When a film is based on a real event it is always impossible to tell just how truthful it has been to what really happened.
That’s definitely the case with “The Death Of Stalin,” which revolves around the passing of the Soviet Union ruler on March 5, 1953, and the efforts by Nikita Krushchev (Steve Buscemi), Georgy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), Vyacheslav Molotov (Michael Palin) and Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale) to organize his funeral, which immediately turns into a farce.
I recently spoke to “The Death Of Stalin’s” co-writer and director Armando Iannucci, during which time I asked him just how truthful both his script, which he scribed with David Schneider, Ian Martin and Peter Fellows, and the graphic novel that it is based on actually are.
“What appealed to me about the graphic novel is that it was based on real incidents,” Iannucci began.
“So the concert at the beginning is true. Stalin insisting no-one could disturb him is true, so the guards didn’t bother him for a whole night while he lay there.The worry about which doctors to call because they had put put some of them on the list. All of these things were true.”
“What we did with the film was give it more dialogue than the graphic novel, and fleshed out the characters. But within our research, which saw us go out to Moscow, we discovered other things that we put into the movie.”
“Like Stalin’s son losing a whole ice hockey team in a plane crash and then trying to cover it up by getting together a team that was terrible, because he was too scared to let his father know. Things like that we put in.”
“But fundamentally it was inspired by the book, which was inspired by real events. That felt right. It felt like the only way to do a comedy about these horrifying things was to get the details absolutely right.”
“Not in terms of specific details of who was in what room and whatever. But the two things that Russians have said to me is, ‘Where in Moscow did you film this?’ And I say, ‘London.’ Which means we got the look absolutely right.”
“But they also say that within 5 minutes they feel as though they are back in the Soviet Union and can feel the weight of that system, which came about because we spoke to the people that grew up under it and made sure we played it as accurately as possible.”
“The Death Of Stalin” is now in cinemas.