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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hollywood in a Race for Litvinenko Movie

bloombergJohnny Depp
LONDON -- Director Michael Mann and Columbia Pictures are racing against actor Johnny Depp and Warner Bros. to make a film about former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, the trade paper Variety reported.

Columbia Pictures had agreed to pay $1.5 million for the film rights to a book about Litvinenko being co-written by his widow, Marina, and Alex Goldfarb, a close friend, said Los Angeles-based Variety's web site.

The book is expected to be published in May by Simon & Schuster's Free Press imprint, the report said.

Warner Bros. has bought the rights to a different book about Litvinenko for Johnny Depp's production company, Infinitum Nihil, the paper said. Depp will produce the film and could star in it, it said.

Variety said Warner Bros. had tried to buy the rights to the book by Litvinenko's widow, but was outbid. The studio has acquired the rights to a book by New York Times journalist Alan Cowell, which is expected to be published next year by Doubleday, the report said.

Studio officials were not immediately available for comment.

Braun Entertainment Group, based in Beverley Hills, said in a statement Saturday that it had bought an option on film rights for a third potential movie project -- based on Litvinenko's own book "Blowing Up Russia: Terror From Within." Mann is known for his often violent crime sagas such as "Collateral," "Heat" and "Miami Vice," while Depp often takes on eccentric character roles in films such as "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Finding Neverland" and "Edward Scissorhands."

The report said Columbia envisioned an espionage thriller "exploring the collision between the deep rooted Russian power structure enforced by the KGB ... and the new wave of wild west capitalism" that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, Variety said.

Braun Entertainment -- which previously produced "Freedom Road," a movie starring Muhammad Ali, said it was in talks with Litvinenko's widow over its project.

The former security agent's book was published in 2004 with financial support from self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky and alleged the Federal Security Service was behind a string of bombings at apartment buildings in 1999 that killed more than 300 people and were blamed by the Kremlin on Chechen separatists.

An updated version of the book will be published in Britain next week, London publishing house Gibson Square said in a statement.