THE LATE DICTATOR
Bullets, betrayals, belly laughs. Director Armando Iannucci’s new satire has a very dark heart
Whitehall and tackled the White House, and now it’s the Kremlin’s turn. In The Loop’s Armando Iannucci, the creator of
The Thick Of It and Veep, is returning to the big screen with The Death Of Stalin. A blackly comic satire, it sifts through the political machinations that unfolded immediately after the Soviet dictator popped his murderous clogs in 1953.
Loosely based on fact, the story takes Fabien Nury’s French graphic novel of the same name as its starting point. But Iannucci’s script — and direction — ramps up the laughs even as the bodies amass. Potential successors to Stalin, Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), Beria (Simon Russell Beale) and Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), all jockey for position, each out-scheming the others.
“We’ve been very careful not to trivialise history,” says producer Kevin Loader. “But that doesn’t mean the politics of succession don’t have farcical elements.” As history attests, it’s Khrushchev who emerges triumphant, once war hero Marshal Zhukov directs his power against Beria. Jason Isaacs plays the medal-festooned soldier. “All the politicians are terrified of each other, but Zhukov’s not scared of anybody,” he stresses. “My Zhukov is hard as nails.”
As Isaacs relates, The Death Of Stalin combines “the real and the hilarious” in a telling that might not be entirely historically accurate. That’s Iannucci’s trademark, and he looks set for another sweary showstopper.