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Oksana Akinshina, 2004

WITH SLAVA MOGUTIN
PHOTOGRAPHED BY NICK HAYMES






At seventeen, she is already a big movie star in Russia. Last year, in Lilya 4-Ever, she brought tragic depth to her role as a teen-turned-prostitute. Oksana has just appeared in her first American film, The Bourne Supremacy. [Poet, photographer (and index cover boy) Slava Mogutin spoke with the acting prodigy in her hometown, St. Petersburg.]





SLAVA: Setting up this interview wasn't easy. You really hate doing publicity, don't you?
OKSANA: It's just something I have to do. I don't have an agenda, I don't care about my image. I've been told many times, "It's part of your job." But the way I see it, my job is to be on the set and to play my role. Everything else is nonsense.

SLAVA: How do you feel when someone asks for your autograph?
OKSANA: I'm happy to do it. People see me for one minute, but their memories will last for a long time.

SLAVA: After your brief — but memorable — appearance in The Bourne Supremacy, would you consider moving to the U.S.?
OKSANA: I might go there for work, but I wouldn't want to live there. I was born in St. Petersburg, and my parents were born in St. Petersburg. I love this city and I'll stay here unless they kick me out for some reason.

SLAVA: Have you ever been to New York?
OKSANA: No. The flight's too long. I hate long flights — there's nothing to do.

SLAVA: You can listen to music.
OKSANA: Not for twelve hours straight.

SLAVA: How about moving to Moscow?
OKSANA: No, never! I don't like the energy there. That city takes more than it gives.

SLAVA: You're quite composed for someone so young. How old were you when you started acting?
OKSANA: Eleven or twelve. My girlfriends found out about the casting call for Sergei Bodrov's film Sisters and invited me along. I was cast for one of the main roles.

SLAVA: That movie caused quite a stir when it came out in 2001 because it presented a modern Russia, with gangsters and Chechnyan rebels. I can't believe that was your first film. You're so comfortable in front of the camera.
OKSANA: I never studied acting, never took any classes. It comes to me naturally.

SLAVA: American audiences caught on to you when you starred in Lilya 4-Ever, a bleak film by Swedish director Lukas Moodysson. It's about a young Russian girl who turns to prostitution to support herself after her family abandons her. What was your first impression after you read the script?
OKSANA: I wasn't shocked by the story, if that's what you mean. I liked Lukas's previous movie, Show Me Love, so I wanted to be in this one.

SLAVA: I know Moodysson doesn't speak Russian. What was it like working with him?
OKSANA: He's very calm and reserved. In some ways, that made it easier for me because I didn't feel any pressure. But there were times when I wasn't sure whether or not he was happy with my work. We were communicating through an interpreter, so it was often hard to understand what he wanted from me.

SLAVA: That film also comments on modern-day Russia. The grim economy here has forced so many young Russian girls into the world of prostitution and porn.
OKSANA: But prostitution is everywhere. It's legal in Holland — if you go to the Red Light District, you'll find plenty of it. It's a global problem.

SLAVA: I think that the most disturbing scene in Lilya 4-Ever is the one in which Lilya and her friend Volodya get high sniffing glue on the roof of a squat. What's your take on drugs?
OKSANA: Most teenagers have tried pot. So what? How many drugged-out kids have you seen on the streets of St. Petersburg?

SLAVA: Not many, but I've seen a few. I've seen plenty of used hypodermic needles on the streets, especially in the suburbs of Moscow...
OKSANA: I haven't seen any. I'm sure these kids exist, and they have their scene, but I don't know much about it.

SLAVA: Tell me about your family.
OKSANA: My mother's an accountant and my father's in the car business.

SLAVA: Did they see Lilya 4-Ever?
OKSANA: They did. They cried.

SLAVA: I know you hate to talk about your private life, but I have to ask one more question about it, because it's big news here. Are you still involved with Sergei Shnurov, the lead singer of the Russian rock band, Leningrad?
OKSANA: Yes, we live together. We've been together for a year and a half.

SLAVA: Were you a fan before you met him?
OKSANA: I had no idea who he was when I first met him, even though he's a major rock star. We met while we were both working on Andrei Proshkin's movie, Games of the Butterflies. Sergei wrote the music, and I played one of the lead characters.

SLAVA: Do you think it's your destiny to be an actress?
OKSANA: I don't know for sure if I'll still be acting in five or ten years. I might give it up completely and try something else.  

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Oksana Akinshina by Nick Haymes, 2004
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