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Ralph Fiennes is pulling double-duty on his latest project. The English Patient actor both directs and stars in the biopic The White Crow, which tells the story of legendary Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. Well, part of his story…

Rather than trying to fit the high-profile dancer’s entire life into approximately 90 minutes, the film focuses on his defection from the Soviet Union in 1961 and how the KGB stepped in to try and put a halt to his move west. It’s based on Julie Kavanagh‘s book Rudolf Nureyev: The Life, reports Empire Online.

Nureyev is portrayed by acting newcomer and real-life dancer Oleg Ivenko. This is the ballet star’s first time on the big screen — ever — and he’s in the lead, carrying the entire film… no pressure!

But, of course, this isn’t the dancer’s debut performance. Ivenko is the soloist of the ballet company of the M. Jalil Tatar State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre in Kazan, Russia.

And to mark the end of filming, a new photo has been released of Ivenko looking very intense indeed:

(Photo: BBC Films)
(Photo: BBC Films)

Fiennes directed the film and also stars as Nureyev’s mentor, Alexander Pushkin. Pushkin helped launch the dancer’s career outside of St. Petersburg where he got his start.

It appears Fiennes and Ivenko formed a kinship off-set as well, with the young dancer referring to Fiennes as a “teacher” and “mentor,” when talking to the Russian publication Realnoe Vremya this past summer.

You can see a snap of Fiennes giving Ivenko directions on-set over at Empire Online.

While footage for The White Crow is yet to be released, that doesn’t mean we can’t see Ivenko in action. Here’s a look at him performing both classical ballet and modern dance:

Production began on The White Crow in August, and saw cast and crew travel to locations in multiple countries linked to Nureyev’s life and story, including Russia, France, Croatia and Serbia.

Ivenko will be joined by French actor Olivier Rabourdin (Diane a les épaules) and ballet stars Anastasia Meskova and Anna Polikarpova.

This is Fiennes’ third outing as a director, after helming 2011’s Coriolanus and 2013’s The Invisible Woman.

Are you familiar with Ralph Fiennes’ work as a director? 

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By Brigid Brown