Why didn’t Hollywood screen Vasily Aksenov’s novel “Crimea Island”?

In January 2005, during the ceremony “Golden Eagle” Vasily Aksenov (1932–2009) in his ironic manner told me about the Hollywood project to screen his legendary novel “Crimea Island”.

This brilliant mixture of satire, fiction and alternative history was written by Aksenov back in the USSR, in 1979, and published two years later in America, in the early period of emigration of the writer.

- In the first half of the 1980s, during the presidency of Reagan — told me Vasily Aksenov — the cold war and confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union has increased dramatically. And Hollywood was very interested in my novel “Crimea Island”. Of course, it was a very expensive film project. It was planned to participate of movie stars. And if this film was made, I would probably become a millionaire (and who knows, I do not exclude, would have earned even more than Nabokov on Hollywood “Lolita”). I had a great mood, the script was ready, and soon the shooting should have started. But then Gorbachev’s perestroika intervened, which turned Reagan and American politics in general towards active negotiations with the USSR. And in Hollywood has always reacted very quickly to the political situation: filming “Crimea Islands” in the eyes of American producers has lost relevance. Hollywood in the second half of the 1980s was ready to shoot a dozen of some pro-Soviet militants like “Red Heat” with Schwarzenegger, but not politically sharp “Crimea Island” …

- Do you now hope for a Russian adaptation of your novel?

- Honestly, I have little hope. The project is very expensive, much more expensive than the film adaptation of my novel “The Moscow Saga” (2004), which is now nominated for “Golden Eagle”. In addition, I somehow do not see a Russian director who can adequately screen my “Island of Crimea” …

Vasily Aksenov and I talked for a long time. We remembered, for example, how we did scientific research at the Kennan Institute in different years. Aksenov enthusiastically told me about his teaching activities in American universities. But we still returned to the theme of cinema. Aksenov talked about the Soviet screenings of his novels and stories — the films “Colleagues”, “My Little Brother”, “Journey” … (The series for one of his latest novels — “Mysterious Passion”, released in 2015, Vasily Aksenov was no longer destined to see) …

But who knows? Maybe film adaptation of the novel “The Crimean Island” is still ahead?

Alexander Fedorov, 2020

Film Critic and Film Historian