" (1983). When Thubron was in Leningrad visiting the Kirov with a friend, he jokingly remarked that as half the Kirov stars--Nureyev, Marakova, Baryshnikov--had defected to the West, he would be interested in seeing the other half. "It is better that we lose those stars," his host replied, "and that the world gains them." Thubron comments: "It was an extraordinary remark for a. Russian to whom the outer world is so shadowy and their own so passionately loved."
GREGORY HINES - Biography
Gregory Hines, the tap dancer of genius who has been compared to a young Astaire, has an opportunity to display both his dancing and acting talents in Columbia Pictures' "White Nights." The tale of international intrigue and adven¬ture pairs Hin , portraying an American soldier who fled to Russia in protest against his country's Vietnam involvement, with world-renowned ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov as a Russian defector who crash-lands in his mother country, where the KGB pressures the criminal to repent.
When director-producer Taylor Hackford conceived of this that would link music and dance for the two talents he had in mind: Baryshnikov and Hines.
Remembers Hines, "When I was in Los Angeles doing 'Sophisticated Ladies,' I met Taylor Hackford, who was a hot director on the move, with one movie out--'The Idolmaker'--and 'An Officer and a Gentleman' ready to be released. He wanted to know if I would be interested in doing a film with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Of course I said yes."
As Hines' part eventually evolved, he was to play Raymond Greenwood, an American who defects to Russia after deserting during the Vietnam War. "Playing a deserter was different from my other roles because the other characters in 'Wolfen,' 'History of the World--Part I,' 'The Muppets Take Manhattan,' 'Deal of the Century' and 'Cotton Club' were all likeable guys. This guy is made mistakes and he knows it. He's reached a crisis point I've had crisis periods before, when I had no money, and a lot of responsibilities. All of us have," explains Hines.
In addition to his own experiences that he could draw on for his role in "White Nights," Hines also took Russian lessons. Describes Hines, "I have a really good ear, so I was able to get proficient enough to handle my lines in about three months. Mike (Hines' name for Baryshnikov) helped me a lot. My character was a dancer and I had that going for me."
In the film, Hines' character is married to his Russian translator, Darya, played by Isabella Rossellini. In prepara¬tion for filming, Hines and Rossellini visited Russia for a week. There was also a week of rehearsal in London for the "White Nights" principals, including not only Hines, Baryshnikov and Rossellini, but also Polish director-turned-actor Jerzy Skolimowski as the KGB officer, Colonel Chaiko, and British actress Helen Mirren, playing ballet star and former lover of the Russian defector Kolya (Baryshnikov).
Gregory Hines has been involved in the world of show business since he was 3 years old. "I started dancing when I was 2, studying with Henry Latang. Somebody came around offering free dancing lessons," says the native New Yorker. "My mother took advantage of it, enrolling my brother. He would show me the steps, so they let me come too. I really don't remember, but that's what they tell me."
The second son of Alma and Maurice Hines teamed with brother Maurice in a tap act called The Hines Kids from age3 to 11 years, changing their name to The Hines Brothers until they were 18. Following that, father Hines joined the act, which became Hines, Hines & Dad.
He made his Broadway debut in the musical "Eubie," for which he was nominated for a Tony Award. He was nominated again for Tonys for his subsequent work in "Comin' Uptown" and "Sophisticated Ladies."
"I attended Mace School for Young Professionals, which meant that I lived in the ghettos of Harlem and Brooklyn and went to school on Central Park West. It was two different worlds.
"Growing up in the ghetto was good--trying to make a living, trying to play ball, trying to make love. Brooklyn was nice, but as tough. There were gangs, but I wasn't thing were to happen to me or if I got in trouble, my mother a part of that.
"We worked mostly during the summer and weekends. My mother would pick us up after school on Friday. She'd have my drums in the car, and we'd drive to the Catskill Mountains and do our act."
Hines had an opportunity to meet many of the greats in show business on the Borscht Belt cabaret circuit--Diahann Carroll, Alan King, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Myron Cohen and Billy Eckstine.
"The first time I met Sammy Davis, Jr. was when we were both working in Vegas, when I was 16. He was very warm and generous and gave me a lot," Hines says of the black artist who had the most influence on him.
"I think that black people have a harder time getting an opportunity for artistic expression. Film has not been a big medium for blacks because the films haven't been commercial and therefore there haven't been too many of them, but I feel encouraged about opportunities for blacks in films," says Hines. "I feel there are blacks, who are starting to make things happen and people in power positions in the entertainment industry who see the viability of employing talented blacks and are increasingly providing opportunities and roles. I think there's a new awareness which might even result in a black woman director getting an oppor¬tunity to make a movie.
Last year's 'A Soldier's Story' was the only film mainly cast with black actors, but it wasn't really a 'black' movie. It showed blacks as positive role models in the military, including a black attorney, and I'm encouraged by what I feel is the positive energy of the black audience to the film, to more interesting films and more interesting casting of blacks. 'Cotton Club' was also exciting because instead of the more stereotyped black roles of maids, butlers and chauffeurs, the black entertainers at the club looked really terrific and were successful.
"When I think of black people, I think of survivors-¬ they pull together and take care of their families. My mother could survive through anything. If she had been put in the wilderness, she could have figured out a way to make it. Black men for a long time carried a heavy burden of the image of a father who didn't make a living and ran off. I don't think that is necessarily true. My father was a musician, a salesman and a semi-pro baseball player. He did what he had to and we flanker in a sandlot league. Since I went to a professional school, I had to get involved with team sports. I expected that since he and my brother are both big guys, I would grow, but his words of wisdom were to stick with dance. When I was 27, I did stop dancing for about a year. I came to California, played the guitar, lived on the ocean front. I formed a jazz-rock ensemble called Severance."
Despite these efforts in other directions, Hines' enormous talent as a tap dancer has contributed to the new awakening among the young to the appeal of tap. "Kids write me and stop me on the street to tell me they've seen my work and like it. They tell me to keep on doing it--they're happy for my success. But the renewed interest in tap is a group effort. There are some really talented tappers out there, including my brother, the Honeycombs, Tommy Tune, Don Corea, Jane Goldberg, Brenda Buckeveno, Honi Coles, Sam Simms, Buddy Buzzs, Cookie Cook, Robert Gaines, Stace Robbins, Charlie Atkins.''
Hines' aspirations include not only acting and dancing, but also singing and recording and possibly even directing. Since filming "White Nights," he's been doing club work as well as an episode for Steven Spielberg's TV series, "Amazing Stories." He is currently working on "Running Scared," a feature film he stars in. with Billy Crystal in which he plays an undercover cop.
Hines lives in New York City with his wife, Pamela, their 3-year-old son, Zachary, Gregory's daughter, Daria, age 15, and Pamela's daughter, Jessica, age 13.
ISABELLA ROSSELLINI - Biography
Isabella Rossellini, whose internationally recognized face has been photographed by the likes of Richard Avedon, Bruce Weber and Bill King, now graces the screen with her first starring role in Columbia Pictures' "White Nights." Directed and co-produced by Taylor Hackford, "White Nights" is a tale of international intrigue, adventure and romance.
Rossellini portrays Darya, the Russian translator wife of an American expatriate, played by tap dancer genius Gregory Hines. Starring with Rossellini and Hines is terpsichorean superstar Mikhail Baryshnikov in the role of Kolya, a ballet star who has defected to the West and unexpectedly finds himself dropped back into his Russian world after his plane crash-lands in Siberia.
Born in Rome in 1952, Isabella and her twin sister Ingrid are the daughters of celebrated actress Ingrid Bergman and Ita n director Roberto Rossellini.
Despite her parents' divorce when she was 5, she grew up in a tight-knit family. For many years in Rome, Roberto Rossellini lived across the street from his daughters and spent much time with them. Isabella and Ingrid also enjoyed the friendship of their half¬sister Pia and Roberto Rossellini's three other children.
Rossellini recalls, "Like all Italian children, we were integrated into adult life, taken to restaurants, to the theater, doing whatever they did." When Rossellini was 13, she was struck down with scoliosis. Often during her two-year fight against this painful illness, which can damage the spine, she was in a head-to-toe cast. But under the devoted care of her mother and sister, she recovered and went on to become "a disaster at school" in Paris and Rome in contrast to her scholarly twin.
Rossellini began her career with summer jobs in Europe and Africa on location in the costume department of her father's movies. In between films, she taught Italian in New York. She also worked for RAI (Italian Television) in its New York bureau.
Next, she began appearing on Italian was followed by appearances on "The Other show that brought her celebrity status in film debut was the Taviani brothers' "The "Pap'occhio," based on her comedy shows in a cameo role in Vincente Minnelli's "A starred her mother and Liza Minnelli.
In addition to her accomplishments as an actress, Rosselli enjoys a fabulously successful career as a model. Hers face in the Lancome advertisements and she is one of the most sought-after international covergirls.
Wherever she went on location during the filming of "White Nights," the public gathered, seeking autographs and taking her picture. The media traveled from all over to interview her.
Rossellini resides in New York City with her husband, Jonathan Wiedemann, and her 1-year-old daughter, Elettra-Ingrid.
RALDINE PAGE - Biography
Renowned character actress Geraldine Page has been per¬forming in movies, television and on the stage for more than 30 years. Page first came to prominence in 1952 in the off ¬Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams' "Summer and Smoke." Now, in Columbia Pictures' "White Nights," she portrays talent agent Anne Wyatt, representing ballet superstar Kolya Rodchen (Mikhail Baryshnikov), who, after defecting to the West and living in the U.S. for 10 years, unexpectedly finds himself dropped back into his Russian world after their plane crash-lands.
Born in Missouri, Page studied drama at the Goodman Scho in Chicago. She then worked in several summer stock companies in Wisconsin and Illinois. Following her "Summer and Smoke" triumph, her Broadway performances included starring roles in "Midsummer," "The Immoralist," "The Rainmaker," "Separate Tables," "Sweet Bird of Youth," "Strange Interlude," "Three Sisters," "Black Comedy," and "Absurd Person Singular.”
GERALDINE PAGE - Biography
Renowned character actress Geraldine Page has been per¬forming in movies, television and on the stage for more than 30 years. Page first came to prominence in 1952 in the off¬Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams' "Summer and Smoke." Now, in Columbia Pictures' "White Nights," she portrays talent agent Anne Wyatt, representing ballet superstar Kolya Rodchenko (Mikhail Baryshnikov), who, after defecting to the West and living in the U.S. for 10 years, unexpectedly finds himself dropped back into his Russian world after their plane crash¬lands. The film, directed and co-produced by Taylor Hackford, also stars Gregory Hines as Raymond Greenwood, an American expatriate, and Isabella Rossellini as his Russian translator wife.
Born in Missouri, Page studied drama at the Goodman School in Chicago. She then worked in several summer stock companies in Wisconsin and Illinois. Following her "Summer and Smoke" triumph, her Broadway performances included starring roles in "Midsummer," "The Immoralist," "The Rainmaker," "Separate Tables," "Sweet Bird of Youth," "Strange Interlude," "Three Sisters," "Black Comedy," "Absurd Person Singular," "Clothes for a Summer Hotel" and "Mixed Couples." She and her husband, actor Rip Torn, have collaborated on productions of "Richard III," "Macbeth," "Hamlet," "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "The Little Foxes." In 1982 she starred in "Agnes of God," for which she was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Actress.
Page's successful film career has included seven Academy Award nominations. Her bids for Best Actress honors were her portrayals in "Summer and Smoke," "Sweet Bird of Youth" and "Interiors.”
Her other film appearances include "Nasty Habits," "Toys in the Attic," "Honky Tonk Freeway," "The Day of the Locust," "Trilogy," "The Beguiled," "Dear Heart," "The Happiest Millionaire, "J.W. Coop," "Harry's War," "I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can" and "Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice?"
Her versatility was illustrated during the simultaneous production of her two latest films, in which she played two diverse roles: talent agent Anne Wyatt in "White Nights" and Frankenstein's housekepper in Franc Roddam's "The Bride."
In addition to her Motion Picture Academy and Tony Award nominations, Page holds two Golden Globes and a British Academy Award, two Drama Critics Circle citations, a Donaldson Award and two Emmys for television appearances in plays by Truman Capote: "A Christmas Memory" and "The Thanksgiving Visitor." Among her many other television appearances were roles in Faulkner's "The Old Man" for Playhouse 90, "Look Homeward Angel," "Barefoot in Athens," "The Name of the Game," "Night Gallery"
and "Monsarrat" by Lillian Hellman. She appeared in the TV film "The Dollmaker" with Jane Fonda and the mini-series "The Blue and the Gray."
"My only requirement is that roles be good and varied,"' says Page. "I don't care about the kind or size of the role. For example, the role in 'The Pope of Greenwich Village' was in films that have been very successful because I did not like the part offered to me. Playing good character roles in movies is something I.have exploited. It has dovetailed well with my work in the theater. Early on in drama school, the higher up I got in the artistic ranks, the better I'd be commercially."
It is a philosophy that has paid off: Geraldine Page is continually busy and her position in. the artistic ranks was notably affirmed recently when she was elected to the Theater Hall of Fame.
When Page's acting chores on "White Nights" were completed, she returned to her home in New York for a second season as "artist in residence" at the Mirror Repertory Company.
HELEN MIRREN – Biography
London-born actress Helen Mirren is part Russian. The daughter of an emigre fr m the Russian Revolution whose parents had brought him to England at the age of 5, Mirren has traveled to Russia with a theatrical company and recently played the Soviet captain of a spacecraft in "2010," her first American film. In Columbia Pictures' "White Nights," she plays Galina, a prima ballerina who continues as a respected figure in the ballet world in Russia even though her dancing years are over.
In preparation for her role, she visited Leningrad andthe city's world-famous Kirov Theater. Her visit to the U.S.S.R. was not that of the average tourist. "I was very happy there, says Mirren. "I loved it the first time I was there on tour; I loved it the second time around. In any country you arrive in as a tourist, it can be difficult to find people other than waiters to talk to, but if you make the effort, it is possible to break through the veneer and make contact with the people. I walked about, sat in bars and cafes and stayed as open as I could. The Russian people want to be friendly. The city of Leningrad has a population of over 10 million--a wealth of humanity facing the same basic problems, nurturing the same basic hopes as any great mass of humanity anywhere in the world.
Mirren understands why Aalina has no wish to leave her own country for what is claimed to be the greater artistic freedom the West offers its actors, dancers, writers, producers and directors. "There are millions of Russians who have no desire to leave. None whatsoever. They are caught up in their own world, like all of us. It is hard to leave one's own culture.
a hard choice to make. I have just spent five months in America and I am thinking of living there. But I would be leaving behind a country I understand and going into one I don't fully understand. You can tear yourself in half that way. As for Russians who have opted for the West, I can fully understand their reasons, because censorship is still very strong in Russia, but it is much harder for an actor than for a dancer to reestablish in America or England. An actor is dependent on language, on speech. In America, I have met actors who emigrated from Russia seven years ago when there was a wave of emigration, and although they seemed happy and, were enjoying the luxuries of the West, they couldn't fully function; they were playing small parts as Russians in American movies. Obvi¬ously, that was not remotely satisfying artistically."
Intelligent, outspoken, individualistic, Helen Mirren has become one of the most respected actresses of her generation. She discovered Shakespeare when still at school, making her debut in a school production as Caliban in "The Tempest."
She auditioned for the National-Youth Theatre, was accepted and appeared in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Helena) and "Antony and Cleopatra” (Cleopatra). This led eventually to her joining the Royal Shakespeare Company to play many of Shakespeare's Wading women--Cressida in "Troilus and Cressida," Julia in "Two Gentlemen-of Verona," Ophelia in "Hamlet," Margaret in "Henry VI," Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth.
During the '70s, she joined Peter Brook at the International Centre for Theatre Research in Paris, appearing in experimental plays there and in Africa and America. She also diversified into contemporary drama with performances at London's Royal Court, Lyric and Roundhouse theatres.
Mirren made her film debut opposite James Mason in Michael Powell's "Age of Consent" (1969), which took her to Australia. She has subsequently appeared in Ken Russell's "Savage Messiah," Lindsay Anderson's "0 Lucky Man!," John Mackenzie's "The Long Good Friday" (1979) and John Boorman's "Excalibur" (1981). Her starring role in David Puttnam's production, "Cal," brought her the Best Actress Award at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. She followed with her role in "2010."
JERZY SKOLIMOWSKI - Biography
"It is very seldom that I can agree on an ideological and political level with someone else's work of art, but in the case of 'White Nights,' I have no such reservations," says Jerzy Skolimowski, who plays the role of Colonel Chaiko, a sophisticated, world-aware, Russian secret-police chief who, for all his charm, is the ice-cold villain of the piece. Continues Skolimowski, "Within the context of a really first¬class action picture, the dilemma of the creative artist faced with a restrictive culture is well depicted."
"A most ingenious premise," says Skolimowski, "as plausible as it is sinister, and it sets the movie apart from run-of-the¬mill East-West confrontation movies."
Do men like Chaiko exist? "Of course they do," says Skolimowski, who knows well of the cultural oppression behind the Iron Curtain, having fled to the West 20 years ago. "How otherwise would the whole system function? Chaiko is a very sinister character. He can be charming, but he is cold inside. Such men are the polite faces of a repressive authority," observes Skolimowski, who is taking a break from his own distinguished directing career that has stretched over 20 years, starting in Poland and continuing through Belgium and more recently to Edyland.
Born in Warsaw on May 5, 1938, Skolimowski graduated from the university there, majoring in literature and history. After publishing two volumes of poetry and a collection of short stories, he enrolled at the State Film School in Lodz on the dialogue for "Innocent Sorcerers." At the university, Skolimowski had shown prowess as a boxer and used his knowledge of the sport in his first film, a boxing documentary which won the Grand Prix at Budapest in 1962.
His first feature was "Ryopsis" (1964), which he wrote, designed, directed and edited, and in which he played the leading role. He also played the lead in its sequel, "Walkover" (1965). Then he made "Barrier" (1966). In Belgium he made "Le Depart" (1967), which won the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Festival.
In 1967 he completed the trilogy started with "Ryopsis" and "Walkover" with a film called "Hands UP."
In its early stages, Skolimowski's career intertwined with that of Roman Polanski, with whom he studied at the Lodz Film School. They co-wrote "Knife in the Water," the film which triggered Polanski's international recognition. Years later, it would be said that both directors express in their films a common sense of anxiety and a profound feeling for human fate in an alienated society. That sprang, of course, from their roots in the same beleaguered homeland. But although SkolimowskLhas not worked in Poland for 20 years, he did not finally give up those roots until martial law was declared there in 1981. By that time, his reputation had been further established with films like "The Adventures of Gerard,'' "Deep End," "King Queen Knave" and the Cannes Festival award¬ winning "The Shout."
In 1982 he appeared as an actor in Volker Schlondorff's that, in "Success Is the Best Revenge," he dealt with the situa¬tion of an expatriated Polish theater director establishing him¬self in a new country, and drew substantially from his own experi¬ences. His current production is "The Lightship," starring Robert Duvall.
When he commenced work on "White Nights," Skolimowski told an interviewer that acting was in many respects "a little holiday" from the tensions and responsibilities of being in the directorial hot seat. He revised that view after completing the role. "It proved' to be an exceptionally demanding part," he says. "Taylor (Hackford) and I both began to see additional layers of Chaiko's personality that we could usefully develop. All my early experience was under so-called 'socialist regimes.' I know what they are like from the inside."
TAYLOR HACKFORD - BiographyDirector/co-producer Taylor Hackford's fourth feature film is "White Nights" for Columbia Pictures, an international adventure starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines. "'White Nights' is a dramatic film that incorporates dance; the main characters are dancers, but their dance numbers grow out of the dramatic action and happen naturally outside a per¬formance setting," comments Hackford.
"White Nights" is the story of a ballet star, Kolya Rodchenko (Baryshnikov), who defected to the West 10 years earlier and finds himself unexpectedly dropped back into the Soviet world after his plane crash-lands in Siberia. He is immediately pressured by the KGB in their attempt to use him as a symbol of the repentant, returning defector. In his effort to regain his freedom, Kolya becomes involved with an American expatriate, Raymond Greenwood (Hines), Greenwood's Russian translator wife, Darya (played by Isabella Rossellini), as well as his former lover and ballet partner, Galina (played by Helen Mirren).
"The film is about the universal need for artistic and individual freedom, which can only be achieved through love," comments Hackford.
Hackford’s interest in the international scene goes as far back as his USC days, when he majored in international relations. Following graduation, he served in the Peace Corps in Bolivia, during which time his career goals changed from law and politics to communications and film.
During the '70s, most of Hackford's time was spent at Los Angeles public television station KCET. Beginning in the mail room, he went on to the cultural department, then became one of the pioneers in the presentation of rock 'n' roll per¬formances on television. From rock, he went to hard news, covering hundreds of stories as an investigative reporter, winning several awards in journalism, as well as two Emmys.
Hackford's evolution in television culminated in his crea¬tion of several full-length documentaries. In 1978 he left KCET, taking with him a rich supply of experience to use in the area of dramatic film.
He applied his documentary ability to his first dramatic effort, the short film "Teenage Father," which he wrote, pro¬duced and directed and which gained him the 1979 Academy Award for Best Dramatic Short Film. Says Hackford, "Since I was a documentary filmmaker, my background is in 'reality.' I made films that were politically and socially investigative, but my longer pieces were more humanistic, designed to get under the skin of a subject. I tried to get people to reveal themselves on camera as opposed to being just informational."
It was this realistic quality that attracted the producers of "The Idolmaker," which marked Hackford's highly regarded feature directorial debut. Set in the world of pop music, the film is about the making and managing of two early '60s rock stars and utilizes dance as a narrative element.
Hackford’s second film “Officer and a Gentleman," was both critically and commercially successful, receiving four Academy Award nominations and earning over $100 million at the box office. He followed this with Columbia Pictures' "Against All Odds," which has enjoyed international success. His work has always focused on music, frequently making use of innovative contemporary vocal and instrumental music to underline action. Hackford has the distinction of being the only director to have two films with number-one songs: "Up Where We Belong" from "An Officer and a Gentleman" and the title song from "Against All Odds."
Hackford's latest movie, "White Nights," is the first film that he has been involved with from conception. According to Hackford, "Over almost a three-year period, I came up with the idea of doing a dramatic story, a dance film that included both classical and contemporary music. The main characters are dancers but they are not performing for anyone. The dance numbers grow out of the dramatic action and happen naturally outside a per¬formance setting. The dance form, which is neither ballet (Baryshnikov's form) nor tap (Gregory Hines' form), is a combi¬nation, a fusion of the two, set to popular music. Baryshnikov and Hines were the only two dancers I hoped to attract to the project. They knew and admired one another's work, but I knew that it would require a story of substance to attract them to a project." "White Nights" became that story.
TAYLOR HACKFORD'S PERSPECTIVE ON THE IMPORTANCE OF MUSIC IN FILM
The two main characters in the film "White Nights" are dancers from the idiosyncratic worlds of ballet and tap, but if the music reflects the taste of anyone, it is that of producer-director Taylor Hackford, who has long relied on contemporary music to further his dramatic point of view.
In making this film, starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines, Hackford's musical choices were made in hopes of capturing the romantic and psychological tension of this story of international intrigue.
"True, they are dancers," Hackford says, "but for the most part they are not seen performing for anyone. Their numbers, which grow out of the dramatic action and happen naturally outside of a performance setting, are a fusion of ballet and tap, set to contemporary music."
Hackford's interest in linking his films to contemporary music stretches back to his early documentaries and his first feature film, "The Idolmaker," the story of the making of rock stars. This interest produced two number-one records in his next films, "Up Where We Belong" from "An Officer and a Gentleman" and the Phil Collins title song from "Against All Odds."
With "White Nights, which involved three years of prepara¬tion, he has expanded his scope, with a score that not only has led to a soundtrack album, but was preceded by two singles from the film by Phil Collins and Lionel Richie.
Collins singing his first duet with a female artist, teaming with Marilyn Martin on a Stephen Bishop ballad, "Separate Lives." The song was written over three years ago following a meeting between Hackford and Bishop during the post production of "An Officer and a Gentleman." Both "Up Where We Belong" and Bishop's "It Might Be You," from "Tootsie," were nominated for Academy Awards in 1983.
"I told him about 'White Nights' that evening," says Hackford. "I told him that it was set behind the Iron Curtain, involving two people of different political persuasions, dance styles, ethnicities--two people who, because of a mutual need, resolve their differences and become friends."
Bishop, who had recently broken up with his girlfriend, was moved by both his own personal melancholy and Hackford's story to write "Separate Lives" on faith.
"Even though I didn't have a deal for the movie, he did a demo on spec," says Hackford. "I told him not to give it away. He knew the film was going to be done and it was."
Hackford still needed a title song because Bishop's ballad belongs more to the characters of Hines and Isabella Rossellini, who played his Russian translator wife, than the relationship between Baryshnikov and Hines.
"I wanted a title song that would reflect the me a of this film," says Hackford, "the need to count on your friends and the universal sense of artistic, political and individual freedom which can only be achieved through cooperation and love."
He showed a rough cut of the film to Lionel Richie, who resisted the idea of writing a song with too specific an image, and instead of writing "White Nights," he wrote "Say You Say Me."
"When Lionel played the song for me, I couldn't believe how perfect it was," says Hackford. "It was the kind of universal anthem I'd been hoping for. Although it didn't mention 'White Nights' anywhere in it, it was as much a reflection of what this film is as Vcould possibly dream of."
Phil Collins' "Separate Lives" was released by Atlantic in September and will be included in the soundtrack album. Richie's "gay You Say Me" was a mid-October Motown release, and while it won't be on the film album, it will be on Richie's album. The dual release may be unprecedented in having two record companies producing and promoting songs from one film simultaneously.
There are two music videos, with Collins' song directed by Jim Yukich, with Hackford as executive producer, and the Richie video directed by Hackford.
In addition, there is a ballad, "The Other Side of the World," performed by Chaka Khan, written by B.A. Robertson and Mike Rutherford, produced by Arif Mardin, who produced Collins' "Against All Odds" and "Separate Lives." It's written from Helen Mirren's point of view, the lover left behind when the ballet star defects to the United States.
For the extensive use of music in "White Nights," Hackford brought in record producer Phil Ramone as music coordinator. From Roberta Flack there is "People on a String," by Michel Colombier (composer of the scores for "Against All Odds" and "White Nights") and Kathy Wakefield.
Music coordinator Ramone had Lou Reed record a song called "Chemical," written by Walt Aldridge of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. "When Baryshnikov is trapped inside the Soviet Union, he plays and dances to a tape to taunt Hines," says Hackford. "It's a low-down blues. in this instance, I used the music to reflect the character--I wanted the audience to realize that Baryshnikov was not just a classical artist who always listens to Beethoven or Bach, but someone who, like most of us, listens to rock 'n' roll. It adds to the character."
Songwriters David Pack and James Newton Howard wrote "Prove Me Wrong," which was delivered during rehearsals in London, and choreographer Twyla Tharp designed a dance around it.
Hackford has long been a fan of singer-composer John Hiatt, who, he feels, never really received the commercial success he merits. "I saw him perform at the Palace in Los Angeles," says Hackford. "I went backstage and told him I'd love for him to write a song for the film, and he wrote 'Snake Charmer,' a full¬out, bluesy, rock 'n' roll number, and recorded it with Ramone as producer." Record producer Nile Rodgers, who worked with Madonna, Mick Jagger and Duran Duran, also committed to two cuts for the film: a duet with Sandy Stewart and also producing for Jenny Burton.
Finally, Grammy Award-winning producer/composer David Foster has done "tapDANCE," a dynamic instrumental for Hines' tour-de-force tap solo. Hackford also used one previously recorded song by Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. "It had never been released in this country, and I convinced him to let me use it in the movie," says Hackford.
While the 10 original soundtrack songs are contemporary, pop culture music, Michel Colombier's musical score of "White Nights" plays against it. "I wanted a score and opening music that are classically based to fit the Russian and European locations," says Hackford. "I thought it very important to je in direct contrast to the contemporary music.
"When we find ourselves inside Russia, almost peeking through a keyhole to a culture alien to us, one feels the score as a reflection of the characters' emotions. When Baryshnikov plays American music, it's literally a shock to Hines. I'm using music to evoke and contrast the differences in cultures."
PHIL COLLINS- Biography For Columbia Pictures' tale of international intrigue, adventure and romance, "White Nights," co-producer/director Taylor Hackford continues his successful association with musical artist Phil Collins. Collins provided the number-one smash-hit title track for Hackford's internationally successful film, "Against All Odds." The song received several Grammy nominations and an Academy Award nomination for Best Song.
Says Hackford, "Phil is an amazing professional. He has the capacity to do many things at once and do them all brilliantly. When Phil was on tour with Genesis in Chicago, I flew there with a rough cut of 'Against All Odds' on videocassette. We met in his hotel room and after he saw the film, he hummed a melody that he had in mind. Artists like Phil have melodies in search of the right lyrics to put together for just the right song. It was an exhausting tour, but Phil still had the ability and concentration to sit down, look at that monitor, see what the film was and know that he could write the song.”
Says Hackford about "White Nights," "Leading the soundtrack album again is Phil Collins, but this time he's singing his first duet with a female artist. Marilyn Martin is a fabulous backup singer who is going out on a solo career.
Collins quickly discovered what has become a characteristic trait: He was unable to stay locked into a single role. So, parallel to his work with Genesis, he began doing session work with many well-known artists and bands (John Martyn, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Robert Fripp, Rod Argent, Thin Lizzy, Elliott Murphy, John Cale, Greenslade, etc.). In 1975 he also joined a jazz fusion ensemble known as Brand X. His association with that group lasted until 1982, yielding seven albums.
As if the constant activity level, including major albums and world tours by Genesis, were not enough, Collins also began devoting more time to finishing songs outside of Genesis, With enough songs to make an album of his own, he recorded "Face Value," a solo debut which was released in 1981 and had two worldwide top-of-the-chart hits, "In the Air Tonight" and "I Missed Again." The following year he released his second solo effort, "Hello, I Must Be Going!," which contained the international top-10 single "You Can't Hurry Love," leading to a sold-out solo tour.
Since 1981, Collins has also produced albums for many top talents, including John Martyn, Adam Ant, Frida of ABBA, Earth, Wind and Fire's Philip Bailey and Eric Clapton. He also played drums on Robert Plant's first two solo albums and toured the U.S. with him. Additionally, he appeared on "The Secret Policeman's Other Ball" charity concert LP and film and in the 1984 Band Aid recording of the charity single for Ethiopian famine relief, "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
Despite all of these varying involvements, it is as a solo artist that Collins finds the most fulfillment because, as he puts it, "I'm basically able to control the whole thing, and it's nice every now and then to be the dictator." His solo effort, "No Jacket Required," which he produced with Hugh Padgham, features guest vocalists Helen Terry, Peter Gabriel and Sting.
Collins maintains that he is first and foremost a drummer. "I sing with Genesis because we don't have another singer," he contends. "And I sing my own things because I write them.
LIONEL RICHIE - Biography
Taylor Hackford, co-producer/director of Columbia ictures' "White Nights," wanted a title song that would reflect its spirit: the universal sense of artistic, political and individual freedom that can only be achieved through cooperation and love. Says Hackford, "I showed a rough cut f the film to Ken Kragen and Lionel Richie, because I've always loved Lionel Richie's work. He writes a very simple, universal melody and lyrics that have power, strength and appeal that I thought would be right for the end of the film."
The result was Richie's "Say You Say Me." As Hackford remembers, "I went to the studio, he played me the song and I was amazed because it was the kind of universal anthem that I'd been hoping for. Although it didn't mention 'White Nights' anywhere in it, it was as much a reflection of what this film is as I could possibly dream of." Hackford also directed the music video of the song, which was released with the song's launching in mid-October.
Richie's ability to write universal anthems is nothing new. Richie wrote "We Are the World" with Michael Jackson, the monumental benefit single recorded by an unprecedented gathering of 45 musical stars calling themselves USA for Africa. When the record reached number-one early in April of 1985, this. became the eighth year in a row that a song he wrote or co-wrote reached the top of the charts.
Richie got his start in Tuskegee, Alabama, in a housebuilt on land once own d by Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee Institute. "My grandma was a piano instructorwho played Bach and Beethoven," he remembers. "Later in college, all you heard at campus parties were the Supremes and the Temptations, and because it was the South it was hard not to hear country music. It all just melted together for me."
While a student at Tuskegee Institute, Lionel became a part of the Commodores. After touring with the Jackson 5, the Commodores signed with Motown and subsequently became one of the most successful bands in the label's history. The Commodores benefited greatly from the professional grooming for which the label is justly famous. Lionel, especially, learned important lessons from songwriters Norman Whitfield and the team of Holland, Dozier and Holland, which taught him the craft of song structure and of composing lyrics that grabbed and held a listener's interest. Richie also credits Motown founder Berry Gordy with teaching. him the business side of the music industry.
Beginning with their first hit, "Machine Gun," in 1974, the Commodores' career grew steadily through the mid-'70s. But the group achieved its greatest success when the songs Richie wrote penetrated the pop charts. The country-tinged "Easy" broke down all the barriers in 1977 and helped give the group its first platinum album. Richie followed it with "Three Times a Lady," a timeless ballad that sold two million singles in the midst of the disco craze.
Richie's reputation was beginning to blossom when Kenny Rogers asked him for a song. It was Richie's first work out¬side the band he'd been with for a decade. He wrote and pro¬duced "Lady," giving the country crossover king six weeks at number-one and the biggest single of his career. A year later, Richie wrote, produced and sang (with Diana Ross) "Endless Love." This title song to Franco Zeffirelli's motion picture held down the number-one spot for nine weeks and was nominated for an Academy Award.
Unstoppable momentum propelled Richie into a solo career in 1982. After releasing his first solo album, Lionel Richie, he watched its first single, "Truly," head straight to the top of the charts. The song won him his first Grammy (after 18 nominations), for Best Pop Male Vocalist. Two more top-five singles were released from Lionel Richie--"You Are," co-written by Brenda Richie, and "My Love." All told, the album has sold well over four million copies to date.
Can't Slow Down, his second album has become the biggest-selling album in the history of Motown Records. The LP yielded five hit singles, beginning with the brilliant burst of calypso energy that is "All Night Long" and following with "Running With the Night," "Hello," "Stuck on You" and "Penny Lover."
In the fall of 1983, when Can't Slow Down was released, Richie embarked on hLs first national concert tour as a solo artist, selling out arenas in city after city and collecting a ream of critical raves. A high point for Richie was per¬forming a 20-minute version of "All Night Long" at the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Richie has hosted the American Music Awards telecast forthe past two years. This year he won two Grammy Awards, including Producer of the Year and Album of the Year for Can't Slow Down.
He is completing work on his third solo album, which will contain the "White Nights" title song, "Say You Say Me," which is written, co-produced and sung by Richie.