Oleg Shilkin, 31, was one of Russia’s top movie stuntmen when he was killed on October 22, 2018 while filming a World War II movie.
A German tank which was supposed to halt a few feet in front of him failed to stop, and Shilkin was crushed under its caterpillar tracks. The stuntman was taken to a hospital in an ambulance, but it is understood that he died on the way.
Filming had begun in August, and the stunt-team that included Shilkin had been on location for just seven days at the time of the incident. Early and unconfirmed reports state that the engineer driving the tank failed to use the correct pedal to stop the vehicle. A police inquiry is currently underway in order to determine the exact cause.
The movie being filmed is called Last Frontier and is a dramatization of events during the Nazi invasion of the then-Soviet Union in 1941. Specifically, the film dealt with the calling up of young cadets on October 5, 1941 from the Podolsk Artillery and Infantry School. They were sent to Ilyinske on the Mozhaisk Defense Line to confront the Nazi invasion force. The cadets had limited training, and many lost their lives.
On October 10, 1941 Major I. V. Dementyev arrived at Ilyinske, leading a special unit of Red Army artillery: a Guards mortar regiments. They brought with them a new secret weapon, the “Katyusha.” This rocket launcher had debuted on July 14, 1941 near the Berezina River, and had instilled fear in the Nazi invaders as it rained rockets onto their positions.
At Ilyinske, the first volley of rockets was fired at the enemy at noon on October 11. The rocket attacks lasted for five days, with the final and most disruptive volley let off on the 15th.
That night, a German squad landed behind the Soviets’ lines in an attempt to capture the “Katyusha,” and eventually the battery was almost completely surrounded by the invaders. However, the Red Army destroyed the launchers and rockets to keep them from falling into enemy hands.
After this initial run of success, the rocket launcher went into mass production with 10,000 units and nearly 12 million rockets built by the end of WWII. The “Katyusha” rocket launcher was nicknamed “Stalin’s Organ” as the multiple launch system resembled the layout of the pipes on a church organ. It also made a fearsome howling noise as it fired off its rockets.
Returning to the present, at the time of stuntman Oleg Shilkin’s death Last Frontier was being directed by Vadim Shmelev and starred Sergei Bezrukov and Alexei Guskov.
Shmelev is a veteran of TV thrillers and has written for a number of domestic Russian movies. Bezrukov is a veteran of the Russian stage and screen world, who started his career voicing satirical puppets to do parodies of then-president Boris Yeltsin. Guskov was awarded the “Peoples Artist of Russia Award” in 2007 and is a well-known movie actor.
Varvara Nikitina, Vice President of the Russian Stunt Guild, confirmed that everyone involved with the movie was in a deep state of shock and could not believe what happened. A spokesman for the production company Voenfilm Studios called it a “terrible, irreparable” incident, but had no further details or comments.
The fatal accident occurred while there were a large number of actors, extras, and military hardware on set, because a complex battle scene had been planned to take place that day.
Shilkin’s sister Ellina said that her family was “too shocked” to make a statement, but added that her brother had been in good shape and had had high hopes that work on this movie would help to further his career.
Oleg Shilkin was buried on October 25 at Moscow’s Nikolo-Arkhangelsk cemetery. The costs of the funeral were covered by the production company.