Recently, an American film editor by the name of David Dodson, sat down with Insider to talk about what it was like to be a close friend and a longtime film editor to the now-beloved wartime hero.
David Dodson Reveals What Volodymyr Zelensky Is Really Like Behind The Camera
During the interview, Dodson revealed that the real “Volodya” is a humble and peaceful man who does not have any kind of “celebrity remove.” Dodson first met Zelensky in New York in 2008 while they were working on the Russian romantic comedy, “Love in the Big City.” Zelensky had first risen to fame under the comedy troupe Kvartal 95 and this was going to be his first major role in a feature film.
It became the first of many partnerships between the two friends for the next decade. The pair worked together until 2019 and collaborated on ten movies together. Dodson directed three of the current Ukraine President’s films.
Dodson said that when he first met Zelensky, “he was just a remarkable presence.” Although their first meeting was brief, they grew closer when Dodson was charged with editing the movie’s sequel: “Love in the Big City 2.”
“I ended up just calling him Chaplin because he has a very Charlie Chaplin-esque quality to him,” Dodson said. “His physicality in comedy and what he’s able to do with his face and the almost sympathetic, sad deadpan inside of his eyes.”
David Dodson Says That Volodymyr Zelensky ‘Made Me Feel Like Steven Spielberg’
When working on a set together, Dodson said that Zelensky was always respectful, full of energy, and “effortlessly funny.”
“He’d make me feel like Steven Spielberg,” Dodson quipped. “That’s just the empowerment and the goodwill that he brought with him every time he was around.”
Although Zelensky was known for maintaining a “positive atmosphere” on set, Dodson admitted that he has witnessed Zelensky lose his cool around people who were described as “belligerent” or “unnecessarily rough.”
“I have seen him raise his voice, of course, and get upset, but it was never directed in a cruel way,” Dodson recalled. “It was almost more like a teacher who wanted to see their student do better.”
Volodymyr Zelensky Remained Humble Despite Film Success, Dodson Says
Although Zelensky became more and more famous throughout the years, even providing the voice of Paddington Bear in the Ukrainian version of the film – and its sequel – Dodson says that Zelensky remained humble in spite of his success.
“He never tried to overwhelm you with his ego,” he continued. “It was all about the group and how were we going to do the best job possible. When you’re around him, you never feel like it’s about him.”
Although he remained humble, Zelenskyy’s loyal fanbase steadily grew over time. Dodson recalled how, when the pair were shooting in Kyiv or Lviv, Zelenskyy would often be mobbed by fans wanting him to sign an autograph or snap a photo.
“He was the Tom Hanks of Ukraine,” Dodson joked, explaining that Zelenskyy would never turn anyone away. He said that sometimes Zelenskyy would sign “hundreds” of autographs and greet each fan “with a smile on his face.”
Volodymyr Zelensky’s Ambitions Slowly Shifted Into The Political Realm
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine worsened when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. After reports emerged that the Zelenskyy’s Kvartal 95 media company might have transferred money to the Ukrainian army during the conflict, Russia stopped broadcasting Zelenskyy’s movies. In response, Ukraine started putting a ban on Russian art, including films. “Love in the Big City 2” was suddenly banned in Ukraine because it was made in Russia.
At the time, Zelenskyy criticized the ministry for banning Russian actors from performing in Ukraine and called of the department head to resign. By 2018, Dodson revealed that it had become an “open secret” that Zelenskyy planned to run for President of Ukraine while they were in pre-production for the movie “Me. You. He. She.”
“The only way that you knew that he was working on his campaign, for example, would be if you went up to his office for a meeting and you saw a pile of 30 cellphones on his assistant’s desk,” Dodson said of his friend’s secrecy. Zelenskyy eventually announced his campaign on New Year’s Eve 2018 and was elected President of Ukraine on April 21, 2019, beating incumbent President Petro Poroshenko.
Although the two lost touch due to the President’s demanding schedule, Dodson is “immensely proud” of his friend.
“t’s not as though I agreed with all of his political policy in his presidency up until this point, but he’s completely beyond reproach when it comes to his devotion to Ukraine and devotion to the Ukrainian people and what he’s willing to sacrifice in order to preserve their freedom,” he said.
He added, “All I can do is pray for the safety of the Ukrainian people and, of course, for the safety of my friend.”