High-profile British drama McMafia is about the Russian underworld and stars War and Peace’s James Norton as a young banker trying to escape from his father’s ties to the Russian mob. However, the show itself has now found itself embroiled in a legal battle over its creation after a young British writer accused the BBC of breach of copyright.
Wilf Varvill has alleged that the storyline in the thriller is “exactly the same” as the plot of McMafia, which launched on the BBC at the start of the year. He told Deadline that he has filed a “breach of copyright” and “confidentiality” claim in the UK High Court to resolve the matter.
He says that he had used his short film Londongrad, which is described as a “dark character study about politics and succession of power within a wealthy Russian family in London” to pitch the idea to BBC drama executives and was working with Endemol Shine Group drama producer Kudos, which makes shows such as Broadchurch and Spooks, on the project. However, Varvill says while execs at the BBC were initially interested in optioning scripts, their interest subsided after the emergence of McMafia.
McMafia was created by Hossein Amini and James Watkins and was inspired by Misha Glenny’s best-selling book of the same name. It stars Norton as the English-raised son of Russian exiles with a mafia history, Alex has spent his life trying to escape the shadow of that criminal past, building his own legitimate business and forging a life with his girlfriend Rebecca (Juliet Rylance). But when his family’s past returns to threaten them, Alex is forced to confront his values to protect those he loves.
David Strathairn (The Bourne Ultimatum), Faye Marsay (Game of Thrones), Aleksey Serebryakov (The Method) and Maria Shukshina (Terrorist Ivanona) also star in the drama, which was co-produced by the BBC, AMC and Cuba Pictures, in association with Twickenham Studios, and distributed internationally by BBC Worldwide.
Deadline understands that Varvill made the claim against the BBC, distributor BBC Worldwide, Amini, Cuba Pictures and boss Nick Marston, former BBC commissioner Matthew Read, AMC Network Entertainment, which is set to air the series later this month, Twickenham Studios and Amazon Instant Video, which acquired worldwide rights. The claim was made in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, which is part of the Business and Property Court of the High Court of Justice.
A BBC spokeswoman told Deadline: “McMafia is an original series created by Hossein Amini and James Watkins and inspired by Misha Glenny’s 2008 best-selling book of the same name.”
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