Relations with Russia no barrier to BBC filming War and Peace there
The broadcaster will start filming its adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy novel in Russia, Lithuania and Latvia in January
Diplomatic relations with Russia may not be at their warmest right now, but for the BBC, mere politics will not get in the way of a good drama.
The broadcaster has announced it will be filming its adaptation of War and Peace on location, with a roster of stars lined up for key roles.
The literary classic by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy will be told over six one-hour episodes on BBC One, featuring the 12 Years a Slave actor Paul Dano as Pierre Bezukhov, Downton Abbey’s Lily James as Natasha Rostova and the actor James Norton as Prince Andrei Bolkonsky.
Other stars will include Stephen Rea as Prince Vassily Kuragin, Ade Edmondson as Count Rostov and Greta Scacchi as Countess Rostov.
Filming will begin in January 2015 in Russia, Lithuania and Latvia, despite recent criticism of Russia by the British and other western governments.
Earlier this year, the European Union imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and businesses following the annexation of Crimea and the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, last month warned the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, that his country faces further sanctions if it does not stop “destabilising” Ukraine.
But the BBC said it had encountered no problems in obtaining permission to film its new period drama in Russia and insisted everything was progressing smoothly.
Andrew Davies, whose past credits include the hugely popular television adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and the more recent series of House of Cards and Mr Selfridge, has adapted the novel for the small screen.
Charlotte Moore, controller of BBC One, said: “War and Peace will be a major event drama on BBC One and it is only fitting that Tolstoy’s epic masterpiece has attracted such a fine cast of actors to Andrew Davies’ stunning scripts.”
Based in 19th century Russia, the epic story chronicles the lives, loves and losses of its characters against the background of the Napoleonic wars.
The novel runs to 1,225 pages and its length, scope and prolonged philosophical passages have made it as daunting for some readers as it is appealing to others.
It is therefore perhaps no coincidence that until now, no British television adaptation has been aired for some 40 years.
Even Davies admitted that he did not read the novel for the first time until “rather late in life”, but had been struck by “how fresh and modern the characters and relationships felt.”
He said: “It’s a story of the hopes and dreams of youth, set against the titanic background of the Napoleonic wars.
“Three characters at the centre – Pierre, the bumbling, chaotic idealist, Prince Andrei, whose cool Darcy-like exterior conceals huge emotional conflict, and Natasha Rostova, possibly the most appealing heroine in literature.
“These three are surrounded by a gallery of unforgettable characters. We get love, friendship, huge swings of fortune, betrayals, tragedy, and a surprising amount of comedy too. ”
War and Peace was last aired on the BBC in 1972, starring the actor Anthony Hopkins.
But on New Year’s Day BBC Radio 4 is to broadcast a separate 10-hour dramatisation of the novel, pausing only for the news and The Archers.
This version will star the veteran British actors Simon Russell Beale, John Hurt and Lesley Manville in the lead roles.