Columbia Pictures and Michael Mann are in a race against Warner Bros. and Johnny Depp to make a film about Alexander “Sasha” Litvinenko, the ex-KGB agent who was fatally poisoned by high-ups in the Russian government.
Michael Fleming‘s 1.12.07 Variety story says that Mann’s pic will be “an espionage thriller, exploring the collision between deep-rooted Russian power structure enforced by the KGB and its successor, the FSB, and the new wave of wild west capitalism that came on the heels of glasnost. And the way in which Litvinenko got caught between those two colossal forces.”
Litvinenko “was poisoned on the direct orders of the Kremlin because of his biting mockery of President Vladimir Putin,” according to an 11.20.06 London Times piece by Michael Binyon. “Oleg Gordievsky, the most senior KGB agent to defect to Britain, said that the attempt to kill Mr Litvinenko had been state-sponsored. From his deathbed, Litvinenko blamed Putin and his regime for the poisoning, ruled to be from polonium-210.
Fleming’s story says that “based on a proposal and a sample chapter, Columbia paid $500,000 against $1.5 million early Friday for the screen rights to ‘Death of a Dissident,’ a book that is being co-written by Alex Goldfarb and the subject’s widow, Marina Litvinenko. The book will be published in late May by the Simon & Schuster subsidiary Free Press.
“Red Wagon partners Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher, who brought the project to the studio, will produce. Mann is in negotiations to direct. If that happens, his Forward Pass will produce as well.
“Among the bidders for ‘”Death of a Dissident’ was WB, Depp and Graham King‘s Initial Entertainment, which had already made an option deal to base a Litvinenko film on with ‘Sasha’s Story: The Life and Death of a Russian Spy’ . That book is being written by New York Times London bureau chief Alan Cowell.
“According to sources, WB offered to match Col’s winning bid, but came away empty-handed. Col topper Amy Pascal, Mann and Wick and Fisher were particularly aggressive and won the auction, which was conducted by CAA and London-based publishing agent Ed Victor.
This will be an espionage thriller, exploring the collision between deep rooted Russian power structure enforced by the KGB and its successor, the FSB, and the new wave of wild west capitalism that came on the heels of Glasnost. And the way in which Litvinenko got caught between those two colossal forces. From his deathbed, Litvinenko blamed Russian president Vladimir Putin and his regime for the poisoning, ruled to be from polonium-210.