Rodion (Rodin) Rafailovich Nahapetov was born January 21, 1944, in Pyatikhatki, located in the Dnepropetrovsk region of the Ukraine. His mother, Galina Antonovna Prokopenko was a schoolteacher by profession. During the Nazi occupation, Galina was very involved in the underground organization “Motherland” that operated in Krivoi Rog.
Rodion was delivered by Russian soldiers during the liberation of the Ukraine. Galina aptly named her son “Rodina,” which means “Motherland.” Later, his name was changed to Rodion.
Rodion’s father, Raphael Nahapetov, never met his son. After the war, Raphael returned to his family. Galina never married.
Rodion lived with his grandmother in the village of Skelevatka (a suburb of Krivoi Rog) until he was five-years-old.
In 1950, Galina and Rodion moved to the city of Dniepropetrovsk. She found a job teaching in Elementary School Number 34. Rodion entered first grade in this school. The job of a teacher paid very little. Galina and Rodion were living in poverty with no permanent home.
The war had weakened Galina Prokopenko’s health. By the early 1950s she was suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. The management of the school decided it was best to place Rodion in an orphanage on a temporary basis.
Rodion spent almost two years in the orphanage – located in the city of Novomoskovsk (Dniepropetrovsk region). Galina’s health improved and the school helped her procure a small room in a communal apartment. She brought ten-year-old Rodion home from the orphanage and he resumed his place in school.
Rodion was once asked to play the part of a bear in a school play celebrating the new year. Wearing a mask, Rodion began to growl fiercely and imitate the bear so well the students applauded his performance enthusiastically. This childhood experience of acceptance stayed with Rodion and influenced his professional path in the days to come.
In 1960, Rodion traveled to Moscow after receiving his high school diploma. His goal was to be accepted in the acting department of VGIK (USSR University of Cinema). This was a tremendous challenge as the VGIK was known to be fiercely competitive. Rodion played the part of an old man for his audition, reading a passage from Gorky’s novel “Childhood.”
Renowned masters of Russian cinema, Sergei Gerasimov and Tamara Makarova were recruiting actors for their VGIK class. They immediately recognized the talent in the sixteen-year old. Rodion found himself among the lucky few to be accepted into the acting department of this prestigious university.
Galina Prokopenko remained in Dniepropetrovsk while Rodion moved into the dormitory of the Institute of Cinematography in Moscow.
Rodion began serious acting in his third year of studies. His debut role was an engineer named Gena in V. M. Shukshin’s film, “There Lived Such a Lad.”
The most important acting challenge for Rodion was playing the young Vladimir Lenin in director Mark Donskoy’s “A Mother’s Heart” and “A Mother’s Loyalty.”
Rodion was only twenty-years-old and was required to portray the life of Lenin over a period of 31 years (age 16 to 47). His talent to play much older people served him well. In response to his lauded performance of Lenin, Rodion received the prestigious Moscow Komsomol Award and was presented the Order of Merit medal.
The roles portrayed by Rodion Nahapetov in the 1960s gained tremendous popularity while garnering a loyal following of fans. Among his most famous films are “Tenderness” and “In Love
Rodion was presented the Best Actor award at the USSR Film Festival in Minsk for his portrayal of Maxim Isaev in the film, “Password Not Needed.”
During this period Rodion’s mother had become seriously ill. The last film she saw which starred her son was “A Mother’s Heart.” Galina Prokopenko died in Moscow in 1966. Rodion grieved deeply over the death of his beloved mother.
Despite his marked success in acting, Rodion chose to return to VKIG to widen the scope of his talent and study directing.
His debut work as a director “With You and Without You” was filmed at Mosfilm Studios in Moscow in 1973. The film was popular and well-accepted by critics. It won the Golden Femina humanities award in Brussels.
In 1975, Nikita Mikhalkov chose Rodion for the lead role of Pototsky in “Slave of Love.” This role brought major fame to Rodion. The film remains a classic in international cinema – applauded by critics and audiences.
One of Rodion’s most famous roles was playing pilot Belobrov in the classic film “Torpedo Bombers.” In 1985 he received The Gold Medal award (equivalent to an Academy Award) for this role.
Rodion remained active in films and continued his directorial work. He directed such films as “To the Back of Beyond,” “Enemies” by Maxim Gorky, “Umbrella for Newlyweds,” “The Follower” and “At The Close of Night.”
Among Rodion’s favorite films is “Don’t Shoot White Swans” based on the novel by Boris Vasiliev. A more unique, artistically musical film is “About You.” This film received the Golden Nymph award (top prize) at the International Television Film Festival in Monte Carlo.
Rodion collaborated with Y. Nikolin on the script “The Follower.” Rodion also co-wrote the script “About You” with R. Kushnerovich
In 1987 Rodion filmed “At The Close of Night.” This epic film followed the beginning days of World War II. Twentieth Century Fox purchased it for international distribution. The studio sold the film to 91 countries around the world.
Rodion was married to actress Vera Glagoleva from 1974 to 1988. They had collaborations in many films. Their first daughter Anna was born in 1978. Their second daughter Maria was born in 1980.
Rodion Nahapetov met Natasha Shliapnikoff in 1988.
Rodion had been invited to Los Angeles to participate in the advertising campaign promoting the Twentieth Century Fox international release of his film “At The Close of Night.” Natasha was a media consultant to the Association of Independent Television Stations and was a guest at the film’s premiere.
Natasha was fascinated by the movie and expressed her desire to manage Rodion’s career in the United States. She began introducing him to several influential studio executives in Hollywood. It was a more difficult road in America, but projects started to materialize.
Natasha hails from a Russian family. She was born in Harbin, China in 1957. From China, the Shliapnikoff family immigrated to Chile. In 1966, the family moved to the United States – settling in San Francisco.
Rodion writes in great detail about the American period of his life in his biographical book “In Love.” (Vagrius Publishing 1999.)
The professional relationship between Natasha and Rodion grew into a personal one. The couple married in 1991.
Twentieth Century Fox Studios expressed interest in another of Rodion’s scripts, “Two Couple,” co-written with Ronald Parker. Talks began with Roger Birnbaum, the president of the studio. Oscar winning actress, Jessica Lange also came on board the project.
An agreement was signed with Fox. The writing and development of the script lasted almost two years; however, Fox studios did not make the film and the project was put on indefinite hold.
In 1993, Rodion and Natasha formed their own independent production company, RGI Productions, Inc.
In 1995, Rodion directed his first American film “Stir.” Natasha produced the film. Their collaboration was a success.
A DIFFERENT PATH
Rodion and Natasha’s lives took an unexpected turn when late one evening, Rodion received a call from a desperate father in Russia.
His eight-month-old daughter (Anna) was suffering from a life-threatening congenital heart defect. This phone call was a desperate attempt to try and save his daughter. The father had seen Rodion portraying heroic roles in his films. He was hoping Rodion would be a hero in real life and help save his child.
Ironically, Rodion had suffered with a congenital heart disease as a child. When he heard this man’s plea for help, he instinctively responded.
Natasha contacted Dr. Taro Yokoyama at St. Vincent’s Medical Center and explained the child needed immediate help but this type of surgery was not available in Russia. Dr. Yokoyama, with the help of his wife Rita and his cardiac team, agreed to help Anna. The little girl was saved while triggering a miraculous chain of events that changed Anna and Rodion’s lives forever.
The news of Anna's surgery began a wave of calls from Russian parents whose children were dying from congenital heart disease.
Anna’s new life resulted in the birth of the nonprofit Nahapetov Friendship Foundation (NFF). The NFF is a cooperative effort between Americans and Russians working toward saving the lives of children who could not receive the medical care in the former Soviet Union. The majority of these children would have died before reaching their first birthday.
Rodion and Natasha dedicated themselves to this catastrophic medical problem. They took several leading American cardiac specialists to Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kazan. They organized several seminars and lectures enabling the American and Russian doctors to communicate on vital medical information.
Natasha and Rodion spent many hours with the parents and their children trying to gain a more in depth understanding of their situations and how they could be of assistance.
In 1995, Rodion and Natasha organized a top cardiac team of specialists from Stanford University Medical Center. Heart surgeon Bruce Reitz headed this 25-person, fully integrated medical team. Their mission took them to Kazan where they performed 32 open-heart surgeries and diagnosed more than 100 additional children for future treatments.
Approximately 10 tons of essential medical equipment and supplies were airlifted to Russia through the efforts of Stanford and The Nahapetov Friendship Foundation. The Russian and American doctors worked side-by-side giving a second chance to children with life-threatening heart conditions. They formed professional friendships that have lasted to this day.
Three years later the Nahapetov Friendship Foundation took another team of cardiac specialists from UCLA Medical Center to Russia. Notable heart surgeon, Hillel Laks, headed this team. They traveled to the Bakulev Heart Institute in Moscow where they performed surgeries on neonates (newborns). This collaborative effort resulted in saving precious new lives while aiding the training of Russian doctors.
The surgeries performed by Dr. Laks were shown to all Russian hospital staff specializing in heart surgeries. Dr. Leo Bokeria of the Bakulev Center praised the high quality and expertise of the American team from UCLA.
Additionally, the foundation brought many children to the United States for open heart surgeries. Cedars Sinai, and various other hospitals generously opened their doors to the children. The work of the Nahapetov Friendship Foundation continues.
Rodion Nahapetov never broke his ties with Russia.
A great relationship developed between Rodion and Channel One Television (ORT) in Russia.
In 2000, Channel One asked Rodion to direct three episodes of their top-rated television series “Lethal Force.” Three segments titled “Mission Possible,” filmed in Los Angeles, became the most popular of the entire series.
After this success, Channel One asked Rodion to create a series for them. This resulted in the popular 12-part “Russians in The City of Angels” in 2002. The ambitious project was the first time a Russian television network filmed an entire series in the United States.
Several famous Russian actors (Nikolaev, Fedoseeva-Shukshina, E. Rednikova and Rodion Nahapetov) were invited to participate. Many well-known American actors (Gary Busey, Eric Roberts, Sean Young, Lane Davies, Erik Estrada) were also in the series. Rodion wrote, starred in and directed the series. Natasha was the producer.
Rodion directed the comedy “My Big Armenian Wedding” with the participation of Armenian and Russian stars.
In 2007, Rodion Nahapetov wrote and directed the 2007 psychological thriller, “Contamination.”
In 2008, at the International Siena Film Festival (Italy) Rodion Nahapetov received a prestigious humanitarian award from UNICEF for his film “Contamination.”
Several additional films directed and produced by Rodion and Natasha are being distributed in the United States and internationally: “Border Blues,” “Moscow Days, L.A. Nights,” “Trilogy of Murder,” and “Blood of Success.”
In 2009 Rodion was the Chairman of the Jury for the International Film festival in Cheboksary.
Rodion and Natasha have recently developed three Russian film projects.
- “The Passage.” Written by Rodion Nahapetov, this is a recollection of his mother’s life as a partisan fighter during the Nazi occupation in the Ukraine.
- “While we are Together.” A story of a large family in the period of the unrest in 1990s Russia.
- “Dzhan.” From the novel of Andrei Platonov.
Presently, Rodion is collaborating with legendary American writer, Ray Bradbury. He has written a screenplay “Dandelion Wine” based upon Ray Bradbury’s novel of the same name. The project is now ready for production and blessed by Mr. Bradbury as a work “close to his heart.”
Rodion and Natasha have two independent production companies in the United States; RGI Productions, Inc. and Homeland Productions, Inc. In Moscow, they have a production film company called “Volga.”
Rodion Nahapetov is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America.
Rodion’s oldest daughter Anna is a ballerina with the Bolshoi Theatre Ballet and an actress in films and theatre. His younger daughter Maria is an artist whose paintings are sought by private collectors.
Natasha and Rodion’s daughter, Katia, is a photographer and singer-songwriter who performs in the finer clubs of Los Angeles.
Rodion has a granddaughter, Paulina, born in 2006 to parents Anna Nahapetova and Egor Simachev and a grandson, Kiril, born in 2007 to parents Maria Nahapetova and Eugene Dzyura.