You know Igor Jijikine from this summer’s blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull. He’s also a familiar face from the video game Command & Conquer, and has worked with some of Hollywood’s top directors, including Clint Eastwood. We chat with the Russian born actor, and got his thoughts on working with Indy, doing his own stunts, and breaking into the acting biz.
SOAK: How did you get your start in acting?
Igor Jijikine: My first acting job was in a musical in Las Vegas called Samson and Delilah. They were casting the show in Las Vegas, and a friend of mine told me that I should go out for the part. I had done a little acting in Russia and had already toured with the Moscow Circus, so I had some experience with movement and being in front of an audience. I went out for the role and I fit the physical aspect of the job completely. They had been trying to cast the role for a while, but hadn't found anyone. They wanted someone strong looking, but not like a body builder. The woman playing Delilah was a tall woman and there was a lot of physical action in the show, so it had to be someone strong. When I got the role, they set me up with acting coaches and dance and movement coaches.
After this role, I became famous locally and started booking local commercials, and I realized that I liked acting. I started booking national commercials such as Levi's and Mercedes. Then I worked with a big name photographer named Albert Watson who was doing a book on Las Vegas and he invited me to be a part of it; then he invited me to do a short film with him. I really liked doing the film and decided to take more acting classes. I started going to the University in Los Angeles and looked into the students doing independent films and got involved in a number of those, and started taking more and more classes. After this show, I worked on Jubilee and Cirque du Soleil's Mystere, so that kept me really busy. After those shows ended, I decided to move out to LA and started going to auditions out there. Over time, I met the right people and the right directors. I take lessons from the talented people that I work with. You can learn a lot from other people in the acting business.
SOAK: When did you know that you wanted to be an actor?
Igor: I never thought of being an actor until I started doing commercials and doing the play. Then I tried it and found it interesting. People ask me, how do you know if you want to be an actor? Well, you take classes for two months and if you don't like it, find something else to do.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull / Photography by
SOAK: What movie in your filmography has been your favorite to work on so far?
Igor: Indiana Jones. It was the biggest part and biggest producer and director. It was also the most interesting role to play and I worked with amazing people. You learn from these people. One day working with these people is like taking acting classes for six months. But I enjoy independent movies as well. Doing independent movies is a chance to try a variety of roles that you wouldn’t be able to play in the real world or wouldn't be cast in for a real world acting job.
SOAK: Did you enjoy filming the Indiana Jones movie? We heard that it was a very physical filming process, and you had several injuries, including a dislocated jaw, courtesy of Harrison Ford.
Igor: My jaw was dislocated and then my elbow was broken. I fell really hard and broke my elbow. They had to give me stitches, but we had to finish all the scenes before I went to the hospital, so they bandaged me up to finish the scenes.
I also needed knee surgery because of an injury to my meniscus, but couldn't do that until after filming ended. There was a lot of action. 80% of the tricks Harrison Ford and I did ourselves.
SOAK: Do you enjoy doing stunts in movies?
Igor: It depends on the stunts and what kind of role I am playing. If somebody asked me to be a stuntman, I wouldn't want to. I am from Cirque du Soleil, so I am used to being physical. When I worked on Clint Eastwood's film (Blood Work), there was this one stunt where my character jumps out of a second story window and they had hired a stuntman to do it, but I really wanted to do the jump. I kept bugging him to let me do it since I had experience, and then finally one day, he said, "Fuck it, jump!" I only jumped like twice, and the stunt man jumped about 50 times, but when I saw the film...they used my jump! Stunts are a hard job. The older you get, the less stunts you want to do. Although as you get older, you want to prove you can still kick ass so you sometimes try to do your own stunts as much as possible. When you're young, you don't want to ruin your career, so you let someone else do all the hard stuff. I am in the middle right now.
SOAK: What are some of your upcoming projects?
Igor: Ruslan with Steven Segal is finished. Shadows in Paradise with Danny Trejo (also Tom Sizemore and an amazing cast and group of people). Ultimate Champion is coming out on DVD.
I am also working on a huge movie called VIY. It is the biggest project that's ever been done in Russia. I am flying out to Prague at the end of the month to work on it. There are also a few more projects in the works that I cannot talk about yet since they are still in the casting process.
SOAK: What type of character would be your dream role to play?
Igor: I would love to be able to do a comedy. I want to be able to show my funny side and show my comedy skills. I do stand up comedy.
SOAK: You've worked with some of the top directors in Hollywood. Who would you like to work with that you haven't already?
Igor: Robert Downey Jr, Edward Norton, and William DaFoe are my dream actors that I would love to work with.
SOAK: What advice would you have to any young actors just getting into the business?
Igor: Never give up. I stayed and knocked on the door until it opened. Take lots of classes and get in front of the camera. Work on things at home in your mirror and watch people on TV. Take any and every class. There are no bad classes - you can pick and choose from each of the classes.
Find your character inside that makes you different from other people. You need to bring your personality on the table. Don't just come in and read...leave something in the room so that they remember you beyond the reading. I have something that I do every time I go into an audition so that they remember me.
SOAK: What's something about you that would be surprising to know?
Igor: I am deathly afraid of dentists! I just went to the dentist recently. They were asking me to take pictures with them and sign photos, and then they had to clean my teeth. They had to give me extra anesthesia because I was so nervous. My back was sweating. The office couldn't believe it. Here I was, this big man playing all of these bad men on the big screen and yet, I was scared of a dentist. This fear came about from when I was younger. We don't have good medicine in Russia and I had root cannel without anesthesia. They held me down and performed a root canal without the anesthetics, so that memory of pain has stuck with me. I know that it's all in my head, but I can't help it!
Cirque de Soleil,
Shadows in Paradise,
Command & Conquer