EXCLUSIVE: Action is heating up on Londongrad, the Warner Bros drama about the mysterious death of former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was poised in 2006 with polonium-210. I’m told the studio is in discussions with Rise of the Planet of the Apes director Rupert Wyatt and that the studio is courting Michael Fassbender to play Litvinenko. The script is by David Scarpa.
As Litvinenko deteriorated in a London hostpital bed, he went public with accusations that he was done in by then-Russian president Vladimir Putin. The mystery was never really solved. I’m told that Wyatt’s producing partner Alan Moloney will join a roster of producers that include Graham King and Johnny Depp and Christi Dembrowski’s Infinitum Nihil.
Disney announced today it has reached an agreement to launch a free-to-air ad-supported Disney Channel in Russia early next year. The joint venture with media holding company UTH Russia will see UTH’s Seven TV channel become Disney Channel, with Disney owning a 49% stake and UTH 51%. At launch, the network will reach about 40 million households, or about 75% of the measured audience in Russia. It will feature family programming including Disney’s signature shows as well as original Russian content. The move comes after a similar effort by Disney was blocked in 2008; the Wall Street Journal reported that Russian regulators OK’d this one after Disney boss Bob Iger met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. “He endorsed the partners that we’re working with and the strategy,” Iger told the WSJ about the meeting. When it launches, it will be the 101st network in Disney Channels Worldwide’s group that currently reaches 325 million households globally.
Did Kremlin Have Its Hands On Russia’s Choice For Oscars?
Russian critics are blaming the Kremlin and lamenting the country’s choice for the best foreign-language film entry at the Oscars. The most expensive film in the nation’s history — Burnt by the Sun-2: Citadel — was chosen despite being a box-office bomb. It was directed by Nikita Mikhalkov, a close friend of prime minister Vladimir Putin. Even the selection panel’s chairman, Oscar-winning director Vladimir Menshov, refused to sign off on the vote in protest. “The decision was unfair,” he told a correspondent from the UK’s Telegraph. “It was extremely badly received by critics, its box office receipts collapsed and it had no international festival success.” There were at least two other films that were more deserving, he added. Citadel is a three-hour take on the Red Army’s battle against the Nazis starring Mikhalkov himself and is the third installment of an epic saga. The first film in the trilogy, Burnt by the Sun, won an Oscar for the best foreign-language film in 1995. But Mikhalkov raised eyebrows by then making a two-part sequel over a period of eight years at a combined cost of $54M. Read More »