Timur Bekmambetov

Who is Timur Bekmambetov?

Timur Bekmambetov is a renowned director in Russian history, being the only filmmaker from the country to make a name in the Hollywood scene. Also working as a screenwriter and producer, he made his writing and directorial debut in 1994 through the internationally-recognized film “Peshawar Waltz.” As the Soviet Union’s collapse hit the Russian film industry, he shifted and earned a reputation in doing commercials and music videos. Not long enough, he found himself back in his ambition of making films and conquered the U.S. box office, becoming famous for the flicks “Night Watch,” “Daywatch,” and “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter's poster

Early Life

Timur Bekmambetov was born on June 25, 1961, in Kazakhstan. Nuruakhit Bekmambetov, his Kazakh father, was a power engineer, while Mira Bogoslovskaya, his Russian-Jewish mother, was a regional newspaper deputy editor.

After graduating high school at the age of 17, Bekmambetov transferred to Moscow, Russia, and studied at the Moscow Energy Institute. However, he had a different calling, and he knew his heart was for arts and filmmaking. Soon, Bekmambetov dropped out and attended Ostrovsky Theater and Art Institute. In 1987, he graduated as a film and theater artist.

Bekmambetov in 2009

Early Career

Starting in 1989, Bekmambetov began working in the advertising industry and directed Bank Imperial commercials from 1992 to 1997. The ad series became popular among viewers and garnered awards at the different advertisement festivals.

His filmmaking venture happened in 1994 through the film “Peshawar Waltz,” which he directed and co-wrote. The Afghan war drama flick was a huge success, earning various international awards, and was soon dubbed in English and released in the West as “Escape from Afghanistan.” In the same year, he established the Bazelevs Group, an advertising, filmmaking, marketing, and distribution company.

Shift to Advertising and Music Videos

While his first feature film proved successful internationally, it didn’t fare well in Russia following the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. No theater houses were available as they were leased out for other purposes. With that, there were no opportunities for the public to watch films.

While he has an innate love for filmmaking, Bekmambetov focused on T.V. advertising, which for him was also a form of making movies, but rather miniature ones. Not only that he loved the freedom of doing so, given that there are not many boundaries governing commercials, but it’s a plus that these works are getting viewed by millions of viewers daily. Soon, he also ventured into making music videos, which he also did with expertise.

Night Watch's poster

Going Back To Films

As Russia started to rise again, the film industry also got its rebirth with the reopening of theater houses, and this time with modern technologies.

While he made prior movies before 2004, it was in the said year when Bekmambetov got his first break. He co-wrote and directed the hit fantasy vampire thriller “Night Watch,” which was screened in different parts of the world, including the U.S. and the U.K. Its successful sequel “Day Watch” then followed it in 2007. Both flicks became international hits, made Bekmambetov’s known in the West, and cemented his status as Russia’s best filmmaker in the Post-Soviet period.

Hollywood further opened its doors for Bekmambetov. In 2008, he was chosen to direct “Wanted,” an action flick starring Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, and James McAvoy. It was his first English-film, which earned the USD 300 million in its global release. Several more flicks followed but featured him as a screenwriter, such as “9” (2009) and “Dead Spy Running” (2009).

Bekmambetov's in 9's premiere

Back in Russia, his film “The Irony of Fate 2,” a sentimental comedy flick made a herculean feat, being one of Russia’s most profitable locally-produced film, earning over USD 50 million in revenue.

Bekmambetov also started producing films, citing that it is a means of surviving in the Hollywood scene. In 2009, he co-wrote and produced “Moby Dick,” and the action movie “Black Lightning,” alongside Universal Pictures. Other films he produced were “The Six Degrees to Celebration” (2010) and “Lucky Trouble” (2011). In 2012, he went back to directing while also co-producing the history-horror film “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”

Bekmambetov in Profile's press conference

The filmmaker never ceased in doing projects in the following years directing, producing, and screenwriting for films. In 2015, he produced several films intended for computer screens, and the horror film “Unfriended.” Meanwhile, the epic historical film “Ben-Hur” became his most prominent project in 2016. Then, in 2018, he produced three more thriller flicks: “Searching,” “Profile,” and “Unfriended: Dark Web.”

Conclusion

Bekmambetov continues to do what he loves and juggles different projects both in the U.S. and in Russia. By following his heart and with his incredible talent and skills, he carved his path to be one of Russia’s most renowned directors, even entertaining and touching the hearts of many movie enthusiasts across the globe.