Daywatch (Dnevnoi Dozor): A Russian Fantasy Horror Epic
Casting Of The Dark And Light Ones
At the heart of Day Watch (Dnevnoi Dozor) are the supernatural creatures of both the Day Watch and the Night Watch who wage a nocturnal war when the city of Moscow is asleep. Director Timur Bekmambetov knew that a key to making his film viscerally and emotionally exciting would be finding actors who could stand clearly on opposite sides of the Good and Evil divide. This took a very special casting process.
Bekmambetov began by separating leading Russian actors into two different groups. “I felt that there are actors who look like actors and there are actors who just look like people. We cast the actors who look like actors as the Dark Ones because they are very cool, very original, interesting and proud. But those actors who look like regular people, they were cast as the Light Ones, the members of the Night Watch. So for example, there is the character of Svetlana, the woman who wherever she goes misfortune happens. To play her we cast Maria Poroshina who to me looks like a normal Russian girl from the street. On the other hand, to play the character Alisa from the Day Watch, we chose an actress, Zhanna Friske, who in real life is a famous Russian pop star.”
Taking advantage of Russia’s highly trained ranks of actors, Bekmembatov also put the emphasis on finding those who could handle not only the film’s intense action but also would probe their characters emotional and psychological worlds. He believes this sets Day Watch apart from other modern horror fantasies. “In American fantasy movies the characters aren’t usually so deep,” he comments. “But here we have access to Russian actors who have a very strong schooling in Stanislavsky. So, because of that, we could bring to the fantasy genre very deep characters and very complicated relationships and a lot of complexity of story through the performances.”
Bekmambetov cast Konstantin Khabensky, one of Russia’s most popular actors, in the lead role of Anton Gorodetsky, one of the premier Protectors of Light as a member of the Night Watch. Bekmambatov found Khabensky a perfect match for the wide-ranging role of Anton. “Konstantin is a very good dramatic actor but at the same time he has the skills of a character actor,” says Bekmambetov. “He’s like a clown, he can play funny, he can play extravagant, and it’s a good combination, because to bring the Russian audience into this world of creatures I needed an actor who would be entirely believable.”
As Boris Geser, businessman by day, leader of the Night Watch by night, Bekmambetov cast Vladimir Menshov, the star of the Oscar®-winning film Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears and a multi-talented actor, writer and director. The head of the Protectors of Light for centuries, Geser is both a father figure and a figurehead of all that is good. He is instrumental in saving his comrade Anton from a near-fatal encounter with the Warriors of Darkness.
“Boris is one of the few Russian directors to have won an Oscar, and he is a very Russian person,” notes Bekmambetov. “His image to Russian audiences is like that of political party chief or bureaucrat – so I thought he would be an interesting and a funny person to represent the leader of the Light forces.”
In contrast, as Zavulon, leader of the Day Watch, Bekmambetov called upon Victor Verzhbitskiy, a friend from art school, who appeared in both The Peshavar Waltz and Gladiatrix. A master of all that is evil and dark, Zavulon rules over the Day Watch. Though the Warriors of Darkness have maintained balance with the Protectors of Light, the vampires and shape shifters that make up the Day Watch are desperate to command the soul of the Great One – which will shift the balance of power in their favor.
Filling out the cast are a combination of Russian theatre and film actors, including Galina Tyunina as the Sorceress Olga, Aleksey Chadov as Kostya the young vampire and Valeriy Zolotukhin as Kostya’s father.
All Posts For NightWatch (Interviews, images, trailers).
Part 1: NightWatch To DayWatch (Dnevnoi Dozor) Introduction
Part 2: Inside The Film’s Origin: DayWatch (Dnevnoi Dozor)
Part 3: Casting Of The Dark And Light Ones: DayWatch (Dnevnoi Dozor)
Exclusive Clip: The Chalk