Timur Bekmambetov

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Timur Bekmambetov
Тимур Бекмамбетов
Timur Bekmambetov by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Bekmambetov in 2012
Timur Nuruakhitovich Bekmambetov

(1961-06-25) June 25, 1961 (age 62)

Timur Nuruakhitovich Bekmambetov (Russian : Тимур Нуруахитович Бекмамбетов, pronounced [tʲɪˈmurnʊrʊɐˈxʲitəvʲɪt͡ɕbʲɪkmɐmˈbʲetəf] ; Kazakh : Темір Нұрбақытұлы Бекмамбетoв, romanized: Temır Nūrbaqytūly Bekmambetov; born June 25, 1961) is a Russian-Kazakh film director, producer, screenwriter, and tech entrepreneur. [1] He is best known for the fantasy epic Night Watch (2004) and the action thriller Wanted (2008), as well as for the pioneering screenlife films Unfriended (2015), Searching (2018) and Profile (2018). He founded Baselevs, a production company that earned a spot among the 2021 World's 10 Most Innovative Companies in Video, according to Fast Company .


Early life

Bekmambetov was born on 25 June 1961, in the city of Atyrau, formerly known as Guriev. [2] His father, Nuruakhit Bekmambetov, worked in management positions with the energy supplier GuryevEnergo. He was chief power engineer of Western Kazakhstan. His mother, Mira Bogoslovskaya, was deputy editor leading the party issues department at the regional newspaper Prikaspiyskaya Kommuna. [3] He has Kazakh ancestry on his father's side, and Jewish ancestry on his mother's side.

After graduation from school, Bekmambetov entered the Moscow Power Engineering Institute in 1979 and left it in 1980, on the eve of the 1980 Summer Olympics. He was deported from Moscow on the grounds of being "unreliable" and moved to Tashkent, Uzbek SSR, to study at the Alexander Ostrovsky Theatrical and Artistic Institute, from which he graduated in 1987 with a degree in theater and cinema set design.


Film and television career

Bekmambetov started his career in the late 1980s as a production designer at the Ilkhom Theatre in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and at Uzbek national film studio Uzbekfilm. [4]

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Bekmambetov moved from Uzbekistan to Moscow, where he started making commercials for the Russian market. His commercial series World History, retelling life episodes of the world's prominent rulers (from Nero and Tamerlan to Napoleon and the last Russian emperor Nicholas), is still considered the best video advertising in Russia. [5] In 1994, he founded Bazelevs, an advertising and film production company, in Russia. Its advertising division continues making commercials for major Russian and international brands; in 2021, its commercial featuring Apple's new iPhone in the Hermitage Museum interiors was nominated for the Cannes Lions festival.

Bekmambetov's directorial debut was Peshavar Waltz (1994) [6] depicting the war fought by the USSR in Afghanistan. The film was dubbed in English as Escape from Afghanistan and released direct-to-video by Roger Corman in 2002. In 1998, Corman invited Bekmambetov to direct his production of The Arena (2001) starring Karen McDougal and Lisa Dergan. The film was a remake of the 1974 gladiator exploitation film The Arena.

In 2004, Bekmambetov wrote and directed Night Watch (2004), a Russian fantasy film based on the book by Sergey Lukyanenko. The film was the first Russian production which, after the demise of the Soviet Union, managed to top the domestic box office, making US$16.7 million in Russia alone, thus overtaking The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring . The sequel to Night Watch, Day Watch (2006), was likewise written and directed by Bekmambetov and set a new record for the Russian domestic box office, having grossed more than US$26 million in the first two weeks. [7] The Russian blockbuster epic attracted the attention of Fox Searchlight Pictures, which paid US$4 million to acquire the worldwide distribution rights (excluding Russia and the Baltic states). [8] [9] In 2010, the tape entered the 100 Best Films of World Cinema by Empire Magazine. [10] The film received positive reviews from American directors Quentin Tarantino and James Gunn. [11]

Bekmambetov's Hollywood directorial debut was Universal's action thriller Wanted (2008), an adaptation of the graphic novel series created by Mark Millar and J. G. Jones. [12] Starring Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman, the action film grossed US$341 million worldwide, became Universal's highest grossing R-rated film, and earned two Oscar nominations. [13]

In 2009, alongside Tim Burton and Jim Lemley, Bekmambetov produced an animation film titled 9 (2009), the story of a rag doll in a post-apocalyptic world, directed by Shane Acker.

In 2011, Bekmambetov produced the science fiction thriller Apollo 18, [14] together with The Weinstein Company, and the science fiction film The Darkest Hour [15] set in Moscow and produced by New Regency.

In 2012, Bekmambetov directed and produced the live-action adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's novel – Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, [16] together with Tim Burton and Jim Lemley. He was awarded the 2012 International Filmmaker of the Year award by the National Association of Theatre Owners. [11]

In 2013, Variety (Russian Edition) named Bekmambetov one of the most commercially successful Russian directors of the decade. [17]

In 2016, Bekmambetov directed Ben-Hur, the fifth film adaptation of the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace. [18] At the same time, he produced the action film Hardcore Henry, directed by Ilya Naishuller, using the perspective of a first-person shooter.

In 2017, Bekmambetov produced the historical drama The Current War starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland and Nicholas Hoult. The film was inspired by the 19th-century war of currents between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse.

In 2021, Bekmambetov directed the WW2 action film V2. Escape from Hell, with its aircraft battle scenes using the War Thunder game engine. The film was released in Russia both theatrically as a feature and on a streaming platform as a smartphone-only vertical series.

In 2021, Deadline announced that Bekmambetov would be bringing to the screen a new universe based on the unexploited works in the horror genre by the Marvel Сomics creator Stan Lee.

Bekmambetov in 2009. Bekmambetov 2009.jpg
Bekmambetov in 2009.

In December 2022, Timur Bekmambetov sold the Bazelevs film studio in Russia to its general producer, Lala Rustamova, and commercial director, Timur Asadov. [19] Bekmambetov has completely retired from the Russian business, but the studio will continue to cooperate with him as a filmmaker and screenwriter.

Screenlife filmmaking

Bekmambetov is the pioneer of the Screenlife filmmaking, thus responding to people's life migrating to the digital world of mobile gadgets. In a screenlife film, viewers see the action play out from the POV of the computers, tablets or smartphones used by the characters.

In 2015, Bekmambetov's debut screenlife production, the teen horror Unfriended , was picked up by Universal, grossing $65 million worldwide with a budget of $1 million; three years later, a sequel, Unfriended: Dark Web , appeared. [20]

Bekmambetov followed that up with the 2018 thriller led by John Cho, Searching , grossing more than $75 million worldwide. [21] [22]

In 2019, he produced the ten-episode series Dead of Night for Snapchat, with the story revolving around a viral outbreak that turns people into zombies. It scored over 16 million viewers in the first releasing month, and got extended for the second season. [23]

In 2020, Universal and Bekmambetov inked a deal to partner on five Hollywood features to be made in the screenlife format in various genres.

In 2021, Focus Features released Profile , Bekmambetov's first directorial feature in the screenlife format, where a reporter goes online to catch a Jihadi recruiter to get a story on why and how European women join ISIS. Inspired by the 2015 nonfiction bestseller In the Skin of a Jihadist by a French journalist Anna Erelle, Profile won a 2018 Audience Award by Berlin Film Festival. [24]

Bekmambetov's recent screenlife production, R#J, a Gen Z adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, premiered at Sundance 2021 and won a special prize at SXSW. [25]

The invention of the screenlife filmmaking technique brought Bekmambetov's Bazelevs a spot among Fast Company's 2021 World's Most Innovative Companies.

Personal life

Bekmambetov is the current owner of the former Walt Disney mansion in Los Angeles. [26] [27]

Bekmambetov is married to the Russian urbanist Natalia Fishman-Bekmambetova, who worked on the restoration of Gorky Park in Moscow and the renovation of the city of Kazan. [28]

Political views

In a 2007 editorial about Day Watch in The Guardian , Bekmambetov compared president Vladimir Putin film's "light ones" saying "[Light and dark] doesn't mean good and bad. Dark means freedom and light means responsibility - and, in real life, Putin, for sure, is a light one. He is trying to fix everything, make everything organised somehow. But it's very bad for freedom". [29]

In 2022, Bekmambetov condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and called the boycott of Russian films in the West "emotional, sincere and reasonable". [30]


Press conference of Profile at Berlinale 2018. Shazad Latif, Timur Bekmambetov and Valene Kane. Profile - Press Conference.jpg
Press conference of Profile at Berlinale 2018. Shazad Latif, Timur Bekmambetov and Valene Kane.
YearTitleCredited as
Director Producer Writer
1994 Peshavar Waltz YesNoYes
2001 The Arena YesNoNo
2004 Night Watch YesNoYes
2006 Day Watch YesNoYes
2007 The Irony of Fate 2 YesYesNo
2008 Wanted YesNoNo
2010 Yolki YesYesNo
2011 Yolki 2 NoYesYes
2012 Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter YesYesNo
2014 Yolki 1914 YesYesNo
2016 Yolki 5 YesYesNo
Ben-Hur YesNoNo
2018 Profile YesYesYes
2021 V2. Escape from Hell YesYesNo

Producer only

Music videos

    Related Research Articles

    <i>Night Watch</i> (2004 film) 2004 film

    Night Watch is a 2004 Russian urban fantasy supernatural thriller film directed by Timur Bekmambetov and written by Bekmambetov and Laeta Kalogridis. It is loosely based on the 1998 novel The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko.

    <i>The Arena</i> (2001 film) 2001 film by Timur Bekmambetov

    The Arena is a direct-to-video film from producer Roger Corman on the subject of female gladiators. It is a remake of the 1974 The Arena with Pam Grier. It was shot in Russia by Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov with a Russian crew and it featured Playboy Playmates Karen McDougal and Lisa Dergan, in their feature film debut, playing Amazon slaves forced to be gladiators in a Roman arena.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Cinema of Russia</span> Filmmaking industry in Russia

    The cinema of Russia began in the Russian Empire, widely developed in the Soviet Union and in the years following its dissolution. The Russian film industry would remain internationally recognized. In the 21st century, Russian cinema has become known internationally with films such as Hardcore Henry (2015), Leviathan (2014), Night Watch (2004) and Brother (1997). The Moscow International Film Festival began in Moscow in 1935. The Nika Award is the main annual national film award in Russia.

    <i>Wanted</i> (2008 film) 2008 film by Timur Bekmambetov

    Wanted is a 2008 action thriller film directed by Timur Bekmambetov and written by Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, and Chris Morgan, loosely based on the comic book miniseries by Mark Millar and J. G. Jones. The film stars James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, Angelina Jolie, Terence Stamp, Thomas Kretschmann, Common, and Chris Pratt. Its plot revolves around Wesley Gibson (McAvoy), a frustrated account manager who discovers that he is the son of a professional assassin and decides to join the Fraternity, a secret society of assassins of which his father was a member.

    <i>The Irony of Fate 2</i> 2007 Russian film

    The Irony of Fate 2 or The Irony of Fate: Continuation is a 2007 Russian romantic comedy film directed by Timur Bekmambetov based on a screenplay by Aleksey Slapovsky produced by Channel One and released by Mosfilm. It is a direct sequel of the first The Irony of Fate.

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    <i>The Darkest Hour</i> (film) 2011 science fiction action film by Chris Gorak

    The Darkest Hour is a 2011 science fiction action film directed by Chris Gorak from a screenplay by Jon Spaihts and produced by Timur Bekmambetov. The film stars Emile Hirsch, Max Minghella, Olivia Thirlby, Rachael Taylor, and Joel Kinnaman as a group of people caught in an alien invasion. The film was released on December 25, 2011 in the United States, and grossed $65 million on a $35 million budget.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">Bazelevs Company</span> Russian production company

    Bazelevs is a US-based production company founded by Hollywood director and producer Timur Bekmambetov. The company has been producing films such as Night Watch, Day Watch, Wanted, The Darkest Hour, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Hardcore Henry.

    <span class="mw-page-title-main">International Astana Action Film Festival</span>

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