Columbia Pictures and Michael Mann have entered the race against Warner Bros. and Johnny Depp to mount a film about Alexander "Sasha" Litvinenko, the ex-KGB agent who was fatally poisoned, according to Variety.

Based on a proposal and a sample chapter, Columbia paid $500,000 against $1.5 million early Friday for the screen rights to Death of a Dissident, a book Alex Goldfarb and the subject's widow, Marina Litvinenko, are co-writing. Simon & Schuster subsidiary Free Press will publish the book in late May.

Red Wagon partners Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher, who brought the project to the studio. Mann is attached to direct.

Death of a Dissident will explore the collision between the Russian power structure enforced by the KGB and its successor, the FSB, and the new wave of Wild West capitalism that came on the heels of glasnost; Litvinenko got caught between those two colossal forces. From his deathbed, he blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin and his regime for the poisoning from polonium-210.

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