Tahar Rahim will play French serial killer Charles Sobhraj in the BBC drama “The Serpent,” which Netflix is boarding as a co-producer. The streaming giant will play it in the U.S. and around the world.
Rahim (“The Looming Tower”) will star as conman and mass murderer Sobhraj, who was discovered and trailed by a young diplomat in mid-1970s Southeast Asia and who escaped prison more than once.
The eight-part series is written by Richard Warlow (“Ripper Street”) and based on the true story of how the elusive Sobhraj was caught and brought to trial. The drama follows a junior diplomat from the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok as he unwittingly walks into the web of crime that leads him to chase down the murderer in the twilight years of the Asian Hippie Trail.
The series will be directed by Tom Shankland (“The Missing”) and produced by ITV-owned Mammoth Screen (“Poldark”).
Rahim is one of France’s biggest stars and has recently been shooting the Netflix series “The Eddy” under the direction of “La La Land” helmer Damian Chazelle. The actor, who has been lining up big-ticket film and TV projects since his award-winning performance in Jacques Audiard’s “A Prophet,” previously starred in the Hulu miniseries “The Looming Tower” and crime drama “The Last Panthers.” His recent film credits include the Berlinale opening film “The Kindness of Strangers.”
“I am thrilled to play Charles Sobhraj in ‘The Serpent,’ a role I have dreamed of portraying since I read a book about him when I was 17 years old,” Rahim said. “I couldn’t be happier than to make it under the direction of Tom Shankland and writers Richard Warlow and Toby Finlay.”
Although the character of Sobhraj will mark Rahim’s darkest role to date, “The Serpent” seems to be perfect material for an actor who has consistently delivered intense, multifaceted performances in films by high-profile auteurs from around the world, including Asghar Farhadi (“The Past”), Fatih Akin (“The Cut”), Lou Ye (“Love and Bruises”), Joachim Lafosse (“Our Children”), Rebecca Zlotowski (“Grand Central”) and Audiard.
Although BBC managers have warned about the threat Netflix poses to British-originated content, the pubcaster has also been actively co-producing with the U.S.-based streamer. The pair are also working on “Dracula,” from the team behind “Sherlock,” and “Giri/Haji,” with Kelly Macdonald.
“We are delighted to have the brilliant Tahar Rahim play our leading man in ‘The Serpent’ and for him to unravel Sobhraj’s dark web of deceit, crime and murder in this fascinating true story for BBC One,” said Piers Wenger, controller of BBC drama.
Netflix has also picked up rights to BBC series such as “Bodyguard.” As with “The Serpent,” that show is distributed by ITV Studios Global Entertainment.
“We’re excited to grow our partnership with the BBC alongside Mammoth Screen and bring this gripping story led by the brilliant Tahar Rahim to our members around the world,” said Brian Pearson, Netflix’s vice president for content acquisition.