Columbia and Mann Enter Litvinenko Race

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Columbia Pictures and Michael Mann have entered the race against Warner Bros. and Johnny Depp to mount a film about Alexander “Sasha” Litvinenko, the ex-KGB agent who was fatally poisoned, reports Variety.

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 talks to direct. If that happens, his Forward Pass will produce as well.

The film 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.

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