Profile Bio Text
Donatas Juozas Banionis was born on April 28, 1924, in Kaunas, Lithuania. His mother, named Blazhaitite-Banionene Ona, was a housewife. His father, named Juozas Banionis, was a tailor who took part in the Russian Revolution of 1917. He was wounded in the Russian Civil War, then became a political prisoner, and briefly emigrated to Brasil during the 1920`s. Young Banionis was raised with his elder sister during the years of Lithuanian independence before WWII.
In 1941 Donatas Banionis was hired by the famous Lithuanian theatrical director Juozas Miltinis and became an actor at the newly formed Panevezys Drama Theatre. He studied acting under Juozas Miltinis and graduated from the Panevezys Acting Studio in 1945. In 1947 Banionis made his film debut; he played cameo role of a shepherd`s nephew in `Marite` (1947). His first major film work was the role of adventurer Daus in `Adomas nori buti zmogumi` (Adam Wants to Be a Man 1959) by director Vytautas Zalakevicius.
Long before becoming an acclaimed actor Banionis tried to escape from the Soviet Union at the end of the Second World War; but he failed to join his Lithuanian compatriots when they fled the Soviets. Soon the `iron curtain` became impenetrable from either side. His first visit to the Lithuanian community in Chicago was in 1970, with a Soviet delegation. Then Banionis, being already a very famous actor, came to realize that his former compatriots earned their good living and nice homes by working very hard from very poor beginnings. Banionis enjoyed a highly privileged life as the top film-star in the Soviet Union. He was awarded the State Prize in 1975, and was received by such Soviet leaders as Leonid Brezhnev and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Banionis earned critical acclaim for his role of Vaitkus in `Niekas nenorejo mirti` (Nobody Wanted to Die, 1963) by director Vytautas Zalakevicius. A powerful film, it was even dubbed the "Lithuanian Seven Samurai". Banionis` tragical character Vaitkus is the undecided one among the Lithuanian "brothers in the woods", who are fighting against the Soviets after the end of the Second World War. Banionis demonstrated his talent as a comedian in the role of a priest in `Beregis avtomobilya` (Watch Out for the Automobile, 1966) by director Eldar Ryazanov. Banionis` sweet character blended well with the stellar ensemble of actors, such as Innokenti Smoktunovsky, Oleg Yefremov, Andrei Mironov, Anatoli Papanov, Evgeni Evstigneev, Georgi Zhzhyonov, and other Russian film stars.
Donatas Banionis is a refined intellectual actor with an effortless style. His mastery of timing, his powerful silence, and his reserved energy shines in his major film-works; such as in `King Lear` (1969) by Grigori Kozintsev, in `Solaris` (1972) by Andrei Tarkovsky, in `Goya - oder Der arge Weg der Erkenntnis` (1971) by director Konrad Wolf, in `Begstvo mistera Mak-Kinli` by director Mikhail Shvejtser, in `Beethoven - Days in a Life` (1976) by director Horst Seemann, and in other films.
Banionis made one of his memorable film-works in the character of a Russian spy `Ladeinikov` in `Myortvy Sezon` (The Dead Season, 1968) by director Savva Kulish. That film role provided Banionis with an auspicious connection. The actor had a meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Putin confirmed that he made up his mind to become an intelligence officer after seeing Banionis in the role of a Russian spy.
In his later works Donatas Banionis constitutes the link between cinema of the past and contemporary Lithuanian film. He showed reserved and convincing work in the role of `The old man` in `Kiemas` (Courtyard, 1999), a reflective film about a Lithuanian father and his family`s depressing fate in the 1970`s Soviet Union. He worked with director Aleksandr Buravsky in `Leningrad` (2006), a film about the historic siege during the Second World War; where his acting partners are Gabriel Byrne, Mira Sorvino, Aleksandr Abdulov, Kirill Lavrov, Mikhail Yefremov and others.
Donatas Banionis played over 50 roles in film and television during his acting career. He made over 100 stage works, mainly at the Panevezys Juozas Miltinis` Drama Theatre. His acting career spans sixty five years. Banionis was honored with the title of the People`s Actor of the USSR (1974), and the title of the People`s actor of the Lithuanian Republic (1973). He is Chevalier of the 3rd Class Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas.
Donatas Banionis lives in the city of Panevezys, Lithuania. He is the Honorable Citizen of Panevezys (1999).
Full Name at Birth
Donatas Yuosovich Banionis
Donatas Banionis (28 April 1924 – 4 September 2014) was a Lithuanian actor. He has more than 80 credited roles in cinema and is best known for his performance in the lead role of Tarkovsky's Solaris as Kris Kelvin. He was born in Kaunas, Lithuania.
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