David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch will play in the shows about Alexander Litvinenko

The poisoning of former Russian intelligence agent Alexander Litvinenko in London has become one of Scotland Yard’s biggest cases. The story of his life and death has become the basis for many works of fiction: books, tv-series, and even opera. Although 15 years have passed since the events, two new projects with the stars of the British scene were announced in 2021: Litvinenko with David Tennant and Londongrad with Benedict Cumberbatch. Afisha.London magazine talks about all the details.


This September ITV announced a four-part drama Litvinenko, although the first information about a possible mini-series appeared back in 2019. Alexander Litvinenko will be played by David Tennant, the star of the iconic British tv-series Doctor Who, and Marina will be played by Margarita Levieva (The Deuce). Unlike John Crowley’s play from 2019, the documentary drama focuses on Scotland Yard’s many years of investigation into the poisoning of Litvinenko, in which Alexander himself became the main witness. The investigators who processed this case will take part in the creation of the series. The director’s chair is taken by Jim Field Smith (Criminal: UK), and the script will be written by George Kay (Lupin).


Screenwriter George Kay: “In late 2006, Alexander Litvinenko was a living witness to his own murder. He spent his dying days entrusting the Metropolitan Police with the details of what happened to him. It took those police and his remarkable widow Marina Litvinenko a decade to have those claims ratified. Their stamina, hard work and bravery are what make this not only an essential story of our times but a privilege to be asked to write”.


People were still discussing the project with David Tennant when a month later it became known that another tv-series dedicated to the same events is in production. The lead role in the HBO Londongrad got Benedict Cumberbatch, one of the most popular British actors of today. After playing legendary detective Sherlock Holmes in the BBC show, Cumberbatch has received not only numerous nominations for prestigious awards and excellent job offers (The Imitation Game, Patrick Melrose, the role of Doctor Strange in the MCU), but most importantly, love from the audience around the world. The HBO television series will be based on Alan Cowell’s book The Terminal Spy, directed by Academy Award-winning Brian Fogel and written by David Scarpa.


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It should be reminded, that in July 2021, the opera The Life and Death of Alexander Litvinenko premiered at the Grange Park Opera. The tickets were sold out in a couple of days. The composer was Anthony Bolton, who began work on the opera back in 2012 after reading the book Death of a Dissident by Marina Litvinenko and Alexander Goldfarb. The libretto was written by Kit Hesketh-Harvey, a renowned British musician, translator and playwright. The two-act English-language opera to the music of Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky showed the story of how the happy life was replaced by an everlasting run and ended tragically.



This year marks the 15th anniversary of the death of the former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko in London, but all this time people have not stopped talking about it. In 2016, journalist Luke Harding released the high-profile book A Very Expensive Poison. Three years later, in 2019, the premiere of the production of the same name by Lucy Prebble took place on the stage of The Old Vic Theatre. It was directed by John Crowley, who has worked on the films Brooklyn and The Goldfinch. The role of Alexander Litvinenko was played by British actor Tom Brook, known for Game of Thrones and The Crown. Alexander’s wife, Marina Litvinenko, also took part in the creation of the production: she met and talked with the entire cast before rehearsals began. Although the Harding’s book was mainly focused on investigation, the play by John Crowley and Lucy Prebble turned out, according to Marina Litvinenko, rather a love story, very humane and touching.



Cover photo: Matt Holyoak for Radio Times Magazine



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