The Russia House (1990)

R | 123 mins | Drama, Romance | 4 December 1990

Director:

Fred Schepisi

Writer:

Tom Stoppard

Cinematographer:

Ian Baker

Editor:

Peter Honess

Production Designer:

Richard MacDonald
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HISTORY

       According to production notes in AMPAS files, the 22 Nov 1989 Var, and the 21 Dec 1990 HR, , principal photography began 2 Oct 1989 in Leningrad, Russia, including the city’s L’Ermitage Museum. After eight days of shooting in Leningrad, the crew filmed aboard a train traveling to Moscow. In the Soviet capital, locations included Red Square, with St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin in the background; the giant GUM department store; the Ukraine and National hotels; and the Metro subway. Outside Moscow, filming took place at the writers’ colony of Peredelkino, the Russian Orthodox Church in Zagorsk (now Sergiyev Posad), and the czarist country estate at Kolomenskoye. (Filming at Peredelkino included a scene at the grave of Russian-Jewish poet-writer Boris Pasternak, whose 1957 novel, Dr. Zhivago, was smuggled out of the Soviet Union, published in the West, and promoted by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to provoke the Soviet government.) Pathé Entertainment partnered with Corona Films, a Soviet-German company under the auspices of Mosfilm, Russia’s largest studio, which supplied nearly half the crew, logistical support, and filming permissions. However, because of a food shortage in the Soviet Union, The Russia House was catered by a unit from Pinewood Studios in London, England, which brought in supplies from England and Finland. Also, filming equipment had to be imported because the “Soviet gear was not up to scratch.” After leaving the Soviet Union at the beginning of Nov, the production moved to the Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon, Portugal, for eight days. During a couple of weeks in London, the interiors for "Katya Orlova’s" apartment and the Soviet intelligence office were shot on ... More Less

       According to production notes in AMPAS files, the 22 Nov 1989 Var, and the 21 Dec 1990 HR, , principal photography began 2 Oct 1989 in Leningrad, Russia, including the city’s L’Ermitage Museum. After eight days of shooting in Leningrad, the crew filmed aboard a train traveling to Moscow. In the Soviet capital, locations included Red Square, with St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin in the background; the giant GUM department store; the Ukraine and National hotels; and the Metro subway. Outside Moscow, filming took place at the writers’ colony of Peredelkino, the Russian Orthodox Church in Zagorsk (now Sergiyev Posad), and the czarist country estate at Kolomenskoye. (Filming at Peredelkino included a scene at the grave of Russian-Jewish poet-writer Boris Pasternak, whose 1957 novel, Dr. Zhivago, was smuggled out of the Soviet Union, published in the West, and promoted by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to provoke the Soviet government.) Pathé Entertainment partnered with Corona Films, a Soviet-German company under the auspices of Mosfilm, Russia’s largest studio, which supplied nearly half the crew, logistical support, and filming permissions. However, because of a food shortage in the Soviet Union, The Russia House was catered by a unit from Pinewood Studios in London, England, which brought in supplies from England and Finland. Also, filming equipment had to be imported because the “Soviet gear was not up to scratch.” After leaving the Soviet Union at the beginning of Nov, the production moved to the Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon, Portugal, for eight days. During a couple of weeks in London, the interiors for "Katya Orlova’s" apartment and the Soviet intelligence office were shot on a Pinewood sound stage, while Pathé Entertainment’s executive offices in Hammersmith stood in for the offices of Great Britain’s MI5 security service. Five days of filming in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, culminated in the production’s wrap on 22 Dec 1989. The final budget was “about $21.8 million,” roughly half of which was spent on book rights and salaries for “two superstars plus a major director.”
       The Russia House was producer Paul Maslansky’s third movie shot on location in the Soviet Union. In 1973, he produced the first U.S.-Soviet co-production, The Blue Bird (see entry), starring Elizabeth Taylor and Ava Gardner. However, the cast and crew of The Russia House enjoyed much more freedom than previous productions because Russia was in the midst of the Soviet policy of glasnost, or “openness,” which eventually led to the Soviet Union’s 1991 dissolution.
       American character actor John Mahoney, who portrayed a Central Intelligence Agency operative named “Brady,” told the 27 Jun 1990 Var he took the role because of a “lengthy interrogation scene” he had with Sean Connery’s “Barley Scott Blair.” After learning his character had been severely trimmed from the script, Mahoney briefly considered dropping out.
       Director-editor Fred Schepisi edited the film in his native Australia.
       A star-studded charity premiere for The Russia House was held 4 Dec 1990 in Universal City, CA, the 4 Dec 1990 and 6 Dec 1990 editions of DV reported. The event netted three quarters of a million dollars, including a $250,000 donation from MGM- Pathé Communications Company, for the Motion Picture & Television Fund.
       Reviews were generally good, although several criticized the screenplay’s “confusing, red-herring dead ends” (11 Dec 1990 HR ). The film’s main allure was the Russian scenery.
       The Feb 1991 Box noted that The Russia House grossed only “a so-so $4.5 million” during its first week of release.
End credits contain the following information: “Filmed at Pinewood Studios and on location in Leningrad, Moscow, London, Lisbon and Vancouver.”
       End credits contain the following acknowledgments: “The producers wish to thank E.B.A. Systems Limited; Xerox Piano Typewriters from Rank Xerox; Grupa Entreposto; Portuguese Navy.” Also, “Special thanks to Elem Klimov, Ralsa Fomina and Marsha Chuganova.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Feb 1991.
---
Daily Variety
4 Dec 1990
p. 3
Daily Variety
6 Dec 1990
p. 6
Daily Variety
14 Nov 1989
p. 2
Hollywood Drama-Logue
13 Dec 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Oct 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Feb 1990
p. 4
Hollywood Reporter
9 Aug 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Dec 1990
p. 10, 71
Hollywood Reporter
21 Dec 1990.
---
Los Angeles Times
19 Dec 1990
Calendar, p. 1
New York Times
19 Dec 1990
p. 15
Screen International
27 Jan 1990.
---
The Times (London)
21 Dec 1989.
---
Variety
22 Nov 1989
p. 11
Variety
27 Jun 1990
p. 79
Variety
17 Dec 1990
pp. 42-43
Variety
31 Dec 1990.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Pathe Entertainment Presents
A Fred Schepisi Film
In association with Star Partners III, Ltd.
Distributed by MGM/UA
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
3d asst dir
Prod mgr, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Asst prod mgr, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Asst prod mgr, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Asst dir, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Asst dir, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Prod mgr, Vancouver crew
1st asst dir, Vancouver crew
2d asst dir, Vancouver crew
Prod mgr, Lisbon crew
1st asst dir, Lisbon crew
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op/Steadicam
Focus puller
2d cam op
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Video playback
Still photog
Gaffer
Best boy elec
Elec
Generator op
Key grip
Video playback, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Cam asst, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Gaffer, Vancouver crew
Best boy elec, Vancouver crew
Key grip, Vancouver crew
Best boy grip, Vancouver crew
Dolly grip, Vancouver crew
Asst cam, Vancouver crew
Asst cam, Vancouver crew
Lighting equip supplied by
ART DIRECTORS
Supv art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Art dir, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Draftsman, London crew
Draftsman, London crew
Art dept trainee, London crew
Art dir, Lisbon crew
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
1st asst ed
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Buyer
Prop master
Asst prop
Standby carpenter
Standby stagehand
Standby painter
Asst props, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Prop master, Vancouver crew
Set dresser, London crew
Set dresser, London crew
Storeman, London crew
Standby props, London crew
Const mgr, London crew
Standby rigger, London crew
Supv carpenter, London crew
Carpenter, London crew
Carpenter, London crew
Carpenter, London crew
Carpenter, London crew
Carpenter, London crew
Carpenter, London crew
Carpenter, London crew
Carpenter, London crew
Machinist, London crew
Scenic painter, London crew
Painter, London crew
Painter, London crew
Supv plasterer, London crew
Plasterer, London crew
Plasterer labor, London crew
Plasterer labor, London crew
Rigger, London crew
Stagehand, London crew
Stagehand, London crew
Stagehand, London crew
Stagehand, London crew
Prop master, Lisbon crew
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward master
Ward mistress
Ward bus
Cost, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Ward mistress, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Ward master, Vancouver crew
MUSIC
Featuring
Mus ed
Orch by
Piano
Mus rec eng
Mus contractor
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom op
Sd maintenance eng
Supv sd ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec by Producer Sound Services at the facility
Foley artist
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Sd asst, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Sd mixer, Vancouver crew
Boom op, Vancouver crew
VISUAL EFFECTS
Title des
Main titles and opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup and hair for Mr. Connery
Makeup and hair for Mr. Connery
Key makeup artist
Key hairdresser
Makeup bus
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Prod supv
U. S. casting
Dialect coach to Ms. Pfeiffer
Dialect coach
Scr supv
Prod coord, Russia/Portugal
Prod coord, England
Prod coord, Los Angeles
Prod services and facilities provided by
Voice casting
Prod secy
Prod secy
Asst to Mr. Maslansky
Asst to Mr. Schepisi
Casting asst
Prod auditor
Prod auditor
Asst accountant
Post prod accountant
Pub relations
Unit pub
Pub asst
Caterer
Catering mgr
Catering asst
Catering asst
Tracking vehicle/crane op
Prod services, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Prod services, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Casting, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Casting, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Loc mgr, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Loc mgr, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Accountant, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Prod asst, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Prod asst, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Interpreter for Mr. Schepisi, Moscow/Leningrad cre
Interpreter for Mr. Connery, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Interpreter for Ms. Pfeiffer, Moscow/Leningrad cre
Interpreter for prod office, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Transportation coord, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Asst transport, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Transportation capt, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Russian liaison, Moscow/Leningrad crew
Prod coord, Vancouver crew
Prod asst, Vancouver crew
Local casting, Vancouver crew
Catering, Vancouver crew
Catering, Vancouver crew
Transportation coord, Vancouver crew
Transportation co-coord, Vancouver crew
Loc mgr, London crew
Asst loc mgr, London crew
Prod asst, London crew
Computer video supv, London crew
Senior video tech, London crew
Cam car driver, London crew
Loc mgr, Lisbon crew
Accountant, Lisbon crew
Transportation coord, Lisbon crew
Catering, Lisbon crew
Catering, Lisbon crew
Prod services provided by, Lisbon crew
Insurance broker
STAND INS
Stand-in for Mr. Connery
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Russia House by John Le Carré (New York, 1989).
SONGS
“What Is This Thing Called Love?” written by Cole Porter, published by Warner/Chappell Music
“The Sheik Of Araby,” written by T. Snyder, F. Wheeler, & H. B. Smith, published by Bienstock Publishing Co. & Filmtrax
“Ain’t Misbehavin’,” written by Thomas “Fats” Waller, Harry Brooks & Andy Razaf, published by Bienstock Publishing Co. & Filmtrax.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
John Le Carré's The Russia House
Release Date:
4 December 1990
Premiere Information:
Universal City, CA premiere: 4 December 1990
Los Angeles opening: 19 December 1990
New York opening: 19 December 1990
Production Date:
2 October - 22 December 1989
Copyright Claimant:
MGM-Pathe Communications Company
Copyright Date:
31 January 1991
Copyright Number:
PA509317
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Originated on Eastman Color Film from Kodak
Lenses
Filmed in Technovision®
Duration(in mins):
123
Length(in feet):
11,107
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

At the British embassy in Lisbon, Portugal, Ned, Clive, and Walter from Britain’s MI5 security service and Bob from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) interrogate publisher Batholomew “Barley” Scott Blair. A woman named Katerina “Katya” Orlova visited the British Consul’s book fair in Moscow, Russia, the previous week and delivered a manuscript for Scott Blair, who admits that his company, Abercrombie & Blair, had a booth at the fair, although he did not attend. The officials explain that in his absence, Katya Orlova delivered her “important manuscript” to Niki Landau, a sales representative in the next bookstall, with instructions that it must be given directly to Mr. Scott Blair. The agents ask why a Russian would “risk her neck” to give him a manuscript, but Scott Blair has no idea. Ned displays an accompanying handwritten letter to “my beloved Barley,” signed “your loving K,” but Scott Blair does not know her. The manuscript is composed of three handwritten notebooks, which Landau turned over to MI5 when he could not find Scott Blair. British scientific and defense experts pored over the notebooks, filled with detailed information about Soviet capabilities in waging nuclear war. When MI5 raided Scott Blair’s London apartment, they found a bank account that led them to the “boozy” publisher’s Lisbon apartment and then to the bar where they found him drinking. While Ned, Clive, Walter, and Bob interrogate Scott Blair, MI5 operative Brock records everything in another office. Reading Katya’s letter, Scott Blair is certain he did not meet her at Peredelkino, the Soviet writers’ colony where he was a guest a few months earlier. Discussing world affairs over drunken lunches and dinners with Russians, Scott ... +


At the British embassy in Lisbon, Portugal, Ned, Clive, and Walter from Britain’s MI5 security service and Bob from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) interrogate publisher Batholomew “Barley” Scott Blair. A woman named Katerina “Katya” Orlova visited the British Consul’s book fair in Moscow, Russia, the previous week and delivered a manuscript for Scott Blair, who admits that his company, Abercrombie & Blair, had a booth at the fair, although he did not attend. The officials explain that in his absence, Katya Orlova delivered her “important manuscript” to Niki Landau, a sales representative in the next bookstall, with instructions that it must be given directly to Mr. Scott Blair. The agents ask why a Russian would “risk her neck” to give him a manuscript, but Scott Blair has no idea. Ned displays an accompanying handwritten letter to “my beloved Barley,” signed “your loving K,” but Scott Blair does not know her. The manuscript is composed of three handwritten notebooks, which Landau turned over to MI5 when he could not find Scott Blair. British scientific and defense experts pored over the notebooks, filled with detailed information about Soviet capabilities in waging nuclear war. When MI5 raided Scott Blair’s London apartment, they found a bank account that led them to the “boozy” publisher’s Lisbon apartment and then to the bar where they found him drinking. While Ned, Clive, Walter, and Bob interrogate Scott Blair, MI5 operative Brock records everything in another office. Reading Katya’s letter, Scott Blair is certain he did not meet her at Peredelkino, the Soviet writers’ colony where he was a guest a few months earlier. Discussing world affairs over drunken lunches and dinners with Russians, Scott Blair declares philosophically that for there to be peace between the Cold War powers, writers and poets must betray their own countries. During a break, Scott Blair walks to poet-novelist Boris Pasternak’s grave in a nearby cemetery. “Dante,” one of the writers, confronts Scott Blair about whether he really believes his statement about betraying one’s country to save it. Getting Scott Blair’s assurance that he is not a spy, the Russian asks for a promise: If Dante acts like a hero, will Scott Blair act like a decent human being? British intelligence later plays the tape of Scott Blair’s Lisbon interrogation for Americans Russell, Brady, U.S. Army Colonel Quinn, and others at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. They cannot discern whether Barley Scott Blair is telling the truth. If the notebooks are correct, the Soviets’ nuclear capability has become so degraded, or was so grossly overstated in the first place, that the current Cold War arms race is unnecessary. On the other hand, the notebooks could be a trick. In Lisbon, Scott Blair is shown photographs of Russians, but he recognizes nobody. However, he is intrigued when he sees a picture of Katya, a beautiful woman. Ned and Walter ask him to return to Russia in order to discover Dante’s identity. Back home in London, Scott Blair submits to being followed by MI5 as he goes about his business. Operatives teach him basic spycraft, such as never talking in a car or hotel room, even if a radio is playing, and if he writes something down, use only one sheet of paper on a hard surface. They equip him with a hidden tape recorder. After Ned gives him printed copies of the notebooks to deliver to Dante, Scott Blair flies to Moscow and telephones Katya for lunch. They meet outside his hotel, and as they walk through Red Square, Scott Blair tells her he received the manuscript. Over lunch, he tries unsuccessfully to learn Dante’s real name. Katya informs him that Dante was inspired by Scott Blair’s ideas about world peace. She admits that she is divorced and lives with her two young children. When they part, she promises to telephone him. An operative later comes to his room to get the tape from his recorder. Scott Blair and his company’s new Soviet editor, Leonard “Len” Wicklow, visit old friends, including Soviet publisher Alik Zapadny. The next day, Scott Blair meets Katya at a Metro station and takes her to the suburb of Zagorsk, a town of churches. They climb to the belfry of the main Russian Orthodox cathedral and talk. When Katya asks if he is alone, Scott Blair confesses he has never been more alone. To allay her distrust, he reminds Katya that she initially risked her life and the lives of her children to deliver the manuscript to him. She reveals that Dante is a physicist and engineer educated at the Institute for Mechanical and Optical Science in Leningrad, Russia, and mentions that his first name is Yakov. She met him in 1968, when she was young. Yakov was like an artist, very idealistic, and she fell in love, but he returned to the military after the Soviet government invaded Czechoslovakia. Later, Scott Blair’s conversation with Katya is heard in London, where Walter determines that Dante is Yakov Yefremovich Savelyev, a major Soviet scientist. On the tape, Katya tells Scott Blair that Dante will meet him in Leningrad in four days. When Russell receives word at CIA headquarters that Dante is Savelyev, he becomes alarmed and explains to colleagues that if word gets out that Soviet strength is a “big lie,” the defense industry could be severely damaged. Ned telephones Russell to request an American “assistant” accompany Scott Blair in Leningrad. News is planted in the newspaper that the British publishing company, Abercrombie and Blair, is merging with the U.S. company, Potomac Books, to publish Russian authors. Scott Blair telephones Katya that he is taking a train to Leningrad, then flying back to England, but will return soon. On the train, he realizes that he misses her. In Leningrad, Scott Blair meets secretly with Dante and explains that MI5 got hold of the manuscript, but he still wants to publish it. Dante slips another notebook into his bag and walks away. Ned picks up Scott Blair when he returns to London and passes the new notebook along to the Americans. Later, Russell tells Ned to drop the notebook “down the toilet,” because it affirms Dante’s earlier claims. Ned takes Scott Blair to a lakeside retreat to meet Russell and the other Americans, who are skeptical of his motives. They ask if he is spying for the Soviets. They administer a lie detector test, but it exposes only his romantic feelings for Katya. Russell and the CIA compile a list of questions they want Scott Blair to take to Dante, but a British agent comments that he does not like lists because they tell too much about the people who make them. When Scott Blair returns to Moscow, he is met by Katya, her Uncle Matvey, and her two children. They visit the scenic Kolomenskoye, a former czarist estate, where she informs him that a scientist friend named Igor told her that Dante is sick and hospitalized in a “special” town. Dante will try to see Scott Blair in Moscow, but he wants a comprehensive list of questions about the notes. When Scott Blair reports this to MI5, Ned suspects the Soviets already know about Dante and Katya. Scott Blair visits Katya's apartment, tells her he loves her, and writes a note that British intelligence knows about Dante’s manuscript, but he is on her side. She writes that something was wrong with Igor’s telephone call, but tells him aloud that Dante will telephone her at a phone booth located at a nearby hospital. Listening to the tape later, Ned fears that Dante may be dead, but Russell assures him Dante will contact Katya. That night, as Scott Blair and Katya make love, he confesses that she, not England, is his “country” now. The next day, in the hospital waiting room, Katya answers a telephone, listens, and hangs up. Later, Scott Blair reports to Ned that Dante is due in Moscow on Friday. Scott Blair attends the party for the new Potomac-Blair publishing company and meets Katya there. Ned wants to close the operation because he suspects the Americans have set Scott Blair up, but Russell rejects the idea. Later, MI5 give Scott Blair a book with the CIA’s questions written inside and direct him to a building where Dante is staying. Ned worries that if the Soviets get the list, the questions will reveal what Western intelligence does not know, as well as what it most wants to know. Scott Blair goes into the building, but does not come out. The Americans leave, and Ned realizes Scott Blair has made his own deal to save Katya. While the Soviet KGB debriefs Scott Blair, Katya lays flowers on Dante’s grave. Ned reads a letter Scott Blair left for him, in which he admits Dante’s telephone call to Katya was controlled by the KGB. Dante called her by the wrong name, which was his code to her that he had been caught. Scott Blair realized the Soviets were only keeping Katya alive because they wanted the list, so he betrayed his country and made contact with the KGB at the Potomac-Blair publishing party. After assuring Katya that her family was safe, he made a pact with the Soviets, trading the CIA’s list for Katya and her family’s passage to Lisbon. Ned visits Scott Blair in Lisbon as he fixes up his apartment. Katya, her uncle, and two children arrive safely at the port. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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