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Dina Korzun possessed enough talent, beauty and onscreen presence that she was bestowed with the highly complementary nickname "the Russian Julia Roberts." The theater-trained actress lit up the screen with powerful portrayals of women who struggled to find identity, love and inner peace in a post-modern world. She reached international acclaim with a riveting performance as a Russian immigrant seeking political asylum in England with her 10-year-old son in Pawel Pawlikowski's "Last Resort" (2000), a documentary-style film that was entirely improvised. Korzun was equally poignant as the long-suffering girlfriend of a rock 'n' roll veteran (Rip Torn) who engages in a torrid affair with his son in the 2005 drama, "Forty Shades of Blue." She entered a dreamlike world in "Cold Souls" (2009) as a hired "mule" who traffics the extracted and frozen soul of actor Paul Giamatti to Russia. Korzun sparkled with originality and intellect in all of her award-worthy performances, and her ease of enveloping into character and stealing scenes from veteran actors were but a few of many reasons the actress deserved the critical accolades she had received throughout her career.
She was born Dianna Alexandrovna Korzun on April 13, 1971 in Smolensk, Russia (formerly the USSR). Her mother, Olga, raised Korzun after her father abandoned them when the future star was just one-year-old. They lived in a commune in Smolensk, sharing living quarters and a kitchen with six families. Her mother, who worked tirelessly as an engineer, supported the actress' ambitions and encouraged her to take dance and music classes at a young age. Korzun left home when she was 18 after meeting Moscow theater director Ansar Khalinunin. The couple married and had a son, Timur, within a year. A few months later, Korzun was accepted into the prestigious Moscow Arts Theater where she starred in productions of "Love in the Crimea," "A Midsummer's Night's Dream" and "I Can't Imagine Tomorrow." In 1995, she won her first acting award for Best Actress at the Moscow Theatrical Debuts Festival for her performance in "Love in the Crimea," the same year she graduated from the MAT.
Korzun had a career breakthrough with the feature film, "Strana glukhikh" ("The Country of Deaf People") (1998), in which the actress portrayed a deaf and eclectic cabaret dancer in the Valery Todorovsky-directed film. Korzun received several international honors for her performance in "Strana glukhikh," including a "Nika" - Russia's equivalent of an Academy Award - in 1998. Coming off that success, the actress joined an elite group of Russian entertainers given a national award for a lifetime contribution to Russian culture. Though things were going well on professionally for Korzun, on the homefront, all was not well. Korzun and Khalinunin would divorce in 1992. In 2001, she married Swiss filmmaker Louis Franck, whom she met in Moscow and who ultimately inspired her decision to quit the Moscow Arts Theater. Korzun later compared the MAT system to slavery and later said she had no regrets leaving the company.
In 2000, the actress left Russia to film "Last Resort" with acclaimed director Pawlikowski. Life mirrored art when Korzun, who was cast to play a Russian woman held up by Britain's unjust immigration system, was, herself, interrogated at Heathrow Airport upon her arrival to begin production on the film. The actress even went so far as to consider Pawlikowski had set her up to be harassed in preparation for the movie. Working on "Last Resort" was mentally and emotionally daunting for Korzun, especially with her director's documentary-style filmmaking. She was handed no script and asked to improvise throughout the movie - including speaking both Russian and English dialogue. Korzun tapped into her character's emotional journey - a single mother sent to an immigration detention center after her British fiancé fails to meet her at the airport - and delivered one of the most critically lauded performances of the year. Her work on "Last Resort" won Korzun the Best Actress prize at the British Independent Film Awards, the London Film Festival, and the Bratislava International Film Festival. The movie also established her as one of Russia's biggest stars; her classic beauty and onscreen presence reminded many in international circles of Hollywood's "Pretty Woman" and Academy Award-winning actress Julia Roberts. When asked whom she most admired in the entertainment industry, however, Korzun often chose the ethereal Cate Blanchett as the actress she wished to model her own career after.
Korzun next worked with American filmmaker Ira Sachs in the 2005 drama, "Forty Shades of Blue," in which she played the young and attractive Russian girlfriend of an aging music producer (Torn) who ends up having an affair with his son (Darren Burrows). To prepare for the role of Laura, Korzun utilized her MAT training by developing her character from the inside out and improvising many of her character's actions, while at the same time, merging her own spiritual development with that of Laura's. The result was another delicately complex performance that led the film to win the Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize in 2005 and gave Korzun her first Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead in 2006. The actress also hit the mark on the small screen, starring on the TV series "Zhenskiy roman" (Channel One Russia, 2005) as a St. Petersburg photographer struggling to believe in true love during the 1998 Russian economic crash.
The actress was honored with her second Independent Spirit Award nomination in 2009 for "Cold Souls," a dark, metaphysical comedy where award-winning actor Paul Giamatti played an exaggerated version of himself. Agonized by an upcoming performance of "Uncle Vanya," the actor enlists the help of a high tech laboratory that specializes in deep-freezing human souls. Korzun played Nina, a Russian "soul trafficker" who illicitly swipes Giamatti's soul and takes it to St. Petersburg for a soap opera actress to use. Critics praised Korzun's brilliant portrayal of the film's determined and perplexed soul thief. That same year, Korzun appeared in a television miniseries adaptation of "Bratya Karamazovy" ("The Brothers Karamazov") for Central Partnership, the French thriller "L'affaire Farewell," and the crime drama "Mediator" with Scottish actor Ewen Bremner.
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