Maria Valcheva Bakalova
4 June 1996
|Known for||Borat Subsequent Moviefilm|
Maria Valcheva Bakalova[a] ( b?-KAH-l?v?; born 4 June 1996) is a Bulgarian actress. She gained international recognition for her role as Tutar Sagdiyev in the 2020 mockumentary Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. For her performance, she won the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Supporting Actress and received nominations at the Academy Awards, the BAFTA Film Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Born and raised in Burgas, Bakalova began her career in Bulgarian cinema by starring in film productions while attending the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia. She appeared in films such as Transgression (2017), The Father (2019) and Last Call (2020). Since her international breakthrough in 2020, she has been a part of several major productions and is set to appear in Judd Apatow's The Bubble, the slasher film Bodies, Bodies, Bodies and Dean Craig's The Honeymoon.
Bakalova was born on 4 June 1996 in Burgas, Bulgaria. She is the only child of Rumyana Bakalova and Valcho Bakalov. Bakalova began singing lessons and playing the flute around age six. She expanded into acting at the age of 12, majoring in drama theater and minoring in flute at the National School of Music and Stage Arts in Burgas, where she was a straight-A student: "I was a super-disciplined child. I was reading too many books. I was obsessed with Dostoyevsky, at like 15, 16."
Bakalova later moved to Sofia where she majored in drama at the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts. She has credited filmmakers Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov, who taught the only film acting class at the Academy, for what she has learned about movies. Bakalova volunteered to help the directing duo with scheduling and other tasks, and traveled with them to the set of a film they were working on so that she could watch and learn. In her third year at the Academy, one of the directors invited her to audition for a small part in their movie The Father. She landed the part and filmed a brief flashback scene as the young version of the wife. The Father was selected as the Bulgarian entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards. As a student, Bakalova also appeared in various stage productions such as Les liaisons dangereuses, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, Kennedy's Children and The Trial, among others. She graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
A few months before graduating, Bakalova convinced her parents to take her on a trip to Denmark: "I was looking at what was happening in Scandinavian cinema [...] and I was obsessed with Danish cinema: Thomas Vinterberg, Lars von Trier, all of the Dogme 95 films." Bakalova visited the headquarters of von Trier's production company, where she asked to be a P.A. or a runner on his next film; she recalls: "They said, 'You would have to learn Danish,' and I was like, 'Okay, I'll do it.'"
Bakalova made her movie debut as Milena in the 2017 comedy-drama sequel XIIa. In the same year, she starred in Transgression, where she played Yana, a young girl who has an unusual relationship with an aging rocker. The film was premiered in Europe in 2018, and had its official worldwide release on HBO in 2021. In 2018, Bakalova won best actress at Toronto's AltFF Alternative Film Festival for her role in the movie. In this period, she also starred in multiple short films such as Angels, Due to Unforeseen Circumstances and Dream_Girl, and had a small role in The Father. She next starred in the 2020 comedy-drama Last Call as Alexandra, a girl who is on the verge of ending her life. Bakalova's performance in the film was received positively by critics; Yanko Terziev of Capital wrote that "[she] brings warmth and lyricism" to the movie.
Bakalova was cast as Tutar Sagdiyev in the mockumentary Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, the daughter of fictional Kazakh reporter Borat Sagdiyev. Although initially credited as Irina Nowak, reports later revealed her involvement. Fellow Bulgarian Julian Kostov connected her with casting director Nancy Bishop for the role; she and Kostov are now producing partners. Critics have praised Bakalova's performance, with some stating it as one of the year's best. Matt Fowler of IGN stated how "[t]he film's fantastic find, Maria Bakalova, every bit Sacha Baron Cohen's on-screen equal, is who, and what, most people will be talking about in the wake of [the film]." Los Angeles Times film critic Justin Chang described Bakalova's performance as "terrific", praising her portrayal of her character's journey "with madcap energy and touching conviction". For her performance, 24-year-old Bakalova received several awards, winning the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Supporting Actress. She was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and Golden Globes. She is the first Bulgarian actress to be nominated for these awards. In November 2020, it was reported that Bakalova had signed with Creative Artists Agency.
In 2021, Bakalova starred in Women Do Cry, which revolves around a family of women united by a shared trauma who confront the family patriarch's troubling past, against the backdrop of anti-trans and anti-equality protests in Bulgaria. The film premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival where it competed in the Un Certain Regard section. The same year, she joined the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a member of the Actors Branch.
Bakalova will star alongside Karen Gillan, Fred Armisen and Pedro Pascal in Judd Apatow's new comedy film The Bubble about a group of actors trying to finish a film in the pandemic. In April 2021, she was cast in A24's slasher film Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, also starring Amandla Stenberg and Pete Davidson. In August 2021, it was announced that Bakalova had been cast as the lead in Dean Craig's upcoming rom-com The Honeymoon, which she is also set to produce.
In March 2021, Bakalova announced that she and her producing partner Julian Kostov were in the early stages of developing a historical drama miniseries with the working title Freedom or Death, based on the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War, in which Bulgaria gained independence.
|Denotes films that have not yet been released|
|2019||Due to Unforeseen Circumstances||Girl in Taxi||Short film|
|Borat Subsequent Moviefilm||Tutar Sagdiyev|
|2021||Women Do Cry||Sonja|
|TBA||Bodies, Bodies, Bodies||TBA||Post-production|
|AltFF Alternative Film Festival||Best Actress||Transgression||Won|
|Queen Palm International Film Festival||Nominated|
|Alliance of Women Film Journalists||Best Supporting Actress||Borat Subsequent Moviefilm||Nominated|
|Most Daring Performance Award||Won|
|Boston Online Film Critics Association Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Chicago Film Critics Association Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Most Promising Performer||Nominated|
|Chicago Indie Critics||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Columbus Film Critics Association||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Denver Film Critics||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Florida Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Actress - Motion Picture Comedy or Musical||Nominated|
|Greater Western New York Film Critics Association||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Houston Film Critics Society||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Indiana Film Journalists Association Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Breakout of the Year||Won|
|Kansas City Film Critics Circle||Best Supporting Actress||Runner-up|
|London Film Critics' Circle||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Music City Film Critics Association||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|National Society of Film Critics||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|New York Film Critics Circle Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|New York Film Critics Online||Breakthrough Performer||Won|
|North Carolina Film Critics Association||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|North Dakota Film Society||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|North Texas Film Critics Association||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Online Film Critics Society||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Philadelphia Film Critics||Best Supporting Actress||Runner-up|
|San Diego Film Critics Society||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Best Comedic Performance||Runner-up|
|San Francisco Film Critics||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Satellite Awards||Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy||Won|
|St. Louis Film Critics Association||Best Supporting Actress||Runner-up|
|AACTA Awards||Best International Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Academy Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Atlanta Film Critics||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|BAFTA Film Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Critics' Choice Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association||Best Supporting Actress||4th place|
|Detroit Film Critics Society||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Best Breakthrough Performance||Won|
|Dorian Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|MTV Movie & TV Awards||Best Breakthrough Performance||Nominated|
|Phoenix Film Critics Society||Breakthrough Performance||Won|
|Screen Actors Guild Award||Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role||Nominated|
|Seattle Film Critics||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Toronto Film Critics Association||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Utah Film Critics Association||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|Vancouver Film Critics Circle||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|