In the late 1960s, when a trilogy based on the novel by P. Blyakhin "The Red Devils" was released, the actors who played the main roles in the film became the most popular teenagers in the USSR. The picture was literally "disassembled into quotes", to watch and revise it in cinemas went many times "all over the yard". All over the country, millions of children played the "elusive" ones, imitating the four brave avengers, driving around the yard with homemade revolvers and singing: "… just whisper to us, we will come to our aid."
The years 1960-1970 were marked by the rise of Soviet cinema. Most of the films of that period were included in the golden fund of Russian cinema. And the work of director Edmont Keosayan is no exception. The premiere screening of the artistic adventure film "The Elusive Avengers" in the capital's cinema "October" took place on April 29, 1967. After the stunning success of the film, the Mosfilm studio filmed two more historical and heroic films: The New Adventures of the Elusive Avengers (1968) and The Crown of the Russian Empire, or The Elusive Again (1970). The first film of the trilogy became truly legendary. Having become the leader of the box office, in the first year alone, he gathered an audience of about 55 million people. For the creation of "The Elusive Avengers" E. Keosayan was awarded the title of Laureate of the Lenin Komsomol Prize. The four heroes of the Civil War, brave fighters for justice, gained all-Union fame. And as is often the case in the cinema, identified with their characters, young actors became idols of adolescents of those years.
The elusive four avengers - Danka Shchus (Viktor Kosykh), Ksanka Shchus (Valentina Kurdyukova), former high school student Valera Meshcheryakov (Mikhail Metelkin), Yashka-gypsy (Vasily Vasilyev).
Director Edmond Keosayan, conceiving a film about the adventures of four brave friends, wanted to shoot it as an interesting heroic story-tale for his 6-year-old son David. When choosing the actors, difficulties arose - the students of VGIK, whom they planned to shoot, looked older than it was supposed by the script. There was only one way out - to look for talented and gifted children among 14-16 year olds and work with amateur artists. Surprisingly, their parents played a certain role in the fact that these guys had the right to debut.
The candidate for the role of Danka Shchusya was immediately determined. Viktor Kosykh was already a fairly well-known young actor - at Mosfilm, where his stepfather Ivan Kosykh worked, he had already starred in five films, including “They Call, Open the Door”, “Father of a Soldier”, “Trains Are Passing the Windows”. The guy was suitable in all respects - type, acting experience, the ability to do many movie stunts, etc. His father helped to work on the image, and also participated in the filming with Viktor (he plays the role of one of Burnash's bandits).
For the role of the second young avenger, Victor advised to take Misha Metelkin, with whom they studied together and in 1965 acted in films. But Keosayan was looking for a taller and stronger guy and did not take Mikhail, although, according to external data, he fully corresponded to the role of an intelligent schoolboy Valery Mikhailovich Meshcheryakov. His father came to the aid of the teenager upset by such a director's decision. Major General of the Army, who served in the cavalry S.M. Budyonny, Mikhail Vasilyevich took up the physical training of his son. Everything was used, including a trophy saber and a cavalry saddle. Three months of enhanced nutrition and training gave the result - the strengthened and matured Mikhail, who was able to grow up a little during this time, was approved for the role of Valerka the gymnasium student.
In search of a desperate and courageous girl of "boyish" character and appearance (this is exactly what Ksanka was supposed to be according to the script), the director's assistants went around more than one sports school and circus studio. Valya Kurdyukova was not only perfectly prepared physically, but also turned out to be surprisingly similar to her brother in the film Danka. The girl was seriously involved in artistic gymnastics, participated in all-around competitions. There was no doubt that she would be able to ride a horse and stop the plane (as it was supposed in the script).Sociable and cheerful, Valya once, in response to one of her inventions, pranks, heard from her mother: "You only have to act in films." So it turned out that my mother's wish came true.
Vasya Vasiliev learned that they were looking for a gypsy boy for filming from his distant relative, actor Yuri Tsurilo, who worked at the Mosfilm studio. Departing from his village in the Vladimir region to Moscow, Vasily received an order from his father and mother - be such that we would not be ashamed of you. There was little hope that he would be taken for the role, and Vasily took two brothers with him. But the natural musicality, plasticity and fiery character of the black-eyed handsome man conquered everyone. And the ability to stay in the saddle of the gypsy does not need to be taught. And Vasily Vasiliev became Yashka the gypsy.
So the team of four film friends - peers, united by a teenage thirst for adventure and a spirit of revolutionary romance - was defined.
How differently the guys came to the cinema, the further fate and personal life of each of the "brave four" developed differently.
The end of work on the trilogy about the elusive fell on the period of growing up of young actors and coincided with the time of their final choice of their profession.
Vitya Kosykh decided to continue his artistic path and from children's cinema to “step” into adulthood. After studying at the Moscow Border School, he enters the VGIK at the faculty of acting. The actor acts in films a lot, but plays roles for the most part in episodes. The most striking acting work of Kosykh's cinematic biography was Danka.
His filmography as a professional actor includes about 50 films. Among the most famous are his works in the films "Young of the Northern Fleet", "Oasis on Fire", "Frontier Dog Scarlet", "Cold Summer of the Fifty-third". In 2001, in the second "age" marriage, Viktor Ivanovich's daughter Katya was born. “She gave me my second, third, and tenth breath," said the actor, overcoming a protracted post-perestroika creative crisis. In recent years, for health reasons, Kosykh worked a little and mostly in a theatrical role, performing at the STD and Temp Theater.
Even during the filming of "The Elusive" Mikhail Metelkin entered the VGIK, but not the acting department, but the production department. Study had to be combined with work in the cinema (films "When September Comes", "On the Way to Lenin"). Drafted into the army in 1973, the young man serves as a military photojournalist for the Moscow Military District, and then becomes the editor of the APN on television. Despite the incoming proposals from directors, Metelkin does not want to continue his acting career, but he is attracted by his creative activity in cinema.
In 1979, Mikhail passed 30 exams as an external student and became a second-year student at the directing department of VGIK. Art short films "Companion" and "Unfinished Portrait" became his student works. Upon graduation, he was offered a job at the "Mosfilm" film studio. Metelkin's directorial debut - feature film "Frosts Have Occurred". But perestroika put an end to creative work in feature and documentary films. Mikhail Mikhailovich goes into the trading business and never returns to his former profession.
The only one of all who immediately after the end of filming in "The Elusive" decided that working in the field of cinematography was not for her, was Valya Kurdyukova. In 1970, she entered the circus school, which she had dreamed of since childhood. A gymnast with a boyish character performs, prancing in an equestrian number and driving around different cities with a circus collective. During her regular tours, Valentina met a young performer of gypsy romances Boris Sandulenko. After the wedding, held in 1973, two children were born one after another - a son and a daughter. Valentina Alekseevna left her circus career once and for all for the sake of her family, to which she devoted and devotes all her time.
Vasya Vasiliev, like Valya Kurdyukova, did not act in films after completing work in the trilogy about the brave avengers. But if the performer of the role of Ksanka did not receive any proposals from the directors, then Yashka the gypsy, on the contrary, was invited to act in films quite a lot. But the young man refused to work in the cinema. Film critics have a term for such performers - an actor of one role.
Before arriving in Moscow to participate in the filming, Vasily planned to link his life with his native village of Vyazniki (Vladimir region). The guy studied well at school, having entered the agricultural technical school, he was going to become a combine operator. But it did not work to return home - a talented and gifted young man was invited to his troupe by the gypsy theater "Romen". Working in this famous collective, Vasily not only performs the traditional repertoire, but also sings romances of his own composition. After graduating from the drama actor's studio at the theater, Vasiliev creates his own musical group. As part of the creative teams of Lenkontsert, he tours throughout the country. Vasily Fedorovich also invites his friends from the famous "Four of the Brave" to these trips to participate in creative meetings with the audience.
So, despite the different fates, the "elusive" maintained a relationship that Vasiliev quite reasonably called a friendship of 45 years in length.
For many, it remains a mystery why the talented gypsy actor did not act in films. Vasily Fedorovich gave the answer to this question in his interviews and a book written by him called "With God in life." The role of Yashka the gypsy set him such a high acting level that he considered all subsequent proposals not interesting. There were few worthy characters, but I wanted to perform in such a way that I would not be ashamed in front of my mother and father. In addition, he perceives the performance of negative roles as a violation of his “Christian integrity”.
For many years Vasily Fedorovich had been hatching the idea of creating his own creative center. He wanted to collect in it the legendary four "elusive avengers". But for each of them the dashing perestroika 90s mercilessly walked. Danka was left practically without acting work, and the collapse of the first family and his creative crisis were associated with this. Ksanka and her husband suffered misfortune - their 17-year-old son died after a serious illness. Valerka, a high school student, had to change her occupation and leave the cinema. The musical and artistic activity of Yashka-Tsygan with the collapse of Lenkontsert was at the end and he and his wife moved to Tver. Currently, Vasily Fedorovich Vasiliev is active in the All-Russian Union of Gypsies. In his city, he managed to create and lead a cultural center. But his dream was not destined to come true. Mikhail Mikhailovich Metelkin is no longer involved in directing. Valentina Alekseevna Kurdyukova devoted herself entirely to her family. And in 2011, one of the four died - at the 61st year, the theater and film actor Viktor Ivanovich Kosykh passed away.
It would seem that the youthful friendship lasting several decades has come to naught. But this is not the case. Indeed, in the hearts of the actors themselves and in the perception of the audience there are those romantic teenagers who were the legendary heroes of "The Elusive Avengers" in their 16s.