by Real Los Angeles Journalists against the Right-Wing Takeover of Local Media

The story of the right-wing takeover of local “alternative publication” LA Weekly has become nearly dystopian.

Last week, after new owner (and visible face of a still-mysterious group of investors that bought it last month from VVM owner), Brian Calle summarily fired the entire staff of the progressive-leaning LA Weekly, multiple journalists revealed him be a right-wing activist with links to the Claremont Institute, the Lincoln Club of Orange County, anti-choice PAC Family Action PAC and the Rebekah Mercer-funded Moving Picture Institute

It has also now come to light that in 2014, Calle appeared in a Russian propaganda “action film” shot in Los Angeles and partially funded by Czar Pictures, a Russian company that, according to its own website, has publicly declared its “priority” as the “integration of the Russian investors, producers, and actors into the global film business through active systemic participation in the international film projects to promote a positive image of Russia and Russian citizens in the eyes of the global viewers.”

The film in question is called “Black Rose,” a by-all-accounts terrible action film that was meant to be a vehicle to introduce Russian bodybuilder Alexander Nevsky to US audiences. New LA Weekly owner Brian Calle appears in a cameo as “Bank Customer.” Photos of Calle and Nevsky were taken at the premiere.

Nevsky is a colorful character, who very ostensibly has been trying to position himself as “the Russian Schwarzenegger” for several years. According to his press material, the 47-year-old Russian actor star was born Aleksandr Kuritsyn and graduated from the Moscow State Academy of Management in 1994. Shortly after that he changed his name to Alexander Nevsky, which happens to be the name of a medieval Russian ruler immortalized in a 1938 classic film by Soviet auteur Sergei Eisenstein. The USSR-approved film won the first Stalin Prize for the arts in 1941.

Nevsky (the bodybuilder/actor, not the medieval prince) moved to Los Angeles in 1999, where he supposedly studied English at UCLA and acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. He then played a succession of Russian gangsters and heavies in minor films. In 2007, Nevsky launched a production company called Hollywood Storm. A Variety item at the time (which called him “a Russian action star) named one of the projects Hollywood Storm was working on as “The Black Rose.”

The film finally got made in 2014. Brian Calle’s involvement might have come about through his personal friendship with actor Robert Davi, a Hollywood actor known for playing criminals and cops in several TV shows and films. His pockmarked face is instantly recognizable to cult movie fans as the nasty strip club owner in “Showgirls.”

Less known than Davi’s acting career are his two other pursuits: he’s a professional interpreter of the Frank Sinatra songbook, and he is also a vocal social media presence spouting pro-Trump, virulently anti-Obama, anti-Democrat and anti-Hillary messages on a more than regular basis.

Someone should ask Calle how his friendship with Robert Davi and Alexander Nevsky came about (all three of them have publicly declared their friendship via Twitter). During the 2016 campaign, Calle published a pro-Trump editorial by Davi in the Orange County Register. But two years earlier, Calle had appeared with them in the “Black Rose” film.

Calle has largely been avoiding serious questions about his background. The LA Times business reporter assigned to covering the LA Weekly, Lauren Raab, published a puff piece interview with Calle on Nov. 9 (after the purchase of the paper by Calle’s shadowy “Semanal Media” company but before the massive firing of the Weekly’s staff) that had no investigative research on his right-wing affiliations. On December 4, Calle went on air at KCRW’s “Press Play,” where he dodged all the pointed questions asked by host Madeline Brand.

If he’s ever interviewed again, someone should also ask Calle if he received any money from the “Black Rose” production or if he has ever met or been in contact with Nevsky’s main co-producing partner Alexander Izotov of Czar Pictures.

If you’re starting to detect a recurrent motiv of Russian strength nationalism (Alexander Nevsky, Czar Pictures, the Russian Schwarzenegger), you’d be correct. Czar Picture’s website is charmingly translated into an approximation of English and, as mentioned above, spells out its “its “priority” as the “integration of the Russian investors, producers, and actors into the global film business through active systemic participation in the international film projects to promote a positive image of Russia and Russian citizens in the eyes of the global viewers.”

Czar Pictures is, by its own admission, a Russian propaganda company.

Is it a Russian *government* operation, though? Well, in order to answer that, one needs to be aware of the difficulty of separating private enterprise from government activity in Putin’s Russia, particularly in art and culture.

According to press coverage and photos by the state-run media Alexander Izotov does move in pro-Putin cultural circles, and he is close to eccentric Russian painter Nikas Safronov, a dubiously talented pseudo-surrealist portrait painter known for what he would call “Dali-like” pictures of celebrities, pop stars and oligarchs and their families. On a recent profile, Safronov told an interviewer that “Putin does things that no one before him would have dared to do — except maybe Jesus Christ. I have great respect for Putin.” He has, of course, painted the Russian leader.

As for Alexander Nevsky’s “Black Rose,” it got re-released in the US in 2017, after Trump’s victory. The plot of the film, available for $3.99 on Amazon video, according to IMDB, is: “A Russian Police Major is enlisted by the LAPD to help solve a series of gruesome murders perpetrated against young women by a sadistic sociopathic killer on the mean streets of Hollywood.”

Earlier this year, Nevsky did an interview with Forbes to promote the re-release of “Black Rose. The title of the article is “Alexander Nevsky, Former Mr. Universe, On Trump, Putin And His New Movie, ‘Black Rose’”

This is what Brian Calle’s co-star and buddy had to say about US-Russia relations:


What do you think Vladimir Putin or Donald Trump would think of Black Rose?

I’m sure they will like it, because as far as I’ve heard, they like good movies. They like action movies, thrillers, genre movies. And I think now, they both want to make a peaceful situation, because no one wants another cold war. I’m sure about that.

What are your thoughts on Donald Trump?

I’ll be honest with you. I’m an actor, I’m not a politician. But I’ll tell you: I like what he was saying about Russia when he was elected, that we should work together, and we should be friends. And that’s why Russians like him so much, because they were saying the same thing. And if you remember what Hillary Clinton was saying about Russia during the election, I’m sure she didn’t have anything against the Russian people, but she was saying different things.

And what about Vladimir Putin?

If we talk about the movie business, and what I’m doing, it’s all possible because Vladimir Putin came to power and fixed the situation in Russia. He changed it completely, and not only in the movie business but in many other things too. I think he is a great leader.


It would be interesting for Calle’s next interviewer to ask him if he shares his friend’s views.

IMDB page for “Black Rose” (Brian Calle in the cast):

Czar Pictures:

Variety in 2007 on the creation of “Hollywood Storm” company:

On Safronov:

2017 Forbes Interview with Nevsky: