The name of actor Dimiter Marinov became popular in Bulgaria after he had taken part in the American film Green Book, produced by Stephen Spielberg, directed by Peter Farrell and starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali. In 2019 the Green Book won an Oscar for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor (Mahershala Ali) and Dimiter Marinov became the first Bulgarian actor to take the stage at the Oscars. In the film, he stars in the supporting role of the Russian cellist Oleg.
However, the real Dimiter Marinov’s life journey is far more interesting, inspiring and fraught with random twists, taking risks and achieving success than the actual story that the Oscar-winning movie tells. His life is full of chance and events, marked by decisions made because of the then totalitarian reality in Bulgaria and, above all, guided by his adventurous, unapologetic and courageous spirit. Dimiter Marinov is a dedicated man and what he has so far achieved, he built from scratch. He is the living proof that if you truly crave, you will not only survive along the way, but will also fulfill your dream.
Early Years and Childhood
Dimiter Marinov’s mother, Yordanka, was born and raised in Rousse. In 1959 she went to study in the Bulgarian capital city of Sofia. While there, she was provided for by her aunt who had been married to financier and industrialist Dimiter Marinov, a member of the Marinovs who owned the tobacco factories used as a prototype in Dimiter Dimov’s book Tyutyun (Tobacco) and who was killed after communists came into power and seized the family’s property. After graduating, Yordanka was sent to the town of Targovishte by the authorities to become a teacher and there she met Dimiter’s biological father – a young man of Jewish origin who studied shipbuilding. She got pregnant but had to keep her pregnancy a secret as her future as a single mother was dire under the communist regime which unsupportive of such “immoral behaviour”. Both young mother and child were facing financial austerity and social isolation.
On October 6, 1964 Dimiter Marinov was born in Rousse. Ina short time the child developed severe bilateral bronchopneumonia which worsened to such an extent that doctors almost lost hope of saving him. In this difficult situation, his mother told her aunt that she has a child. The aunt agreed to adopt him, named him after her murdered husband and so Dimiter began his life in the heart of the capital city of Sofia. A year later the communist authorities appeared at night on the doorway and forced aunt and child to move to another quarter of Sofia immediately and without previous notice. More and tiny walls were added to the rooms of their new home and thus turned into a “home” for more families who were disgraced by the communist government for being intellectuals, industrialists and, in general, representatives of the “corrupt” bourgeoisie.
Dimiter maintained regular relationship with his biological mother though two years later she got married and had her own family. At the age of four he started playing the violin. His talent was so unique that at 11 he played the leading violin in the most famous in the Bulgarian communist era Pioneer philharmonic. When he was 15 the Pioneer went to New York where they performed at the UN Roundtable. The conductor was Leonard Bernstein – the author of the world-famous musical Westside Story. Philharmonic tours in Brazil and Mexico followed.
During this time the dispute with his mother’s aunt where to continue to study had already deepened – his desire was the Academy of Art, hers – the Musical one. The family war became so intolerable that he escaped to his biological mother’s and, supported by his stepfather, in protest enrolled at the Railway Technical School.
In 1982 and helped by Bulgarian actress Nevena Kokanova Dimiter was allowed at the National Academy for Theater and Film Arts (then VITIZ). Nevena Kokanova noticed his talent when he played in the Forest King play while at a pioneer camp and she then recommended him to Maria Karel, the acting teacher of Bulgarian famous actors Stefan Danailov, Chocho Popyordanov and Hristo Shopov.
Shortly after, however, despite his low weight, Dimiter was ordered to enter the compulsory 2-year national military service and was deployed to the artillery in the town of Karlovo. His artistic nature and irreconcilable temper were not welcomed by most soldiers and as an exit of the growing peer pressure he had to pretend that he was seriously ill. This did not go unnoticed and he together with Valery Vangelov, an acrobat from the Boychanov troupe recorded in the Guinness Book of Records, decided to flee Bulgaria via Serbia by the Orient Express train. On the morning, however, they got caught by the Bulgarian border police and Dimiter was thrown in jail for two years and a half. National police officers broke his fingers and he underwent regular humiliation by the communists in power.
When Dimiter came out of prison in 1986 he again applied for the VITIZ but for political reasons he was cast out in the final examination round. He was not discouraged and tried again each of the following three years to the same unfortunate end until in 1989, when the fall of communism in Bulgaria was nearing, he was finally allowed to the class of Krikor Azarian. There he studied together with famous to-be Bulgarian actors such as Lisa Shopova, Koyna Ruseva, Stefan Denolubov, Stefan Valdobrev, Marius Kurkinsky. In 1990 he joined the team of a popular Bulgarian TV show and went on tour in America and Canada. Before leaving Dimiter informed his colleagues that he would not return to Bulgaria.
In the USA
So, at the age of 25, Dimitar Marinov found himself in the city of Knoxville, Tennessee, United States, without a penny in his pocket and not a single word of English within his knowledge. He was living on the street for three days playing the violin in front of the central fountain for money when a local TV came along and shot a brief footage about him. At home, a wealthy American construction contractor and his wife watched the news and decided to help Dimitar. They took him home and taught him practical skills so that he would be able to make a living. Dimiter spent three weeks in Mike and Peggy Shirley’s garage while Mike was teaching him the airbrush drawing technique.
Dimiter Marinov spent the following three years in Tennessee and made good money from painting. In 1993 he moved to San Diego where he worked on construction sites and at restaurants. He opened his own café and together with a Bulgarian friend ran a catering business, the Balkan. In 1999 Dimiter sold both businesses and started to teach acting at San Diego State University where he met his future wife, Jennifer. They got married on New Year’s Day in 2003 and two years later their first son, Yordan, was born, named after Dimiter’s biological mother Yordanka.
Shortly after that Dimiter bought a restaurant in Costa Rica and, in order to take care of business, the family sold everything they had in San Diego and moved to Costa Rica. After spending three years there, the family returned to San Diego. They bought a house in Carlsbad and their second son, Mikhail, was born, named him after Mike Shirley, the man who immensely helped Dimiter in the first weeks after his coming to the States.
In San Diego, encouraged by his wife, Dimiter Marinov completely focused on his dream to be a full-time actor and took part in commercials, TV series and movies. His cinema debut was the movie Men of Steel where he starred as Kerimov, a Russian scientist and smuggler. He also appeared in Bad Behavior and Code: 999 as well as in the War Crimes, War Crimes: Los Angeles and Law & Order: Los Angeles TV series. In the years that followed he worked with actors Ashton Kutcher, Matthew Perry, Selena Gomez, Sofia Vergara, Jeff Bridges, and Kiefer Sutherland while simultaneously teaching acting to children and adolescents for the past 20 years.
2019 brought the breakthrough, the Green Book movie which won the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences award. The Green Book is a 2018 biographical comedy-drama film that takes place in 1962. It is inspired by the true story of the American Deep South tour by the Black American classical and jazz pianist Don Sherley (Mahershala Ali) and an American of Italian origin Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga (Vigo Mortensen) who was his bodyguard and driver. The movie is named after The Green Book of the Negro Driver, a mid-20th-century book designed for black American travelers written by Victor Hugo Green. Dimiter Marinov’s Oleg character is a real personality, Yuri Takht, a Russian-Soviet cellist who fled to America in the 1950s to play jazz.
As of the end of 2019 Dimiter Marinov has been working on a Bulgarian project, namely the Screen Acting Academy intended for actors with an interest in cinema, advertising and television. The Academy is a long-term exclusive project of the actor in cooperation with the National Palace of Culture in Sofia. He has also starred in Lachezar Avramov’s Bulgarian film Photo with Yuki.
In conclusion we’d like to share a few quotes from interviews with actor Dimiter Marinov. We wish him yet more productive years so that many more people will draw from his leading through example – not only professionally but also personally.
- Recognition should not change the artist as such, much less the man behind the artist. Recognition and rewards are a result of the work done, not a sign of future realization and status.
- The road is one and the same for everyone, but it’s like a freeway that crosses several countries. Each country “labels” it with its road signs and rules, which makes the journey different, but its path is the same.
- Acting is not a profession but a way of life.
- To be good as an actor, you have to be better as a person!
- Dimiter Marinov on Wikipedia
- Green Book on Wikipedia
- Eva Online Magazine
- Art Sofia Online
- Dimiter Marinov on YouTube here & here
- Dimiter Marinov in Slavi’s Show
- Dimiter Marinov in Time for Coffee
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