Born in 1935 in Moscow -- but of Ukrainian descent -- Valentin Gaft became fascinated with acting at a young age, and at 18 enrolled in the Moscow Theater School. He has enjoyed an acting career of more than half a century in films, in addition to long associations on stage with the Mossovet and Leninsky Komsomol Theater companies, and the Sovremennik Theater. He was named a People's Artist of the Soviet Union in 1984. Gaft enjoyed starring roles in Russian films from 1965 onward, but was absent from the screen after the 1996 release of Karyera Arturo Ui: Novaya Versiya. In 2007, he returned to movies to play a major role in Nikita Mikhalkov's 12, as the philosophical jewish member of the jury. Gaft has also been noted for his satirical writing, which includes some celebrated work aimed at the Russian film and theatrical communities.