The Iowa football team took in a movie last season. The Hawkeyes went to watch the Disney tale of fighting robots, “Real Steel.”
About halfway into the movie, Iowa defensive lineman Steve Bigach does a double take.
“Is that Anton?”
Indeed it was. Former Hawkeye defensive lineman Anton Narinskiy had gone to Hollywood to chase his acting dream.
“I’m doing what I love; I’m happy,” Narinskiy said. “Acting is always something I wanted to pursue.”
How Narinskiy, a reserve defensive lineman who left Iowa with a master’s in accounting, ended up in California, is a story worthy of a movie itself.
Narinskiy was a 3-star linebacker out of Kenston High School in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Born in Russia and with a wrestling background, he was the type of athlete that usually thrives as a Hawkeye.
At Iowa, he was put on the defensive line and bulked up to 270 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame by his senior season but never played significant minutes. He finished his Iowa career with six tackles.
Not succeeding at college football humbled Narinskiy.
“My whole life was football, that was all I wanted to do,” Narinskiy said. “I learned to accept my role. It was difficult, but it taught me a lot of things.
“It is part of the reason I’m doing this. I’m still trying to prove something.”
Narinskiy was an academic all-American. When he left Iowa in 2009, he had an accounting degree and a job at Ernst & Young, a huge global company.
He started in the Cleveland office but was put on a project in Detroit “back when the government was bailing out the auto industry,” Narinskiy said. “I was working at GM and living out of a hotel room.
“Needless to say, I was not too enthusiastic about my day-to-day activities.”
Narinskiy decided to take night classes in acting. Soon Narinskiy was taking part in some local film projects around Detroit. He quit Ernst & Young in 2010.
“I worked some commercials for Ford and GM and got involved in a couple of films,” Narinskiy said.
One of those was “Real Steel” where he was initially the “fit model” for Hugh Jackman, the star of the film.
That meant when wardrobe picked out clothes for Jackman, it was Narinskiy’s job, because of his similar size, to see if it fit.
“It cost too much for him to come in to do it,” Narinskiy said. “I met the director, the second director, and I got the role of a Russian bodyguard.”
It was an uncredited role, but Narinskiy was in a big budget movie.
“It was cool,” he said. “That was early in the process, and I hadn’t had much experience. All of a sudden I’m on set of a million dollar movie.”
For those who knew Narinskiy at Iowa, it might be easy to miss him. A 275-pound lineman, Narinskiy shrunk down to 225 pounds during his time accounting and now is a trim 208.
His size and background make him an ideal candidate for certain parts.
“There’s a need for every single look out there,” Narinskiy said. “I get a lot of athletic roles, especially with my background, military roles.”
While in Detroit, Narinskiy also made a movie called “Rabid” that doesn’t have a distributor yet. Narinskiy is a local hero who is wounded in Afghanistan and is asked to put his small-town home back together.
“Things slowly unravel and I lose my mind,” Narinskiy said. “It’s my favorite.”
In April 2011, Narinskiy decided to pack up his car and move to Hollywood.
“I’m young, have no debt thanks to football, and no kids. … I have to do this now,” Narinskiy said.
He said his family was “a little apprehensive and confused” but ultimately supportive. His older brother works in the music industry and his younger sister also is trying to become an actor.
“I was the only one that went on a traditional path,” Narinskiy said. “Then I quit and went to Los Angeles.”
Narinskiy said he’s been busy since moving to the coast on projects, both small and large. He worked on the TV show “Suburgatory” and has done several commercials.
He also had a small role in a movie called “Dumbbells” that now is in post-production. The film also features Jay Mohr and Tom Arnold, among others.
Narinskiy spoke after a 12-hour day working on an Old Spice commercial. He said his time with Iowa football has helped his acting career.
“It taught me how to work hard, discipline,” Narinskiy said. “They love athletes in Hollywood because of the work ethic. Doing 14 hour days, showing up on time. … People love that.”
The former D-lineman is committed to his craft. He has an accounting degree to fall back on but hopes to be an actor for the long haul.
“I have this idea and vision, and I’ll continue to pursue it,” Narinskiy said. “When I am not happy, I’ll turn around.
“I love to act. I’ll do whatever and whenever I can.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football