The spying game in our post-Cold War world seems to often be all about planting bugs in mosques and guys transporting old Russian nukes in the back of pick-up trucks across bumpy Syrian landscapes. So when Alexander Litvinenko started dying from radiation poisoning – and a rare kind, polonium poisoning at that – the world sat up and paid attention. We’re such morbid jerks.
But the Litvinenko story was super – a former KGB agent, he had said that his superiors at the FSB (the modern KGB) had wanted him to kill Russian billionaire Boris Brezovsky and that the government had bombed an apartment complex and blamed it on Chechnyian rebels. In his final days he was looking into the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who many thought had been killed by the government.
As Litvinenko withered away, he blamed Vladimir Putin for his death. He had also alleged that Putin was a pedophile, which seems to be about the nicest thing the ex-spy ever called the President of Russia.
Sasha’s Story: The Life and Death of a Russian Spy is the name of an upcoming book about Litvinenko written by the New York Times London bureau chief Alan Cowell, who had been following the story from the start. Warner Bros has picked up the rights to the book (which I think may actually be yet unwritten) for Infinitum Nihil, Johnny Depp’s production company, to develop.
I have to say that I think it’s unlikely that Depp will star in this one – he just seems wrong for the part (although who knows – losing weight for radiation poisoning could be an Oscar magnet). His company has optioned a couple of other books, like Shantaram and Nick Hornby’s Long Way Down, among others, and there’s just no way he can be in every one of them if they actually go somewhere.