HBO’s Londongrad: Benedict Cumberbatch plays a poisoned Russian spy in this true crime drama

HBO’s Londongrad: Benedict Cumberbatch plays poisoned Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in this true crime drama

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HBO’s latest limited series Londongrad, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, will delve into the 2006 poisoning and murder of former-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko.   

Following the announcement of ITV’s four-part crime drama Litvinenko, starring David Tennant, HBO have cast Benedict Cumberbatch as former-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in their newest drama, Londongrad.

As per Variety, the drama is an adaptation of Alan Cowell’s book The Terminal Spy, the story of Litvinenko following his fatal poisoning with Polonium-210, which Litvinenko accused the Kremlin of carrying out.

Describing his own poisoning before he died, Litvinenko said: “I had been feeling all the time, I knew they wanted to kill me actually. But could I have told this? Everyone was saying it’s just another of his whims. But I knew they wanted to kill me.”

Litvinenko’s death was an event followed by the world, but Londongrad aims to delve further into the motivations behind the attack and unravel the aftermath of “the first act of nuclear terrorism”.

Here’s everything we know about the upcoming limited series so far. 

Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, days before his death
Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, days before his death

What is the plot of Londongrad?

Based on the book The Terminal Spy: A True Story of Espionage, Betrayal and Murder, the drama looks like it will expose the “definitive story of this assassination and of the profound international implications.”

As the book’s synopsis explains: “On November 1, 2006, Alexander Litvinenko sipped tea in London’s Millennium Hotel. Hours later the Russian émigré and former intelligence officer, who was sharply critical of Russian president Vladimir Putin, fell ill and within days was rushed to the hospital. Fatally poisoned by a rare radioactive isotope slipped into his drink, Litvinenko issued a dramatic deathbed statement accusing Putin himself of engineering his murder.

“Who was Alexander Litvinenko? What had happened in Russia since the end of the cold war to make his life there untenable and in severe jeopardy even in England, the country that had granted him asylum? And how did he really die? The life of Alexander Litvinenko provides a riveting narrative in its own right, culminating in an event that rang alarm bells among western governments at the ease with which radioactive materials were deployed in a major Western capital to commit a unique crime. But it also evokes a wide range of other issues: Russia’s lurch to authoritarianism, the return of the KGB to the Kremlin, the perils of a new cold war driven by Russia’s oil riches and Vladimir Putin’s thirst for power.”

Who stars in Londongrad?

At this point, Cumberbatch is the only name attached to the project as he takes on the leading role.

However, Londongrad will be directed by Bryan Fogel, famed for his Academy Award-winning documentary Icarus, with a script by David Scarpa.

Cumberbatch recently starred in acclaimed Netflix period drama, The Power Of The Dog
Cumberbatch recently starred in acclaimed Netflix period drama, The Power Of The Dog

When will Londongrad be available to stream?

The producers are yet to provide a release date for the series, but one could speculate that it will land some time in November, alongside the 15th anniversary of Litvinenko’s death. Stay tuned for further details. 

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