Mikhalkov runs Oscar race again

Russia selects '12'

MOSCOW — Helmer Nikita Mikhalkov, whose “Burnt by the Sun” took the foreign language film Oscar in 1995, will rep Russia for the fourth time with latest pic “12.”

The feature is a localized and updated remake of Sidney Lumet’s 1957 debut “12 Angry Men.” Mikhalkov keeps the all-male jury but brings the action closer to home. In his version, the jurors debate the fate of a Chechen man accused of murdering the Russian officer who had adopted him after his parents were killed in the war in the rebel Russian republic.

Pic screened in competish at the Venice Film Festival, where Mikhalkov received a special Golden Lion for his overall body of work.

“Burnt by the Sun” aside, Mikhalkov previously repped Russia for 1991 pic “Urga: Territory of Love” and 1998 pic “The Barber of Siberia” — though the latter submission was kicked out after it transpired that the movie had not had its mandatory week-long run in the territory to qualify.

“12,” which runs long at nearly two and a half hours, has been performing well — if not spectacularly — in Russia. It opened Sept. 20, up against Sergei Bodrov’s “Mongol” and “Resident Evil: Extinction.”

“12,” made on a reported budget of $2.5 million, took around $1.7 million in its first four days on release, behind Bodrov’s much more expensive historical epic, which brought in around $2.8 million. The latest installment in the “Evil” franchise outstripped both with a gross of around $4.4 million.

Mikhalkov’s film is his first work as a director since “The Barber of Siberia,” which topped local results in the year of its release, but flopped internationally.

The helmer has since devoted himself to acting roles, and to sometimes controversial administrative work as head of Russia’s Union of Filmmakers. He is also president of the Moscow Intl. Film Festival.

“12” was shot in parallel with a sequel to “Burnt by the Sun,” which takes that film’s lead character — played by the director — into a WWII story. Release is expected for early to mid 2008.

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