Director: Oscar-nominated ‘Leviathan’ a Colorado tale with a Russian twist

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Andrey Zvyagintsev
"Leviathan" movie director Andrey Zvyagintsev.

Yet Heemeyer’s actions still provoke heated debate on YouTube, with hundreds discussing whether Heemeyer should be heralded as a hero or vilified for taking the law into his own hands.

Someone has.

The resulting film, "Leviathan," directed by Russian filmmaker Andrey Zviyagintsev and set in a small town in Russia, is up for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

CPR arts editor Chloe Veltman recently spoke through a translator with Zviyagintsev about how the events in Granby influenced his movie.

Here are some edited highlights from their conversation:

CPR: How did you first hear the story of Marvin Heemeyer's bulldozer rampage in Granby, Colorado?

Andrey Zviyagintsev: "It was 2008. I was working on the short film 'New York I Love You.' We were having lunch together with my translator and assistant. She told me a few stories. Among those few stories was the one about Marvin John Heemeyer. And this story immediately amazed me. I felt kind of an excitement and nervous emotions. And that's how I started to think about the film that later on was called 'Leviathan.' "

Scene from
Sergey Pokhodaev as Roma in a scene from "Leviathan."

Andrey Zviyagintsev: "Very soon after I started to think about this film, I realized that this story about the ordinary man -- or, as we say in Russian literature, 'little man' -- who comes face to face with the system, who tries to confront injustice, is absolutely universal. While this story is universal, why not me, as a Russian artist, set up this kind of universal story in Russia? We have completely re-written the script four times. In the first two, we had an ending that was very similar to what happened in reality, with our character Kolya driving the bullet-proof bulldozer and demolishing the municipal buildings before killing himself. But then we found that this story was not completely Russian. When we speak about Russians, it's more about patience and obedience. The Russian people are much more patient and obedient than Americans. So we decided to change the ending."

This year’s Academy Awards take place on Feb. 22.