‘Anora’ Breakout Mark Eidelstein On Impressing Sean Baker With a Nude Self Tape, Being Called the ‘Russian Timothée Chalamet’ (EXCLUSIVE)

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If Mark Eidelstein’s career takes off in Hollywood, he can thank his decision to record a self tape of himself fully naked.

In Sean Baker‘s raucous comedy “Anora,” the young Russian actor plays Ivan, the hilariously energetic, fast-living son of an oligarch happily spending his parents’ millions while decamped in their New York mansion who then falls in love with Mikey Madison’s Manhattan sex worker Ani. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, awash in drugs, sex, violence, gangsters, Vegas weddings and a lounge full of expensive ornaments getting smashed to pieces.

Put forward by Yura Borisov, his co-star on on Russian sci-fi “Guest From the Future,” who had just been cast as a reluctant heavy in “Anora,” Eidelstein was sent a script like nothing he’d ever seen before, littered in what he describes as “flash, flash, flash, bam, bam, action, action, action.” It was also full of sex scenes.

For his self-tape, at first Eidelstein wanted to mimic Ivan by dressing up in the sort of expensive designer clothes that are stuffed in his wardrobe. Sadly he didn’t own any. “So I immediately realised I had to be nude,” he tells Variety (in his first Western media interview), adding that he also read the script on camera between puffing on a vape (something he says “gave him the time to remember his lines”). It proved an instant hit.

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“Sean said, ‘Mark, it’s amazing — and the vape! — it’s so Ivan! It’s his character, you’d really captured it! Wow!,” he says.

And so the 22-year-old, who had been emerging as a young leading man in both film and TV in Russia over the last few years, landed his first role in a U.S. film, and his first in English.

“Anora” — which Neon acquired for the U.S. — has now proved to be one of the standout hits of Cannes, a rare film in the competition to have been met with universal acclaim. Madison’s star-making lead turn as Ani has undoubtedly propelled the actress, who had small roles in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and 2022’s “Scream,” into exciting new territories (there’s already been awards chatter on social media). But for Eidelstein — whose naive, childlike energy as an insanely rich kid gone bad provides much of the laugh-out-loud moments— it’s a grand introduction to English-language cinema (and not just for audiences — he admits he hadn’t heard of Baker before).

The 22-year-old says he actually adopted Ivan’s child-like persona as a “protective reaction” to being on his own in America while making “Anora” (at least for the first few days before fellow Russian Borisov showed up). “I didn’t know anything and it was scary, so I just chose the position of a kid.”

But also, in finding Ivan, he delved into thoughts he’d had in his younger years. Born in the city of Nizhniy Novgorod, Eidelstein says he never had “lots of money growing up” and would look on enviously at those with extreme wealth.

“I wanted to be Ivan at that moment — some guy who could buy everything and could shut out his troubles,” he says. “It was my dream to have expensive clothes and just be like an Ivan.” These dreams disappeared when he moved to Moscow and started studying and became an actor, but he dragged them back up again while developing his character with Baker. “So now it’s me! And now you see me. But it’s a bad energy. And now I’m realising it’s a big challenge and maybe people like Ivan have more problems than others.”

Even before the screening of “Anora,” Eidelstein was described to Variety as being like a Russian Timothée Chalamet. He certainly looks the part, sporting long untamed curly hair. But he also has a similar awkward, energetic charm as the star.

As it turns out, it’s a comparison that has followed the actor back home since his very first film.

“For me, it’s a mind-blowing situation, because in Russian people are saying I’m a Russian Timothée Chalamet and now you’re saying it in English … it’s crazy, it’s like a joke that has gone out of control,” he says. But it’s not something he’s overly opposed to.

“It did become a little annoying, but then I watched ‘Dune,’ and now I think he’s probably one of the best actors of my generation. Him and Barry Keoghan.”

Following his experience on “Anora” Eidelstein is hoping to find more projects outside of Russia and is working to lose his accent. In America he said people didn’t think he looked Russian, so he wants to follow the “dream” of playing different characters in different languages.

“It’s the purpose of work is try as many different things as I can and talk about different problems through film,” he says, noting that through “Anora” he’s able to be in a project that discusses the issues faced by sex workers. “So I’m very happy and proud that I can talk about it with Sean, because in Russia, I can’t. So I want to do more work in Europe and America, because it’s a chance to discuss something that I can’t talk about in Russia.”

Before then, there’s the small matter of his parents, who he admits are a little “conservative” and might well be shocked by what they see in his English-language breakthrough. All Eidelstein told them when he went out to shoot the film was that he would be appearing in an “American movie” with one of the stars from “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and that it would be a “romantic story.” While those facts may be true, they don’t quite capture the sheer amount of sex, drugs and violence on screen.

“I don’t know what they will say,” admits Eidelstein. “Maybe, after five or 10 years, I will show this movie to my parents.”

‘Anora’ Breakout Mark Eidelstein On Impressing Sean Baker With a Nude Self Tape, Being Called the ‘Russian Timothée Chalamet’ (EXCLUSIVE)

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