Ralph Fiennes, currently co-starring as British intelligence chairman Gareth Mallory in “Skyfall,” is likely to play a different kind of government “espiocrat” in the film of John Le Carré’s 2010 novel, “Our Kind of Traitor.”
Hector Meredith, an awkward, blustering spymaster with his own Secret Service fiefdom, will also differ greatly from Justin Quayle, the shy diplomat in Kenya whom Fiennes played in the 2005 film of le Carré’s “The Constant Gardener.”
The in-demand Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen is expected to play “Our Kind of Traitor”’s pivotal figure, Dmitri “Dima” Vladimirovich Krasnov, a charismatically sleazy oligarch who proclaims himself “the world’s number one money launderer.” Desperate to protect his family from the murderous new leader of his Russian crime syndicate, Dima is willing to talk business with the British. That there’s no great chasm between the goals of British espionage chiefs and Russian mobsters is central to Le Carré’s moral critique of the post-Cold War order.
Dima contrives to meets a jaded Oxford don, Perry Makepiece (Ewan McGregor), and his brilliant lawyer girlfriend, Gail Perkins, on an Antiguan tennis court and persuades Perry to hook him up with British intelligence. Meredith takes over the case and assigns a disgraced British operative, Luke Weaver, to investigate Dima.
Following an assignation between Perry, Gail, and Dima at the men’s 2009 French Open final between Federer and Söderling, Dima and Meredith meet up at a Paris tennis club. If carefully handled by director Justin Kurzel, their transaction could echo some of the tension in the unforgettable (but silent) meeting of George Smiley (Alec Guinness) and Karla (Patrick Stewart, fleetingly seen) in the BBC’s 1982 miniseries of Le Carré’s “Smiley’s People.”
Since playing the banker and terrorist financier Le Chiffre in “Casino Royale” (2006), Mikkelson has confounded expectations as a European costume-drama star (“Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky,” “A Royal Affair”) who’s equally at home in mythical action films and fantasies (“Valhalla Rising,” “Clash of the Titans”) – and art-house movies. His portrayal of the nursery school teacher wrongly accused of molesting a child in Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt” earned Mikkelsen the Best Actor award at Cannes last May.
According to Screen Daily, Mikkelsen and Fiennes are in “advanced negotiations” to participate in “Our Kind of Traitor.” There’s no word yet who will play Weaver, who is one of Le Carré’s most arresting characters, or Perkins.
The $35 million thriller, which will go before the cameras this summer, is being produced by StudioCanal – the French company behind the 2011 movie of Le Carré’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” – and the UK’s Film4. The script was written by Hossein Amini, best known for “Drive” and “Snow White and the Huntsman.” (Amini’s directorial debut, the thriller “The Two Faces of January,” opens this year.)
StudioCanal’s chairman and CEO Olivier Courson has confirmed that the French production company is working with Working Title Films on its version of “Smiley’s People,” the third and final version of Le Carré’s “Karla Trilogy,” and that the actors whose characters survived “Tinker Tailor” are on alert for a possible 2014 shoot. “The Honorable Schoolboy,” the trilogy’s middle part, has never been filmed.