We decided to revive a series of articles codenamed “Yakutia and Hollywood”. Once they were already published here, but due to a number of objective reasons, the digital medium was not able to save this information. So, without delaying the plot for the opportunity to pour yourself tea and make a sandwich, we restore our trilogy from the third part (let it be in reverse order).
In Yakutia, rumors keep appearing that before the filming of Star Wars, George Lucas visited Yakutia. In search of inspiration and landscapes for filming. As the legend goes, Lucas’s team got into a difficult situation conquering the cold republic: their cars simply refused to go. The locals moved them to an UAZ, so they were able to continue the journey. So, they called the UAZ «Русси Джиппи» (Russian jeep). It remains a mystery whether it is true or not, but Hollywood stars still ether visited Yakutia or know and talk about it.
So, moving from theory to practice, in which world celebrities’ lives did Yakutia “leave its mark?”
Ewan McGregor, 2004
In 2004, a motorcycle tour around the globe passed through Yakutia. Ewan McGregor, who starred in Star Wars and Moulin Rouge!, traveled all the way there. He did it with the English TV presenter, travel writer and actor Charlie Boorman. Later, the actors admitted traveling in the Sakha Republic was the hardest. It is not surprising, because they were in Yakutia in the beginning of summer and had to face the consequences of a recent flood on the Kolyma Highway. In conversations, this route takes on an eerie context, because it is called the “Road of Bones”. In general, it is good that the trip took place in summer, and not in winter.
TV reports about “Long Way Round” journey were shown around the world, the book and DVD about it broke all popularity records. “Long Way Round” motorcycle tour not only brought pleasure and pride to the travelers for their success, but also helped raise several hundred thousand dollars for charity.
Roy Jones Jr., 2012
Yakutsk was honored with a visit by a famous American boxer. He participated in “Explosion” sports show, which was also held in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Krasnoyarsk. Roy visited the Yakutia’s Treasury, tasted Yakut stroganina, and held a master class for young boxers.
Tom Hardy, 2012
Leonardo DiCaprio’s Inception and The Revenant co-star Tom Hardy visited Yakutia in 2012. His journey from Yakutsk to Oymyakon was organized by Discovery Channel. As very accurately described then, the American actor kicked it up a notch. He did not just “glance” at Oymyakon and Yakutsk, but went to a local grill bar, drove along the famous “Road of Bones”, dipped in a spring in -37ºC, visited a banya (a sauna), went to locals’ places and saw his film in Lena cinema. This very seat is now adorned with an embroidery stating that this is the place where Tom Hardy himself sat.
The popular singer has not been to Yakutia, but the star has a piece of it – Sakha silver jewelry, bastynga. This happened in June 2013 at her concert in Amsterdam, where she invited a Yakut woman who drew her in Yakut national jewelry. The girl was able not just to see the world star, but also to give her a gift – inscribed book and bastynga. Many Yakutians watched Rihanna notice the drawing, and later meet the girl.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, 2014
Iron Arnie became interested in Yakut national sport with a wooden stick – Mas-wrestling. Mas-wrestling was presented for the first time in Columbus in 2014. It was so popular with ordinary viewers and organizers that the following year it was included in the official program of the world-famous Arnold Sports Festival named after the star. And in 2016, during one of the fights, Arnold Schwarzenegger himself approached the Mas-wrestling platform surrounded by bodyguards. Apparently, he did not just come to greet the athletes, but was genuinely interested in a new sport. He simply sat down on the stage, admiring them out loud. And he was so captured by a fight between huge Mas-wrestlers that he did not hide his emotions and could not resist taking a selfie against the fight for Instagram. At the end of the fight, he gave a standing ovation for the athletes. Close attention of such an authoritative person pleased everyone there with no exception. Everyone who had the opportunity tried to capture this historic moment.
Then the chief referee Ivan Belolyubsky presented him gifts brought from the home of Mas-wrestling. The Terminator star was very moved. He clearly liked souvenirs from far-away Yakutia: a madgyny figurine – an engraved wooden stick with the name of the world championship and a custom made sweatshirt with the logo of the International Mas-wrestling Federation.
And since 2018, Arnie’s visit to Yakutsk is being negotiated with his managers.
Steven Seagal, 2015
“Nico stopped air terrorists and landed the plane in Mirny” – this is how fans imagined the arrival of the legend of 80’s and 90’s action films Steven Seagal in Yakutia. Seagal visited Yakutia for a reason: in 2016, he received a Russian passport personally from the country’s President Vladimir Putin. And it happened not by chance and for nothing, but as a result of quite objective factors. “We took DNA tests and learned that I have ancestors from Baikal and Yakutia,” Seagal shared in 2016.
Indeed, in search of his Yakut roots, he visited Yakutia in August 2015. According to him, his paternal grandfather emigrated to the United States from Russia after the October Revolution. As a child, he already knew that his grandfather was either Mongol, or Kalmyk, or Buryat. Thus, the actor traveled to Kazakhstan, Tuva, Kalmykia, Buryatia, and Yakutia.
“In general, I’m a Russian Mongol. Yakuts also belong to the Mongoloid race, so their culture is my culture,” Steven Seagal said during his visit to the diamond capital of Yakutia.
Jesse Eisenberg, 2016
In an interview, the star of The Social Network and Now You See Me Jesse Eisenberg told about a trip to Yakutsk with his Russian girlfriend Anna Strout. He told the journalist that tourists always know the country better than its citizens. “Have you ever seen snowdrifts in Yakutsk? This is something incredible! I just didn’t know how to walk on them,” Jesse was genuinely surprised.
However, it is unknown whether it was in 2016 or earlier. One thing remains accurate: he visited Yakutsk in winter.
Tom Hanks, 2016
Many Yakut people watched the famous ultra runner, visually impaired Pyotr Naumov, run all over Russia. After an ultramarathon dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Victory through the Hero Cities and Cities of Military Glory, the famous Yakut extreme runner Pyotr Naumov expressed his intention to achieve more. He already had numerous marathons through his native Yakutia and Russia, and the Yakut “Forrest Gump” could not sit on his hands, or rather legs. The catalyst for another grandiose campaign was an idea that had stuck in his head back in 2010: a multi-stage round-the-world marathon.
After learning about this idea, Hollywood actor Tom Hanks supported a visually impaired athlete from Yakutia. The famous actor who played Forrest Gump was asked to make a video saying “Run, Pyotr, run!” however, the Hollywood star said that he will do more than just shoot a video. The actor said that he is ready to meet with Pyotr in person if he makes half of his way. Tom offered to meet him in the US and help him return home. However, due to his health and difficulties with the laws in the United States, Naumov could not realize his dream.
Leonardo DiCaprio, 2016
Many people know that Yakut fans invented their own Oscar. In 2016, one of these statuettes went from Yakut fans to Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio. The people’s “Oscar” was made from 1,386 grams of silver and 3.49 grams of gold. 144 fans took part in the “Oscar for Leo!” campaign.
After receiving an unusual award, the star of Titanic and The Revenant made a post on his Instagram, thanking the residents of Yakutia for their wonderful gift.
“Thank you to the people of Yakutia for this wonderful gift, especially all of the women who gathered and donated the materials that went into creating the statue. As they wrote in their letter, Yakutia is home to the coldest inhabited place not only in Russia, but also on Earth – and the region is extremely vulnerable to climate change. Rising temperatures pose a major threat to its people, their way of life and their natural habitat,” he wrote.
His post caused an unprecedented stir, and Yakutia waited for the actor at Ysyakh and Yakut film festival.
George R.R. Martin, 2019
Another Elley figurine from Yakutian fans went to Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin. This is Jon Snow figurine, which consists of sterling silver, mammoth bone, and obsidian (a type of volcanic glass). When choosing an image for the statuette to George R.R. Martin, fans stopped at the Night’s Watch. According to fans, the wall from Game of Thrones has a real embodiment in Yakutia – the Lena pillars included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The publication that a “wall” was found in Yakutia was reposted on numerous sites and social media pages. Isn’t this a high-quality project for image-building and telling about tourism in Yakutia?
The award was delivered to the recipient by 6 Handshakes rule. At the end of July 2019, the statuette was delivered to the writer’s assistant Janet Severance.
“I, George R.R. Martin, would like to thank my fans from Yakutsk, if I understand correctly, from Russia, for sending me this beautiful statuette award. It looks amazing and it’s a really great gesture from your side. I’m very happy that you like my books, and yes, I’m working on two more books, so you can enjoy them in the future. And I apologize for the fact that I can’t get it from you personally, but I assure you that I will treasure it,” the writer shared.
With the statuette, the writer received Olonkho book in English. “The main goal has been achieved – we wanted the writer to learn about Yakuts as connoisseurs of the epic genre. And we hope that after reading a book about Olonkho, George R.R. Martin will mention our people in some of his works,” one of the project authors shared.
Talking about the stars who have not only visited or touched Yakutia, we can’t forget a famous Japanese actor, the star of the film based on Mortal Kombat cult classic game, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. He was filmed in Yakutia for his new film about Genghis Khan called By the Will of Genghis Khan. He has a memorable role – a bodyguard who is ready to die for his mistress. Despite the failure, this film is still the most ambitious Yakut film.
P.S. “Oscar for Leo!” and “Elley” are the beginning of a permanent award. As the organizers shared, they have not yet decided on the next candidate for the award. The main thing is the theme, the campaign should unite people... But it is definite that the next recipient of the statuette will be the person who reflects the theme of the North or the cold most clearly. This means that this will soon be able to be replenished.