Benedict Cumberbatch to play poisoned Soviet spy in HBO series

·2 min read

Benedict Cumberbatch will play the Soviet spy Alexander Litvinenko in Londongrad, an HBO limited series, Variety reported on Thursday.

Based on the book The Terminal Spy by Alan Cowell, Londongrad will feature the Sherlock Holmes actor as Litvinenko, the former KGB agent turned defector who was fatally poisoned by the radioactive isotope polonium-210 in 2006.

Related: The Power of the Dog review – Campion and Cumberbatch’s beautiful, brawny western

Cumberbatch, an early favorite for a best actor Oscar nomination for his role in Jane Campion’s western drama Power of the Dog, will also executive-produce the series under his SunnyMarch production banner.

Londongrad is not the only TV project in the works about Litvinenko, who fell ill after meeting two Russian agents at London’s Millennium hotel and slowly died from the poison over the course of three weeks. David Tennant is set to play the former spy in a four-part ITV series that will cover the poisoning and his widow Marina’s campaign to persuade the British government to name her husband’s killers and acknowledge Russia’s responsibility. (In September 2021, the European court of human rights found Russia responsible for his death.)

Litvinenko, who worked in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) as an organized crime officer, fled to London in 2000, where he became a writer, journalist and outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin. From 2003 until his death, he was also a counter-intelligence officer, advising MI6 as an expert on Russian organized crime. As he lay dying in London’s University College hospital, Litvinenko worked with Scotland Yard detectives to solve his own murder, tracing the fatal cup of tea back to a former comrade in the Russian secret service.

The ITV program, written by George Kay and executive-produced by Patrick Spence, does not have a release date yet. Neither does Londongrad, which will be written by David Scarpa, who was most recently a writer, executive producer and co-showrunner on the Amazon series The Man in the High Castle.

Apart from starring in Londongrad, Cumberbatch will reappear as Doctor Strange in the Marvel movies Spiderman: Far From Home in December and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, set for 2022.

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