The Pavement of Glory

Hollywood is home to many talented Bulgarians who contribute to its film industry.
By Velin Paskov

Writing about Bulgarians in Hollywood is a complex task. There are so many of them, it’s almost as if you are trying to describe every yellow paving stone in Sofia. They all have their merits and you simply can’t afford to miss any of them.

My first encounter with Hollywood was in high school. Its iconic representative was hiding in crate-like video cassettes with blue and orange buttons. Rambo did not speak, he acted with determination and ‘’Culture’’ newspaper condemned him because he was a favourite of President Reagan. Then, rumours spread that “some Bulgarian made the film”. After many years, the legendary Ted Kotcheff came to Bulgaria as an honorary guest of the big film festivals. He proudly told the story of the Plovdiv-Macedonian-Varna roots of his family.

Nina Dobrev

Similarly, the Bulgarian roots of another talent found a land of fertile soil in Canada. Nina Dobrev was only two years old when her father, a computer specialist and her mother, an actress, took the well-trodden Canadian path. She studied at the Armstrong Auditorium in Toronto, driven by her desire to become like her beloved Meryl Streep. Soon, she found fame with the television series ‘Vampire Diaries’, and last year she played a very successful role in the “xXx’’ franchise with Vin Diesel and Donnie Yen.

Despite her sporty nature, Nina Dobrev never does the stunts in her films. But Bulgarian stuntmen are among the most respected professionals in the dream industry. The Bulgarians from ‘’Alpha Stunt’’ are among the most renowned in the business. Since the company “New Image” opened offices in our country, there is never a quiet moment. Envious individuals might say that they were involved in cheap productions. Yes, but no! Their services are required when Robert de Niro, John Travolta, Sylvester Stallone, Antonio Banderas, Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman are shooting. When your portfolio includes movies such as “Troy” and “Black Dahlia”, it speaks for itself.

Not many people have heard the name of Svetla Krasteva, whose height is 1m50. The Plovdiv-born stuntman shot some of the heaviest scenes in super productions such as “Titanic”, “Conspiracy Theory”, “Inspector Gadget”, “Air Force One”, and others.

Penka Kouneva

Another famous Hollywood Bulgarian is the musician Penka Kouneva, who composed the soundtracks for many well known titles. Her composing and, above all, conducting qualities, have led the music bible “Billboard” to call her music “fantastic,” and “Forbes” magazine to describe it as “heart stopping.” The Sofia-born talent is а leader in movie and game scoring in Bulgaria. “The Transformers” mega-franchise rely on it, “The Matrix”, “Pirates of the Caribbean”… the list is stunningly long and proves that “A musician can feed a family”.

This is equally true for computer scientists, especially Vladimir Koylazov. For him, the “Chaos Group’’ company’s V-Ray technology opened doors to the world’s best-selling cinemas. Besides the fact that movies such as “Doctor Strange”, “Captain America” and “Deadpool” are created with Bulgarian help, we must also note that the American Film Academy awarded him an Academy Award for Technological Merit alongside giants such as Sony, Panavision, ARRI and RED. If those names don’t ring a bell, just mention these companies to a professional operator, and his starry-eyed expression will soon tell you what it’s all about!

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