Power Play

THE DEATH OF STALIN | Ar­mando Ian­nucci’s lat­est po­lit­i­cal satire top­ples a Soviet dic­ta­tor…

Total Film - - Teasers - JF

Pic­ture Joseph Stalin and what do you see? The bru­tal Soviet dic­ta­tor who purged mil­lions of his per­ceived en­e­mies? A dis­arm­ingly hot young man? (It’s a thing, google it.) What you don’t see is a diminu­tive east Lon­don geezer.

“All the mem­oirs say that when he died, he was this lit­tle old man,” Ar­mando Ian­nucci tells Teasers.

The Death Of Stalin’s writer/di­rec­tor took the oddly in­spired route of cast­ing Lon­doner Adrian McLough­lin as Rus­sia’s in­fa­mous au­to­crat, orig­i­nal ac­cent and all. “Stalin bore no re­la­tion to the mas­sive stat­ues and por­traits hang­ing all around him. I wanted a guy who could still freak you out, but was smaller than you were ex­pect­ing.”

It’s no spoiler to say McLough­lin’s Stalin carks it early doors. In­stead the film fo­cuses on the power strug­gle that erupts be­tween his in­ner cir­cle in the wake of his death. Among the eclec­tic ranks: Steve Buscemi, Jef­frey Tam­bor, Paul White­house and Michael Palin (the Python’s first on-cam­era film role in

20 years). Like McLough­lin, they all re­tain their re­gional twangs. “The only thing they had in com­mon was they were run­ning the Soviet Union. It should feel like there’s a dif­fer­ent dy­namic be­hind each one of them.”

While the film’s satir­i­cal reg­is­ter will be fa­mil­iar to any­one who’s seen Ian­nucci’s po­lit­i­cal come­dies (The Thick Of It, In The Loop and Veep), The Death Of Stalin has been adapted from a French graphic novel. Ian­nucci im­me­di­ately saw a par­al­lel with his oeu­vre, and an op­por­tu­nity to push him­self as a film­maker. “I wanted to step out of my com­fort zone,” Ian­nucci nods. “It’s the first time we’ve looked at ac­tual his­tor­i­cal char­ac­ters. The first time we’ve done a pe­riod piece. I wanted it to feel more cin­e­matic.”

He also wanted it to feel less straight­for­wardly comedic, “some­thing where you’re si­mul­ta­ne­ously laugh­ing but also feel­ing a lit­tle bit ner­vous,” with the para­noid ma­nia of Stalin’s Rus­sia push­ing the bounds of plau­si­bil­ity on­screen. “Peo­ple told us fam­i­lies were so used to peo­ple be­ing taken away in the mid­dle of the night that they went to bed with three or four lay­ers of clothes on,” Ian­nucci says. “Vasily, Stalin’s son, re­ally did lose the en­tire na­tional army hockey team in a plane crash and tried to cover it up. Th­ese are all true stories.”

No stranger to the un­be­liev­able truth, hav­ing worked on Veep for four years, Ian­nucci was ready to leave Wash­ing­ton pol­i­tics be­hind, but found his work more rel­e­vant than ever with the rise of Trump. “Peo­ple talk about how cur­rent it feels in terms of the world of dic­ta­tors and au­to­crats, and how they want to con­trol the me­dia, their image and the nar­ra­tive,” Ian­nucci con­sid­ers. “So I don’t sup­pose

you can get away from it.”

ETA | 20 OC­TO­BER / THE DEATH OF STALIN OPENS NEXT MONTH.

rED ALErT Writer/di­rec­tor Ar­mando Ian­nucci (be­low) has brought to­gether an all-star cast, in­clud­ing Steve Buscemi, Jef­frey Tam­bor and Paul White­house, for his satir­i­cal take on Soviet pol­i­tics.

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