Donatas Banionis

Donatas Banionis (28 April 1924 – 4 September 2014) was a Lithuanian Soviet 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.[1][2]

Donatas Banionis
Дoнатас Баниoнис.jpg
Born(1924-04-28)28 April 1924
Died4 September 2014(2014-09-04) (aged 90)
Years active1941–2013

Banionis began his career with some films in Lithuanian, but he would later play mainly in Russian language films (although his voice was dubbed by Russian actors). He has also worked outside the USSR like in the title role Francisco Goya of the USSR-GDR coproduction Goya or the Hard Way to Enlightenment (1971), directed by Konrad Wolf and in the title role as Ludwig van Beethoven in the 1976 DEFA-production Beethoven - Tage aus einem Leben. Aside from films, he was a popular stage actor in Panevėžys, where he acted since the age of 17, and which was frequented by Donatas' fans from all over the former Soviet Union. His first teacher was Juozas Miltinis. He acted in Vilnius, in the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre.

Vladimir Putin once stated that Banionis' part in the 1968 Soviet spy film Dead Season was the reason why he joined the KGB.[3]


Early life and career beginningsEdit

Donatas Banionis was born on April 28, 1924 in Kaunas, Lithuania, to a family of laborers. His father was Juozas Banionis and his mother Ona Blažaitytė Banionienė.[1][2]

He graduated from the First Kaunas Handicraft School, specializing in ceramics. During his studies he participated in a drama club.[1][2]

In 1940 in Kaunas, based on the amateur collective that existed at the House of Labor, a professional theater was created, which was headed by the young director Juozas Miltinis, and soon the theater moved to Panevėžys. In 1941 Donatas Banionis was admitted to the troupe.[1][2]

In 1944, Banionis graduated from the studio at the Panevėžys Theater, becoming a professional actor.[1][2]

In 1984 he graduated from the State Conservatory of the Lithuanian SSR (now the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater).[1][2]


On the stage, Donatas Banionis played over 100 characters. He acted in the plays "The Inspector General" based on Nikolai Gogol's play (1945), "Liar" based on the play Carlo Goldoni (1952), "How the Steel Was Tempered" based on the novel by Nikolai Ostrovsky (1952), "Gedda Gabler" based on Henrik Ibsen (1957), "There, Behind the Door" based on the work of Wolfgang Borchert (1966), "The Chair" after the play by Valery Vrublevskaya (1980), etc.[1][2]

In the early 1980s, after the retirement of Juozas Miltinis, Banionis was appointed the chief director of the Panevėžys Theater, assuming, in addition to problems of a creative nature, the entire burden of purely economic problems: preparation for tours, replenishment of the troupe. Banionis led the theatre until the year 1988. The performances staged during this time included "Amadeus", "Three sacks of weeds" and "Evening".[1][2]

In the 1990s, the actor performed in the plays "Mindaugas" by Justinas Marcinkevičius (1994), "On the Golden Lake" by Ernest Thompson (1996), "The Circle" by Somerset Maugham (1996), "Love Letters" by Albert Garni (1997)[1][2]


In 1947, Banionis appeared in the film Marytė. However, his cinematic debut is considered to be the film Adam wants to be a Man (1959) by director Vytautas Žalakevičius, then Banionis starred in his picture The Chronicle of One Day (1964). Banionis' fame came after the film by Žalakevičius Nobody Wanted to Die (1965). The actor's work in the film by Savva Kulish Dead Season (1968) earned him great popularity.[1][2]

Donatas Banionis starred in the films Nobody Wanted to Die (1965), The Little Prince (1966), Operation Trust (1967), King Lear (1970), Goya or the Hard Way to Enlightenment (1971), The Life and Death of Ferdinand Luce (1976), Beethoven — Days of a Life (1976), Armed and Dangerous (1976), Commander of the Lucky "Pike" (1972), The Flight of Mr. McKinley (1975), Centaurs (1978), Niccolo Paganini (1982), Zmielov (1985), Living Target (1990), Without Evidence (1992), Anna (1996) Yard (1999), Tadas Blinda, The Beginning (2011), etc.[1][2]

One of the best-known works of the actor was the role of Kris Kelvin in the film of Andrei Tarkovsky Solaris (1972).[1][2]

Other activitiesEdit

Donatas Banionis was a member of the Jurgis Baltrušaitis Foundation, whose goal is to promote cultural ties and expand humanitarian cooperation between Lithuania and Russia.[1][2]

Member of the CPSU since 1960. Member of the Communist Party of Lithuania. Member of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union of the 9th convocation (1974-1979).[1][2]

He is the author of memoir prose "I've wanted to Act since My Childhood" (2006).[1][2]

Illness and deathEdit

In his later years, the actor suffered from heart problems. He was stitched with a heart stimulant, then he underwent a long rehabilitation course.

Banionis died on 4 September 2014 from a stroke. He was 90 years old.[4]


Donatas Banionis is a People's Artist of the USSR (1974), winner of the All-Union Film Festival in the category "Best Actor Award" (1966), laureate of the State Prizes of the USSR (1967, 1977, for participation in the films Nobody Wanted to Die and The Flight of Mr. McKinley).[1][2]

Among the awards of Donatas Banionis - the Order of Gediminas III degree (1994), the medal. Khanzhonkov in the nomination "For outstanding contribution to the cinema" (1999), the Russian Friendship Orders (1999) and Honor (2009), the Grand Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit for Lithuania (2004), the National Award of Lithuania in the field of culture and art (2013).[1][2]

Donatas Banionis was repeatedly awarded with prizes of international film festivals. At the film festival of the CIS and Baltic countries "Kinoshok" in 1999 he was awarded with a special prize "Lady luck" named after Pavel Luspekaev "for courage and outstanding merits in creativity."[1][2]

In 1999 he became an Honorary Citizen of the city of Panevėžys.[1][2]

Personal lifeEdit

His wife was actress Ona Banionis (1924-2008). They had two sons - Egidijus (1948-1993), a historian, posthumously awarded the State Prize in the field of science, and Raymundas (born in 1957), director.[1][2]

Selected filmographyEdit

  • Marytė (1947) as Peter
  • Adam Wants To Be a Man (1959) as Mr. Dausa
  • A Day's Chronicle (1963) as Donatas
  • Mars, mars! Tra-ta-ta! (1964) as major Varnalesa
  • Nobody Wanted to Die (1966) as Pirmininkas
  • Beware of the Car (1966) as pastor
  • Malenkiy prints (1966) as Adult
  • Zhitiye i vozneseniye Yurasya Bratchika (1967) as jesuit Bosyatsky
  • Dead Season (1968) as Ladeinikov
  • The Red Tent (1969) as Adalberto Mariano
  • King Lear (1971) as Duke of Albany
  • Goya or the Hard Way to Enlightenment (1971) as Goya
  • Solaris (1972) as Kris Kelvin
  • Kapteinis Dzeks (1972) as Mitya
  • Commander of the Lucky "Pike" (1973) as Viktor Sherknis
  • Otkrytiye (1974) as Sergey Matveyevich Yuryshev
  • The Flight of Mr. McKinley (1975) as Mr. McKinley
  • Beethoven - Tage aus einem Leben (1976) as Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Mama, I'm Alive (1977) as Major Mauris
  • Armed and Dangerous (1977) as Gabriel Conroy
  • Where were you, Odysseus? (1978, TV Mini-Series) as Soviet intelligence officer Odyssey
  • Centaurs (1978) as Salvador Allende, chilský prezident
  • Bag of the Collector (1979) as Alexei Tulyakov
  • Nesėtų rugių žydėjimas (1979) as Antanas Petrusonis
  • Territory (1979) as Ilya Chinkov
  • The Suicide Club, or the Adventures of a Titled Person (1981, TV Movie) as Nick Nichols, aka The Chairman
  • Andrius (1980) as Rauplenas
  • Faktas (1981) as Colonel Titel
  • Medaus menuo Amerikoje (1981) as Alan
  • Atsiprasau (1982) as Guest from Vilnius
  • Detskiy mir (1982) as Mikhail Rasporkin
  • Zmeelov (1985) as Mitrich-Kolobok
  • The Dolphin's Cry (1986) as Submarine Chaplain
  • Zagon (1988) as Harry Malstoun
  • Na iskhode nochi (1988) as Eiman
  • The 13th Apostle (1988) as Otets
  • Entrance to the Labyrinth (1990, TV Mini-Series) as Mazardi
  • Zhivaja mishen (1990) as Pavel Vasilievitch
  • Sem dney posle ubiystva (1991) as Sledovatel
  • Yatrinskaya vedma (1991) as voevoda Korsak
  • Pyushchye krovi (1991) as Telyaev
  • Depressiya (1991) as Starik
  • Shlyaktich zavalna (1994) as pan Tvardovsky
  • Anna (1996)
  • Kiemas (1999) as The old man
  • Tolko raz... (2002) as Aleksandr Yanovitch
  • Saga drevnikh bulgar. Skazanie Olgi Svyatoy (2005)
  • Saga drevnikh bulgar: Lestvitsa Vladimira Krasnoye Solnyshko (2005) as Sveneld
  • Anastasia (2006, TV Movie) as father
  • Attack on Leningrad (2009) as Toyvo (uncredited)
  • Tadas Blinda. Start (2011) as Mikhail Muravyov (final film role)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Донатас Банионис. Биография". RIA Novosti.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Донатас Банионис - биография, информация, личная жизнь". Shtuki Dryuki.
  3. ^ "How the Actor Donatas Banionis Inspired Vladimir Putin to Become a Spy". The Daily Retrieved 5 September 2014.
  4. ^ "Soviet-Era Actor Who Inspired Vladimir Putin Dies at 90". Hollywood 5 September 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2014.

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