Petra’s “Stefan’s Nica” became a big man: how Ion Bocancea was chosen for the role in “Childhood Memories”, the scenes censored by the Communists

In 1965, director Elisabeta Bostan directed the film adapted from Ion Creanga’s work, Memories of Childhood. The film quickly became a favourite with children of the time, who were fascinated by the adventures of Petra’s Nica of Stefan.

Ion Bocancea played the role of Stefan a Petra’s Nica in 1965.

The film was seen by 5,347,502 viewers in Romanian cinemas, according to a statistic on the number of viewers registered in Romanian films from the date of premiere to 31 December 2014, compiled by the National Cinematography Centre, according to information available on Wikipedia.

Nica stefan Memories of childhood by Ion Creanga Film 1964
Nica of Petra’s Stefan, played by the actor Ion Bocancea, in Memories of Childhood

How he was cast as Nica: his antics helped him get noticed

“Every time I watch the film Memories of Childhood, each time I discover something new,” Ion Bocancea told Adevărul newspaper about the filming of the work inspired by the writings of Ion Creanga.

More than half a century has passed since then, but “Nică” has never forgotten the film that put him on the map of Romanian cinema. In fact, he says that every time the film is rebroadcast on television, he never misses the opportunity to see it again and again.

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“Only the last time I didn’t make it, I only found out the day after that it was shown on TVR around Christmas. Someone even called me to ask me if I had seen Memories, and I told him that I couldn’t because there were big problems with the networks due to the snowstorm”, Ion Bocancea told the source mentioned above.

Nica Aminitri from childhood Ion Creanga movie Actor
Ion Bocancea as Ionica, scenes from the film “Childhood Memories – 1965”

He spent his childhood in Bicaz, where he was noticed by Elisabeta Bostan, who was in the process of searching for the young actor who would play Nică. Luck was on Ionică Boncancea’s side, since she considered him to be the most suitable to play the character.

“They made me grimace and I made like all the devils,” he said, adding that he remembers even to this day even the smallest detail of that period. He was 13.

“When they came into the classroom, I was in a drawing class and I was busy drawing something, the wolf in Three Billy Goats, I think. By this time I was whistling and doodling there, everybody stood up when the directors came into the classroom. My classmates said hello, but I was just going about my business.

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I remember I’d made my head hair into a hedgehog, soaped it up, to stand up, and the lady director asked me: Why don’t you stand up. I apologized then, I thought I had done something stupid. Then the director said to me: go to the ticket office and wait for me at the door,” he said, according to the source.

At the preselection, he was chosen from 12,000 other children.

Ion Bocancea, the actor who played Nică, in Memories from Childhood – present image / Photo: personal archive – retrieved from adevă

The Cummunists censored a good part of the film

According to Ion Bocancea’s account, the Communists did what Communists know how to do, so they censored many scenes from the film. “There were many scenes cut out of the film, by the censorship of those times – how to give images of the shearing and the laughing, of the gypsies licking? About half an hour of footage was cut, otherwise the film would have been longer.”

Moreover, even his physical appearance underwent changes. “I wasn’t a bald-haired kid, I was brown at the time I was cast in the film. But I was dyed blond, and at one point they gave me a scissor haircut, I looked like hell. Then they cut my hair to zero, and then I wore a wig. At the censorship they cut the scene where they cut my hair, when I was the haircut, the dogs after me. These things are never forgotten,” he added, according to the source quoted above.

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