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PopPolitics: Armando Iannucci on Why ‘The Death of Stalin’ Got Banned in Russia (Listen)

WASHINGTON — Armando Iannucci, the creator of “Veep,” said he is a bit perplexed that his new film, “The Death of Stalin,” was suddenly banned in Russia after initially getting a license.

He holds out one possibility. “There is an election obviously happening,” he tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM. Then, in a tone of sarcasm, he says, “We all know how proper it is for another country not to interfere.” The Russian election is on Sunday.

The new movie, now in limited release, is a wicked satire about the final days in 1953 of the Soviet dictator, and the brazen tactics among his inner circle to fill the power vacuum that follows. It mocks the leadership of the Communist era, not the country’s people. Steve Buscemi stars as Nikita Khrushchev, Simon Russell Beale as Lavrentiy Beria, Adrian McLoughlin as Josef Stalin, Jeffrey Tambor as Georgy Malenkov, and Michael Palin as Vyacheslav Molotov.

Iannucci says the movie is “not a timepiece. I didn’t do it in Russian accents. I wanted it to feel now, current, immediate. Happening right next to you, rather than a long time ago, far, far away.”

The movie was shot in the summer of 2016, just as Donald Trump was being nominated and stories were beginning to emerge about hacked e-mails and fake news, eventually attributed to Russian interference into the U.S. election. He said Trump’s rise, and some of his own authoritarian pronouncements, “just adds to that sense of relevance,” even though the movie was well underway by the 2016 campaign.

“I had a kind of inner feeling that something strange was happening in democracy anyway,” he says. “We think that because we have democracy, we are perfect and it is permanent, and it’s not. Strange things have been happening all across the world with authority figures, nationalist movements, right-wing movements, populist movements, electorates deciding to become unpredictable. So actually that is the reason I wanted to make the film.”

He still thinks that Russians will see the movie, citing a poll that showed that 60% of the audience there still wanted to watch it. “It isn’t 1953. Things that get banned can still get seen. There are ways,” he said.

Listen below:

PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs from 2-3 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.

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