Driven by poverty, he was a miner, a porter and a driver. Ilarion Ciobanu, the great actor who lived dozens of lives in one go

Ilarion Ciobanu was one of the most important Romanian actors, and for decades he was loved by the public in the films in which he acted so masterfully.

Ilarion Ciobanu’s comrade and colleague Sergiu Nicolaescu always had nothing but praise for him. “A film actor par excellence”, the director would say about the actor at one point, considering him an artist who performed his roles with naturalness, getting into the skin of his characters with great ease.

Ilarion Ciobanu in the movie “Thirst” – screenshot

Ilarion Ciobanu started from the bottom: he worked “everything”, but also ended up in police custody

Although he was to become one of Romania’s most emblematic actors over the years, Ilarion Ciobanu’s life was not all milk and honey. He started at the bottom, in his childhood he had a difficult material situation, which became more evident immediately after the death of his father.

The actor was born on 28 October 1931 in Ciucur, a village now part of the Republic of Moldova. In search of a better life, the Ciobanu family moved to Dobrogea and later settled in Constanța. It was here that Ilarion Ciobanu’s journey through life really began.

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Little Ilarion ended up working day in and day out, holding a wide variety of jobs. In order to help his mother, the young man was put in the position of working as a driver, brigadier at the Danube-Black Sea Canal, porter, miner, shop boy, fisherman, sailor, tractor driver and many others. You could say there was no job in this country that the future actor would not try in his quest to make an honest buck.

In addition, he was no stranger to police arrest either, as in his youth he was accused of various “shenanigans” he allegedly did with his friends at the time. All these experiences may well have helped Ilarion Ciobanu to become the exceptional actor he would become later on, living the characters at first hand and getting to know them.

Ilarion Ciobanu with Mircea Diaconu in the film “The Little Prince, the Oil and the Ardelenii” – film still

Theatre never attracted him, but films made him live dozens of lives in one

Although he finished IATC, it seems the stage never attracted him, preferring film. Although at one time he wished he had been a professional sailor, film helped him experience more worlds than he could ever have hoped for.

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Throughout his career, Ilarion Ciobanu metamorphosed into Gerula (“Columna”), the sailor Gherasim (“All sails up”), the Ardelean-cowboy Traian Brad (“Ardelenii” series), Commissioner Mihai Roman (from Sergiu Nicolaescu’s action films), Stroe Buzescu (“Mihai Viteazul”), Vasile Stegaru (“Nemuritorii”), Petre (“Răscoala”) or Father (“Lumini e Ombras”), reports

Ilarion Ciobanu film roles
Ilarion Ciobanu in various roles

It is not known exactly how he did it, but the artist managed, almost every time, to “steal” the audience’s attention, even when he had to play a supporting role. The impressive physique of this “one-piece man” managed to command respect and make you see in him bravery, purchase, fearlessness and a pervasive sense of justice.

Outside the world of film, the actor was repeatedly married, twice to the same woman, and was, for the most part, a free spirit who hardly let himself be “captured.”

One of his marriages was to give birth to Ioachim Ciobanu, who to some extent followed the family tradition. In 2004, Ioachim and Ilarion were to collaborate in the film Bored, where the latter played the last role of his career, and not just any role, but that of God.

Ilarion Ciobanu passed from the living on September 7, 2008, thus reinventing the concept of immortality.

As he wished, the actor’s disembodied body was cremated and the ashes thrown into the Black Sea, a sign that first love is never forgotten.

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