Timur Nuruakhitovich Bekmambetov
June 25, 1961
Timur Nuruakhitovich Bekmambetov (Russian: Тимур Нуруахитович Бекмамбетов, pronounced [tʲɪˈmur nʊrʊɐˈxʲitəvʲɪt͡ɕ bʲɪkmɐmˈbʲetəf]; Kazakh: Темір Нұрбақытұлы Бекмамбетoв, romanized: Temir Nůrbaķıtůlı Bekmambetov; born June 25, 1961) is a Russian-Kazakh film director, producer, screenwriter, and tech entrepreneur. He is best known for the fantasy epic Night Watch (2004) and action thriller Wanted (2008), as well as for pioneering Screenlife films: Unfriended (2015), Searching (2018) and Profile (2021). 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.
Bekmambetov was born on 25 June 1961, in the city of Atyrau, formerly known as Guriev. His father, Nuruakhit Bekmambetov, worked in management positions with the energy supplier GuryevEnergo. As Timur recollects, 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. 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
After the demise of the Soviet Union, Bekmambetov moved from Uzbekistan to Moscow, Russia, where he started making commercials for the Russian market. His commercial series World History retelling life episodes of the world’s prominent rulers (from Neron and Tamerlan to Napoleon and the last Russian emperor Nicholas 2d) is still considered the best video advertising in Russia. In 1994, he founded Bazelevs, an advertising and film production company. Its advertising division continues making commercials for big Russian and international brands (in 2021 its commercial featuring Apple’s new iPhone in the Hermitage Museum interiors was nominated for the Cannes Lions.
Bekmambetov's directorial debut was Peshavar Waltz (1994) 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 domestic box office, having grossed more than US$26 million in the first two weeks. 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). In 2010, the tape entered the 100 Best Films of World Cinema by Empire magazine. The film received positive reviews from American directors Quentin Tarantino and James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy).
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. Starring Angelina Jolie, James McAvoy and Morgan Freeman, the action film grossed US$341 million worldwide, became Universal's highest ever grossing “R” rated film, and earned two Oscar nominations.
In 2011, Bekmambetov produced the science fiction thriller Apollo 18, together with The Weinstein Company, and the science fiction film The Darkest Hour 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, 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.
In 2016, Bekmambetov directed Ben-Hur, the fifth film adaptation of the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace. At the same time, he produced the action film Hardcore Henry (directed by Nobody’s Ilya Naishuller), using the first-person 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.
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.
In 2019, he produced the 10-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.
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.
Invention of the screenlife filmmaking technique brought Bekmambetov’s Bazelevs a spot among Fast Company’s 2021 World’s Most Innovative Companies.
Bekmambetov is married to the Russian urbanist Natalia Fishman-Bekmambetova, who worked on the facelift of the Gorky Park in Moscow and the renovation of Kazan.
|2007||The Irony of Fate 2||Yes||Yes||No|
|2012||Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter||Yes||Yes||No|
|2021||V2. Escape from Hell||Yes||Yes||No|
- 9 (2009)
- Black Lightning (2009)
- Lucky Trouble (2011)
- Apollo 18 (2011)
- The Darkest Hour (2011)
- Kikoriki. Team Invincible (2011)
- The Snow Queen (2012)
- Yolki 3 (2013)
- Alisa Knows What to Do! (2013)
- Gorko! (2013)
- Hardcore Henry (2015)
- The Snow Queen 2: The Snow King (2015)
- Unfriended (2015)
- Paws, Bones & Rock'n'roll (2015)
- Hack the Bloggers (ru) (2016)
- Yolki 6 (2017)
- The Age of Pioneers (2017)
- I Am Dragon (2017)
- The Current War (2017)
- Searching (2018)
- Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)
- Persian Lessons (2020)
- R#J (2021)
- Missing (TBA)
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