• 28 April 1924
  •  Kaunas, Lithuania

Donatas Banionis


Donatas Banionis was a popular Lithuanian actor known for Niekas nenorejo mirti (1966), Myortvyy sezon (1968), and Solaris (1972). He was born Donatas Juozas Banionis on April 28, 1924, in Kaunas, Lithuania. His mother, Blazhaitite-Banionene Ona, was a homemaker. His father, Juozas Banionis, was a tailor who took part in the Russian Revolution of 1917, was wounded in the Russian Civil War, then became a political prisoner, and briefly emigrated to Brasil during the 1920s. Young Banionis was raised with his elder sister during the years of Lithuanian independence before WWII. In 1941 Donatas Banionis was hired by the famous Lithuanian theatrical director Juozas Miltinis and became an actor at the newly formed Panevezys Drama Theatre. He studied acting under Juozas Miltinis and graduated from the Panevezys Acting Studio in 1945. In 1947 Banionis made his film debut: he appeared in a cameo role in 'Marite' (1947). His first major film work was the role of adventurer Daus in 'Adomas nori buti zmogumi' (Adam Wants to Be a Man 1959) by director Vytautas Zalakevicius. Long before becoming an acclaimed actor Banionis tried to escape from the Soviet Union at the end of the Second World War; but he failed to join his Lithuanian compatriots when they fled the Soviets. Soon the Iron curtain became impenetrable from either side. However, in 1970, as a member of an official Soviet delegation, he made his first visit to the Lithuanian community in Chicago. Then Banionis, being already a famous actor, came to realize that his former compatriots earned their good living and nice homes by working very hard from very poor beginnings. At that time, Banionis enjoyed a highly privileged life as a top film-star in the Soviet Union. He was awarded the State Prize in 1975, and was received by such Soviet leaders as Leonid Brezhnev and Mikhail Gorbachev. Banionis earned critical acclaim for his role of Vaitkus in 'Niekas nenorejo mirti' (Nobody Wanted to Die, 1966) by director Vytautas Zalakevicius. A powerful film, it was even dubbed the "Lithuanian Seven Samurai." Banionis' tragical character Vaitkus is the undecided one among the Lithuanian "brothers in the woods", who are fighting against the Soviets after the end of the Second World War. Banionis demonstrated his range as a comedian in the comic role of a priest in 'Beregis avtomobilya' (Watch Out for the Automobile, 1966) by director Eldar Ryazanov. Banionis' sweet character blends well with the stellar ensemble of actors, such as Innokentiy Smoktunovskiy, Oleg Efremov, Andrey Mironov, Anatoliy Papanov, Evgeniy Evstigneev, Georgi Zhzhyonov, and other Russian film stars. Donatas Banionis is a refined intellectual actor with effortless style. His mastery of timing, his powerful silence, and his reserved energy shines in his major film-works; such as in 'King Lear' (1969) by Grigori Kozintsev, in 'Solaris' (1972) by Andrei Tarkovsky, in 'Goya - oder Der arge Weg der Erkenntnis' (1971) by director Konrad Wolf, in 'Begstvo mistera Mak-Kinli' by director Mikhail Shvejtser, in 'Beethoven - Days in a Life' (1976) by director Horst Seemann, and in other films. One of his memorable film-works is the character of a Russian spy 'Ladeinikov' in 'Myortvy Sezon' (The Dead Season, 1968) by director Savva Kulish. That film role provided Banionis with an auspicious connection. In 2004, the actor had a meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Putin confirmed that he made up his mind to become an intelligence officer after seeing Banionis in the role of a Russian spy. In his later works Donatas Banionis constitutes the link between cinema of the past and contemporary Lithuanian film. He showed reserved and convincing work in the role of 'The old man' in 'Kiemas' (Courtyard, 1999), a reflective film about a Lithuanian father and his family's depressing fate in the 1970's Soviet Union. He worked with director Aleksandr Buravskiy in 'Attack on Leningrad' (2006), a film about the historic siege during the Second World War; where his acting partners are Gabriel Byrne, Mira Sorvino, Aleksandr Abdulov, Kirill Lavrov, Mikhail Efremov and others. During his acting career spanning over sixty five years, Donatas Banionis played over 50 roles in film and on television. He also played over 100 stage roles, mainly at the Panevezys Juozas Miltinis' Drama Theatre. Banionis was designated People's Actor of the USSR (1974), and People's actor of the Lithuanian Republic (1973). He is Chevalier of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas. Donatas Banionis lived in the city of Panevezys, Lithuania. He was Honorable Citizen of Panevezys (1999). Actor died of heart related problems on 4th of September 2014 in Panevezys, Lithuania. He was ninety years old.


Movie Name Release Date
Σολάρις – Solyaris (1972) February 27, 1974