Grigori Perelman, the Movie

I’ve checked the date on this, and it’s not April 1, so maybe this is actually true. According to the website of the Russian television news network RT, James Cameron to produce story of reclusive Russian genius:

Celebrated Russian mathematician Grigory Perelman, the man who solved a century-old problem then turned down a $1 million prize, is to be the subject of a Hollywood movie produced by James Cameron.

Throughout his career, Perelman has made several breakthroughs in mathematics, geometry and topology. And though Perelman is known for leading a secluded life and avoiding journalists, he agreed to participate in the project dedicated to his milestone achievements. Avatar and Titanic creator James Cameron is rumored to be producing the movie.

Israeli producer Aleksandr Zabrovsky told KP Daily that it took him three years to convince Perelman to sign on to the project. He then approached Cameron with the idea, who was reportedly enthusiastic about it.

The film is due to be shot in the US, with an as-yet-unnamed professional actor covering the role of Perelman.

I’m finding it hard to figure out how Hollywood will dramatize the story of reclusively thinking about the Ricci-flow equations for seven years or so. I guess it will all be in the special effects, for which Cameron is famous.

One should perhaps take this with a large grain of salt, considering the following (from the Wikipedia Perelman entry):

In April 2011 Aleksandr Zabrovsky, producer of “President-Film” studio, claimed to have held an interview with Perelman and agreed to shoot a film about him, under the tentative title The Formula of the Universe.[36] Zabrovsky says that in the interview,[37] Perelman explained why he rejected the one million dollar prize.[36]

A number of journalists[38][39][40] believe that Zabrovky’s interview is most likely a fake, pointing to contradictions in statements supposedly made by Perelman.

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24 Responses to Grigori Perelman, the Movie

  1. Richard says:

    I’m still waiting for a movie about E. Galois!

  2. Armin Nikkhah Shirazi says:

    I don’t think this is very well known, but James Cameron studied physics before he dropped out and went his own way. And if one thinks that the life of a mathematician thinking about highly abstract issues cannot be effectively dramatized, just remember ‘A Beautiful Mind’.

    In fact, if this is true, it is really refreshing to have a movie about someone like that than the gazillion movies about artists, sports figures, business people and politicians. There are not very many people in this and related fields known to the general public, and think what one will about Perelman’s idiosyncrasies, the ideals that he is trying to uphold and the significance of his work are worth knowing by more people.

    And yes, Galois’ life would definitely be extremely well-suited for dramatization.

  3. Armin Nikkhah Shirazi says:

    Also, I just noticed an amusing sentence on the same RT page you linked:

    “The CERN laboratory in Switzerland has found a flaw in an experiment that was set to prove Albert Einstein’s social theory of relativity wrong.”

  4. Giotis says:

    I think his life has already been dramatized:

    Press cc for english subtitles…

  5. Tmark48 says:

    @ Richard : Spot on. Galois is such an amazing character, would love to see a modern film about him. I’d prefer some french director to lead the project, there is no need to overdramatize his life which in fact was something surreal. Hollywood might just go too far and jump the shark. Oh and what about Fourier or even Grothendieck ?

  6. Thomas Larsson says:

    Some other possibilities:
    Majorana – a mystery.
    Planck – a tragedy.
    Beurling – a thriller.
    Teichmüller – a villain.

  7. Stefano says:

    James Cameron defamed the heroic William McMaster Murdoch in his Titanic movie, then as reparation offered a few THOUSAND dollars to a charitable prize in Murdoch’s name, see for more information. Any movies by Cameron, on any topic, should be shunned by people of conscience.

  8. Navneeth says:

    And if one thinks that the life of a mathematician thinking about highly abstract issues cannot be effectively dramatized, just remember ‘A Beautiful Mind’.

    But John Nash’s life had a nice “curve” (and a detailed biography) which could be further bent and shaped to fit the scaffolding of a Hollywood movie.

    Here you have Perelman: a great mathematical achievement under his belt, yes; but too much with which to trouble the general public. You then knock on the door to his mother’s apartment to find out more about the man (which is what will be central to the film) and he doesn’t open it.

  9. Cesar Laia says:

    It’s my opinion, but ‘A Beautiful Mind’ (even winning several oscars) is not a good movie.

    James Cameron did good movies many years ago, and I still regard “Terminator” as is best. Probably wants to show that he can also do non-action movies… who knows, he still is a great director, even considering that “Avatar” sucks. If I was a film director, I would go for Majorana. Or Heisenberg and Bohr (it would be a great plot).

  10. Trulo says:

    Cesar, I agree… Having read the extremely detailed and well documented biography of Nash before watching the movie, I found the latter shallow and boring. Personally, I’d not be interested in a movie on Perelman at all. Now, a biography by Sylvia Nassar or someone equally talented, that would be most interesting. But I guess Perelman is still too young for a biography, which would probably need to be added several chapters twenty years from now.

  11. tristes_tigres says:

    The real question is who’s badas enough to play the lead: Chuck Norris, Rutger Hauer or Harrison Ford?

  12. Blendletan says:

    I always thought the life of Grothendieck would make a more interesting move….

  13. Peter Woit says:


    I’ve been reminded that there is a biography of Perelman, Masha Gessen’s book Perfect Rigor. For more about the book, see

  14. Rikki says:

    I would definitely pay to see this film. However, I doubt it will happen. While we’re suggesting potentially great subjects for biographical films, I can look no further than the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

  15. Tim May says:

    There’ve been at least two films or miniseries about Oppenheimer. One was within the past 20 years, the other was with Sam Waterston (“Law and Order”) as RO in a long 1980 miniseries.

    Personally, I found neither of them very compelling. Nuclear scientist, conflicts about warfare, conflicts about loyalty to U.S. versus loyalty to world peace and communism, blah blah.

    I liked “A Beautiful Mind” because of its abstract focus, along with the psycho. aspects. It was well-handled by R. Howard, but most directors would go for the money shots.

    A film about Grothendieck would probably have mostly scenes of him teaching in Hanoi suburbs as bombs fell, perhaps with him (fictionally) meeting Jane Fonda in a gun emplacement. Blech.

    A film about Perelman would, my guess, be mostly a riff on “Rain Man.”

    Not to sound too negative, nor too sympathetic toward strings, but I’d really rather watch Nima Arkani-Hamed’s 5-part Messenger Lectures for a third time than sit through a political drama about Oppenheimer, or Teller, or Grothendieck or even Perelman.

    And I can only imagine what other folks would want to sit through. (Probably not N. A-H., but also probably not Yet Another Oppenheimer biopic, etc.)

  16. srp says:

    OK, I must get out my two pet peeves about A Beautiful Mind:

    1) They get Nash equilibrium wrong. It’s a simple and conceptually elegant idea and for no good reason the scene in the bar gives the exact wrong intuition and result.

    2) They did that Hollywood thing of making Princeton University out to be a formal and stuffy place. The actual introductory lecture to incoming doctoral students described in the book was pretty much the opposite of the one Judd Hirsch’s character gives in the film. In the book, Lefschetz banged his wooden hands on a table and said that at Princeton we don’t care about baby stuff like whether you go to class or dress nicely, but only care whether you create important mathematics.

    And what was up with that hallucinogenic presentation of fountain pens to Nash at the faculty club? Was Ron Howard channeling his bar mitzvah experience?

  17. Ilya Ferapontov says:

    Source of the news is russian version of Onion news – Fognews ( It is fake news 100%

  18. anon. says:

    English Translation of Fognews spoof news on Perelman film contract:

    Perelman hypothesized from James Cameron

    Author: Stuart Cain

    James Cameron announced that he would make a film about the Russian scientist Gregori Perelman.

    The plot of the future masterpiece is kept secret, but when a famous Director in St. Petersburg, he coaxed a scientist filming visited our editorial chat and we were able to learn about the little-known details of the new project.

    The movie itself will be built in a period of relative obscurity scientist opposed to his fundamental discoveries and a short period of time immediately after the award of the prize of the Fields.

    Cameron said that it was important to show how the scientist’s quiet life invasion begins. Grigori Perelman, proving the Poincaré conjecture, suddenly became interested in the scientific world.

    This world, Kèmeronu, using a known mathematical problems solved, wants to make himself popular, despite the fact that it criticises the power within him and Perelman. Thus, the Director intends to show how, kommercializuâs′, success is not only individual but also national traits.

    The second line will be built around it, will be a renunciation of the Russian narration mathematics from 1,000,000 dollars. Cameron hopes to demonstrate the true causes of this Act. Based on the testimony of major General of Justice of St. Petersburg, the Oscar winner will deploy peRed zritelem epic picture of the battle state machines and little man.

    In the years in which the Clay Mathematics Institute wanted to transfer dollars to the account of Perelman, St. Petersburg had strict instructions of Valentina Ivanovna the doubling of the budget, and naturally a major taxable income immediately drew the attention of the tax inspection of large taxpayers.

    At the time of inspection, as told by Kèmeronu source, fulfilled the plan for the quarter, revenue from Gazprom, Rosneft were not as high as expected, so it was decided to take 13% of the million of Perelman before the end of the reporting period to finish the year with double overfulfilled the task. The Director was able to talk to the man who had appointed the Coordinator of operation “Perelman.

    The operation was carried out on a grand scale: there were bikers who lit up at night in the apartment of the scientist, alluding to buy housing in another area were special raids with the fivefold increase in prices in stores where purchases Perelman were huge puppets-pig who accompanied Gregory in shops and on the streets.

    Selected people, similar to his old friends and acquaintances whose task it was to ask the debt, telling about their own nesčast′h and the troubles, and the entrance of the House was obkleem advertisement charities, many real and imaginary persons with disabilities were planted on the pavement near the House of a scientist. Planned even a kidnapping, but … Perelman, not noticed.

    Immersed in the world of theoretical mathematics, it’s indifference forced power wasted throw 220 thousand dollars trying to exert pressure on him, and then retracted the award. Error is the Coordinator of the Perelman, “he was a young officer, who, in desperation, came into the House of a scientist with the Declaration of income.

    This persistence state tax inspector need you to have a share of the million! “made the break, look in the Perelman cheque, which he stayed with the latest purchase, see bun bread for 200 rubles grayscale and forgo bonuses. The scientist did not want to give money to parasites.

    The tax was left with nothing and, to somehow compensate for their expenses — bikers fined for riding without a helmet, shops for breach of the Competition Act, pig suits sold by homeless activists and friends dispersed to their homes.

    This story is going to show his new film James Cameron. At least in that he tried to convince the editor of FogNews, while being our guest.

  19. Cesar Laia says:

    About Oppenheimer, I liked this movie a lot:

  20. Giotis says:

    “I’ve been reminded that there is a biography of Perelman, Masha Gessen’s book Perfect Rigor.”

    I’ve read it. It was excellent except that at the end of the book she implied autism. I strongly disagree with such off-hand speculations. People are not obliged to align with society’s norms to be considered “normal”…

  21. bjm says:

    @ srp says: “OK, I must get out my two pet peeves about A Beautiful Mind…”

    As someone who never heard of Nash before the movie, the film took me on a fun ride. I thought it was well made, imaginative, and entertaining. I understand the pain of someone who sees that the movie got the facts all wrong, but at least now I have heard of Nash and can research the facts about his life if the urge strikes.

  22. Jeff McGowan says:

    As far as “A Beautiful Mind” and the real John Nash, a story which maybe gives some insight into how far off the movie (and even the book really) are –

    I had a professor in grad school who was an undergrad at MIT when Nash and Paul Cohen were both there as postdocs. He used to hang around the math lounge all the time, since Nash and Cohen spent a lot of time trying to each prove that they were smarter than the other, giving impromptu lectures on various interesting topics. Nash got to know my professor because of this, and one day he handed him an offprint of one of his papers. My prof opened it up, and noticed that on the inside cover was a very elaborately drawn thing, which upon inspection he discovered was an “intergalactic drivers license,” valid in perpetuity. This well before anyone had any thoughts about Nash’s lucidity. He didn’t say anything, but several years later, after Nash had been hospitalized, my prof got a letter from him telling him that unfortunately even though the license had said “valid in perpetuity” Nash was going to have to rescind it, and could he please mail it to Nash. Needless to say he kept it, and still has it 🙂

  23. Bugsy says:

    My God but Google translate can be bad!

    Re math films, I did like especially the beginning part of A Beautiful Mind (the craziness was a bit painful to watch) and also liked Good Will Hunting a lot. But my favorite by far is Proof. I can’t believe how good a job the actors (who all apparently were zeros in science in reality) did of catching the spirit of math research. Plus it was great to see again the environs of the U of Chicago, though the Northwestern math dept was replaced by a much more modern building!

  24. Craig says:

    Many RT stories are weird self-parodies. So this might hold as much water as an April fool joke. They’ve had ostensibly serious discussions with guests about the cia colluding with space aliens.

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