|Alexander Borisovich Godunov|
November 28, 1949|
Sakhalin, Russian SFSR, USSR
|Died||May 18, 1995
West Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Ludmilla Vlasova (1971–1982; div.)|
Alexander Borisovich Godunov (Russian: Александр Борисович Годунов; November 28, 1949 – May 18, 1995), nicknamed "Sasha", was a Russian-American ballet dancer and film actor, whose defection caused a diplomatic incident between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Godunov was born in Sakhalin, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union, in the Russian Far East. Godunov began his ballet studies in Riga in 1958, in the same class as Mikhail Baryshnikov. The two became friends and helped each other throughout their years there. Godunov joined the Bolshoi Ballet in 1971 and rose to become Premier danseur. His teachers there included Aleksey Yermolayev. In 1973, he won a gold medal at the Moscow International Ballet Competition.
After playing Lemisson, the Royal Musician, in The Thirty-first of June (Soviet, 1978) by J. B. Priestley, Godunov became well known in the Soviet Union as a movie actor. His roles included Vronsky in Anna Karenina (1976).
Defection from the USSR
On August 21, 1979, while on a tour with the Bolshoi Ballet in New York City, Godunov contacted authorities and asked for political asylum. After discovering his absence, the KGB responded by putting his wife, Ludmilla Vlasova, a soloist with the company, on a plane to Moscow, but the flight was stopped before take-off. After three days, with involvement by U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, the U.S. State Department was satisfied that she chose to leave of her own free will, and allowed the plane to depart. Godunov spent a year trying to get her back but to no avail. The couple divorced in 1982.
Godunov joined the American Ballet Theatre and danced as a principal dancer until 1982 when he had a falling-out with his long-time friend and director of the company Mikhail Baryshnikov. The official reason for his release from the company was that there would not be sufficient roles for him after a change in the repertory, so he was fired. He then traveled with his own troupes, danced as a guest artist with different prominent ballet companies worldwide, and turned to acting in Hollywood.
Godunov's acting roles were varied, including a good-natured Amish farmer in Witness (1985), a comically narcissistic symphony conductor (referred to as "the maestro") in The Money Pit (1986), and a violent German terrorist in Die Hard (1988). He seemed to be destined for stardom, but turned down many roles which typecast him as a dancer or a villain as in Die Hard. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1987. He was also involved in a long-standing romance with actress Jacqueline Bisset, which ended in 1988.
On May 18, 1995 his friends became concerned when he had been uncharacteristically quiet with his phone calls. A nurse who had not heard from him since May 8 went to his home in the Shoreham Towers, West Hollywood, California, where Godunov was found dead of alcohol abuse with complications from hepatitis. He was 45 years old.
It was not immediately clear how long he had been dead. In a statement issued shortly after the discovery, Godunov's publicist, Evelyn Shriver said "He did not have AIDS, or commit suicide... This was a very happy time of his life..." His ashes were released into the Pacific Ocean; his memorial at Gates Mortuary in Los Angeles is engraved with the epitaph "His future remained in the past."
Filmography as dancer
|1971||Moskovskaya Fantaziya||Young Dancer|
|1976||Anna Karenina||Alexei Vronsky|
|1980||Portrait of Giselle|
|1983||Godunov: The World To Dance In||himself|
Filmography as actor
|1978||31 iyunya||Lemisson, the Royal Musician|
|1986||The Money Pit||Max Beissart, the Maestro|
|1990||The Runestone||Sigvaldson, The Clockmaker|
|1992||Waxwork II: Lost in Time||Scarabis|
|1995||The Zone||Lothar Krasna|
- Gregory, John; Valance, Tom (May 20 1995). "Obituary: Alexander Godunov". United Kingdom: The Independent. Retrieved 2012-12-26.
- Dunning, Jennifer (1995-05-19). "Alexander Godunov, Dancer And Film Actor, Dies at 45". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-02-09.
- "Alexander Godunov (1949 - 1995) - Find A Grave Memorial:". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2012012027.
- Alexander Godunov and Aleksey Yermolayev. YouTube.
- "Amazon.com: Anna Karenina (VHS): Maya Plisetskaya, Alexander Godunov, Yuri Vladimirov, Nina Sorokina, Aleksandr Sedov, M. Sedova, Vladimir Tikhonov, Margarita Pilikhina, Vladimir Papyan, Boris Lvov-Anokhin, Leo Tolstoy: Movies & TV:". Amazon. Retrieved 2012-12-26.
- "Anna Karenina (1976)". IMDb. Retrieved 2012-12-26.
- Rasskazova, Inessa (March 24, 2012). "Легендарная балерина и хореограф Людмила Власова: «Саша меня не предавал!»" [The legendary dancer and choreographer Ludmila Vlasova: "Sasha did not betray me!"]. Sovetsky Sport (in Russian).
- "Bolshoi ballerina greeted with tears". The Miami News (Moscow). Associated Press. August 28, 1979. p. 4A. Retrieved 2012-12-26.