Cannes 2012: Paul Schrader To Write Kremlin-Financed Russian Ballerina Drama

Paul Schrader will write a Kremlin-financed project about Mathilde Kschessinska, a famed Russian ballerina who was mistress to the last Russian tsar

Mathilde KschessinskaPaul Schrader, writer of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull,” has signed to write a drama about Mathilde Kschessinska, a famed Russian ballerina and mistress to the last Russian tsar, in a ground-breaking project backed by the Kremlin.

Producers David American producers David Weisman and Anatoly Davydov announced the project at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday.

The film will be financed by the V. Vinokur Fund for the Support of Russian Culture & Arts under the auspices of the Kremlin, and is an unusual collaboration between a renowned American screenwriter and a Russian-backed production.

The film will be shot in English with a mixed Russian and American cast.

Kschessinska played mistress to at least four aristocratic men who controlled the crumbling Romanov dynasty, including Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II. Rising from poverty, through her extraordinary gift for ballet, Kschessinska lived a life of luxury on the cusp of the Russian revolution.

“Kschessinska’s life is a powerful metaphor for Russian culture and evokes the best of Russian arts,” said Schrader.  “She was a first native prima ballerina in the country that saw the highest achievement in that art form. She was not only a witness to the critical period of Russian history, she was a player in that history, only to be thrown aside.”

Said Weisman: “Kschessinska was worshipped and reviled,” said Weisman. “Nicknames such as ‘Black-eyed She-Devil of the Imperial Ballet’ and ‘Mathilde the Magnificent’ echo the seething jealousy and boundless admiration Kschessinska provoked during her time.  Having narrowly escaped the Bolshevik bloodbath, for fifty years she taught ballet in Paris where she died only a few months before her hundredth birthday, in 1971.”

Schrader is the legendary writer of “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.” His directing credits include “American Gigolo and “Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters.”

The film will be made in collaboration with Russian producer Vladimir Vinokur and his partner the Russian ballet impresario Vladislav Moskalev.