Vladimir Putin Character Cut From Luc Besson's Russian Thriller

The Russian president's character has been purged from the EuropaCorp script that chronicles a real-life Russian nuclear sub accident in 2000 (the year Putin came to power).
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He has been dubbed the most powerful man in the world by CNN (sorry, Donald). But Vladimir Putin won’t be portrayed on the big screen any time soon. Sources say Putin’s character has been cut from EuropaCorp’s upcoming big-budget thriller Kursk, which is headed into production next month and would have marked his first depiction in a studio film.

The movie, toplined by stars Matthias Schoenaerts and Colin Firth, chronicles the real-life incident in which a Russian nuclear submarine sank to the floor of the Barents Sea after being rocked by twin explosions. Putin, who was just three months into the job as Russian president when the tragedy occurred in 2000, was poised to appear as a supporting character in at least five scenes in the Thomas Vinterberg-helmed film (the Russian strongman plays a pivotal role in Robert Moore’s best-seller A Time to Die, on which the film is based).

The Putin sequences in the Robert Rodat-penned script have received a nyet. Word is that EuropaCorp president Luc Besson wanted to shift the story’s focus to the rescue mission rather than the politics behind the disaster (the role had not been cast yet). One theory is that nobody at EuropaCorp wanted to be hacked. “Remember The Interview?” says a source, referring to the Evan Goldberg- and Seth Rogen-directed comedy that angered Kim Jong-un and is believed to have sparked the epic Sony hack in 2014.

Ironically, the Russian leader is sympathetically portrayed in the Kursk script, which highlighted why he took the tragedy personally (Putin’s father was a submariner). Unless Besson has a change of heart, the only place Putin obsessives can get an onscreen fix is courtesy of a shirtless Beck Bennett on Saturday Night Live.

A version of this story first appeared in the March 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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