Timur Bekmambetov

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Timur Bekmambetov
Тимур Бекмамбетов
Тимур Бекмамбетов.jpg
Timur Bekmambetov in 2020
Timur Nuruakhitovich Bekmambetov

(1961-06-25) June 25, 1961 (age 61)

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.[1] 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.

Early life[edit]

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. 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.[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[edit]

Bekmambetov started his career in the late 1980s as a production designer at Ilkhom Theater in Tashkent, Uzbekistan,[4] and at Uzbek national film studio Uzbekfilm.[5]

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.[6] 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)[7] 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.[8] 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).[9][10] In 2010, the tape entered the 100 Best Films of World Cinema by Empire magazine.[11] The film received positive reviews from American directors Quentin Tarantino and James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy).[12]

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.[13] 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.[14]

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,[15] together with The Weinstein Company, and the science fiction film The Darkest Hour[16] 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,[17] 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.[12]

In 2013, Variety (Russian Edition) named Bekmambetov one of the most commercially successful Russian directors of the decade.[18]

In 2016, Bekmambetov directed Ben-Hur, the fifth film adaptation of the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace.[19] 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.

In 2021, Deadline announced Bekmambetov 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.

Screenlife filmmaking[edit]

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 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.[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]

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

Personal life[edit]

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

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.[28]


Press conference of Profile at Berlinale 2018. Shazad Latif, Timur Bekmambetov and Valene Kane.
Year Title Credited as
Director Producer Writer
1994 Peshavar Waltz Yes No Yes
2001 The Arena Yes No No
2004 Night Watch Yes No Yes
2006 Day Watch Yes No Yes
2007 The Irony of Fate 2 Yes Yes No
2008 Wanted Yes No No
2010 Yolki Yes Yes No
2011 Yolki 2 No Yes Yes
2012 Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Yes Yes No
2014 Yolki 1914 Yes Yes No
Squirrels No Yes Yes
2016 Yolki 5 Yes Yes No
Ben-Hur Yes No No
2018 Profile Yes Yes Yes
2021 V2. Escape from Hell Yes Yes No

Producer only

Music videos[edit]


  1. ^ Peter Rollberg (2016). Historical Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Cinema. US: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 99–100. ISBN 978-1442268425.
  2. ^ "Бекмамбетов Тимур Нуруахитович". Versia. 25 January 2015. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  3. ^ "Бекмамбетов, Тимур - Российский кинорежиссер, сценарист, продюсер". Lenta.ru.
  4. ^ "Бекмамбетов Тимур Нуруахитович - Российский Кинорежиссер - Биография". rus.team (in Russian). Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  5. ^ "Кочевник по натуре: Тимур Бекмамбетов между поисками нового и модернизацией старого". Искусство кино (in Russian). Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  6. ^ "Реклама как объект практической эстетики | Электронный научный журнал "Медиаскоп"". www.mediascope.ru. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  7. ^ Timur Bekmambetov Biography – Yahoo! Movies. Movies.yahoo.com. Retrieved on 2013-08-25.
  8. ^ ""Дневной дозор" собрал 26 млн. долларов". ВЗГЛЯД.РУ (in Russian). Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  9. ^ Can 'Dusk' follow 'Night'? Fox claims to have snared a Russian Peter Jackson.
  10. ^ [1]20th Century Fox to Distributor 'Night Watch' (2004) and 'Day Watch' (2006) from Russia's Channel One – ORT.
  11. ^ ""Ночной дозор" стал худшим из лучших неанглоязычных фильмов". Lenta.RU (in Russian). Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  13. ^ "Timur Bekmambetov: Dusk Watch on Hold". beyondhollywood.com. Archived from the original on 2008-04-29.
  14. ^ "Бремя первых. Как Тимур Бекмамбетов стал самым коммерчески успешным продюсером". Forbes.ru (in Russian). Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  15. ^ Timur Bekmambetov Behind Secret New Sci-Fi Project 'Apollo 18'. FirstShowing.net (2010-11-06). Retrieved on 2013-08-25.
  16. ^ "UFOs Attack Russia in The Darkest Hour". DreadCentral. 5 March 2010.
  17. ^ "Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov team to bring us Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter". DreadCentral. 3 March 2010.
  18. ^ Nikolay Larionov. "Top-15 Commercially Successful Russian Directors (Text in Russian)". Variety. Archived from the original on 2013-05-27.
  19. ^ Peter Debruge (10 August 2016). "Is 'Ben-Hur' a Dark Horse in the Chariot Race for Global Audiences?". Variety. Retrieved 8 May 2017.
  20. ^ "Триллер "Убрать из друзей" попал в ряды самых прибыльных малобюджетных проектов в мире". ФильмПРО (in Russian). Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  21. ^ ""Поиск": Тимур Бекмамбетов спродюсировал еще один фильм, действие которого разворачивается на экране компьютера И убедил Голливуд, что это серьезный жанр". Meduza (in Russian). Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  22. ^ "Фильм Тимура Бекмамбетова наградили на фестивале South by Southwest". www.kinometro.ru. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  23. ^ "Михаил Зыгарь и Тимур Бекмамбетов запустили сериал для смартфонов про 1968 год". Журнал Esquire (in Russian). Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  24. ^ "Тимур Бекмамбетов представил свой новый фильм на Берлинале-2018". Вокруг.ТВ. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  25. ^ "Проект "Ромео и Джульетта" Бекмамбетова получил спецприз фестиваля SXSW". РИА Новости (in Russian). 2021-03-22. Retrieved 2021-12-16.
  26. ^ Jason Rothenberg (4 August 2016). "Executive Suite: Inside Timur Bekmambetov's Bazelevs Office". The Hollywood Reporter.
  27. ^ Christina Radish (29 September 2014). "10 Things to Know About Walt Disney's Beloved Home at Woking Way; Plus Over 20 Images of the House Today". Collider.
  28. ^ Emanuel Levy. "Ben-Hur: Director Timur Bekmambetov". emanuellevy.com.

External links[edit]