Whether involved in a classical stage drama or a contemporary film comedy, Oleg Borisov consistently and sometimes brilliantly imbued his roles with rare intelligence and depth that made it easy to see why he was one of Russia's most acclaimed and popular leading men for nearly 40 years.
Borisov launched his career on stage at Kiev's Dramatic Theatre in the early '50s following his graduation from the Moscow Arts Theatre School. In 1964, he moved to the prestigious Leningrad Dramatic Theatre and worked closely with renowned stage director Georgi Tovstonogov. He left the troupe in 1983 and became part of Moscow's Dramatic Theatre, where he remained for the rest of his stage career. While he attained an enviable reputation on stage, he was best known for his film work. He made his film debut in Mat/Mother (1956). Though he played a wide variety of roles, Borisov was especially adept at playing crooks, con men, and adventurers; he frequently worked with director Vadim Abdrashitov. The allegorical Sluga/Servant (1989) represented one of his best collaborations with the acclaimed filmmaker. Other films for which the great actor was particularly known include the satirical comedy Za Dvumya Zaitsami (1961), which was filmed on location in Kiev, and a made-for-television adaptation of Dostoyevsky's Podrostok/Adolescent (1983), in which Borisov played Versilov. His last important role was that of a mild-mannered elderly Jew thrown into turmoil when a bigoted Russian skinhead shows up claiming to be his illegitimate son in Luna-Park (1991). For his many accomplishments and contributions to Russian/Soviet theater and cinema, Oleg Borisov received one of his country's highest civilian honors when he was designated People's Artist of the USSR in 1978.