The Vladimir Putin most of us see in North America is a shirtless horse riding, wildlife hunting, deep-sea diving, country invader who seems to be like a Bond villain.

And for the most of us, seeing pictures like this is the closest we’ll ever get to him. But Adi Ignatius had the opportunity to spend 3.5 hours with him at the end of 2007.

At the time Ignatius was the deputy managing editor for Time magazine and was there with a team to interview him for the person of the year issue.

“What really struck me is his humourlessness,” says Ignatius, who is now the editor in chief of the Harvard Business Review, to Kevin Newman Live. “He’s made it to the top, he has these hobbies, but he never lets his guard down. Despite all our efforts to find the real Putin, we failed.”

Skip ahead to the 25-minute mark of the video above to see our full interview with Ignatius.

In the 210 minutes, Ignatius says Putin laughed exactly one time. He wrote about his personal experience for Politico.

Ignatius spent about two hours interviewing the Russian President with good translators and then had dinner with him. He says the dinner was very intense and Putin was incredibly disciplined. Putin never blinked. He would swirl his glass of wine, but he never took a sip.

“Usually leaders love it when you get off topic and talk about their favourite soccer team, but there was none of that,” he says.

Ignatius has decades of experience as a journalist and says often when he interviews people, even if they have committed horrible act, they show a softer side and want to be likes. Putin came across as wanting to show that being chosen person of the year was no big deal and ranted about the West having this misconception that Russia is inferior.

Time magazine chose Putin in 2007 because he had effectively restored a relevance to Russia. “We went into the interview trying to figure out if he is lucky,” says Ignatius. “He re-established Russia as a global power.”

But even seven years ago Putin was consumed with recovering a bruised national pride and helping to protect Russian speakers in former Soviet countries.

“The idea he is crazy is nonsense,” says Ignatius, who believes Putin is making very calculated moves. “He’s brilliant.”