The World of Espionage: Traitor or Hero?
by Dalya Alberge | The Guardian | September 21, 2019
His award-winning performances have included the hit espionage drama series Homeland and he is among actors tipped to take over from Daniel Craig as James Bond. Now Damian Lewis has taken on his first role in a television docudrama about spies, whom he describes as “often quite grubby and banal”, a world away from the glamour of 007.
The Hollywood star presents and produces the eight-part show about some of the most significant espionage operations of the last 40 years. The series features undercover agents – some still identified only by their code names – who were persuaded to tell their stories for the first time.
“I find the different reasons for turning traitor or being a hero, depending on your view, are often quite grubby and banal. I’m interested [in] the motives of these spies. That’s the series we’ve tried to make,” Lewis said.
He observed that Ian Fleming’s creation has romanticised espionage: “The great thing about Bond is how bad a spy he is, and how brilliant he is in recovering his position. Bond makes endless mistakes. That’s what’s fun about him, and then [he] has to do something extraordinary to recover himself.”
The new series, entitled Damian Lewis: Spy Wars, features reconstructions exploring the cold war, the “war on terror” and recent espionage activities. Experts and former spies on all sides – the Mossad, CIA, KGB and MI6 – give insights into operations that shaped today’s world.
Lewis has co-produced the series with his brother, Gareth Lewis, an award-winning writer and director, and Alaska TV, a British production company. The first episode airs on History on 7 October.
Spies include Oleg Gordievsky, the former KGB man who became one of the west’s most valuable cold war agents, risking everything to pull the world back from the brink of nuclear annihilation, the documentary shows.
Discussing the spies’ motives, Damian Lewis said: “There’s an acronym – MICE… money, ideology, coercion, ego. Those tend to be the four ways in which you can subvert an agent and run him or her. Within our spy series, only Gordievsky really acts out of a purer ideology.”
Lewis is particularly excited to have firsthand testimonies from key players who have never spoken publicly before. They include the handler of Vladimir Vetrov, one of the most important spies of the cold war, a high-ranking KGB officer and secret operative for the French intelligence service. Codenamed ‘Paul’, Vetrov’s handler could not appear on camera, but recorded his testimony.
Paul recalls the first encounter with Vetrov in a Moscow market, describing how he arranged for his own wife to be out shopping and for Vetrov to “put the microfilm package from behind, without talking to her, without anything, in her basket”.
Paul continues: “[Vetrov] thought that dead drops were bad because they actually attracted too much attention. So he preferred to have all the contacts in the car. He was giving me, in general, a big binder with a lot of papers. I was coming back and I was photocopying. And I had to have a new rendezvous one or two days later, to return the documents.” The documentary notes that Vetrov passed thousands of classified documents to Paul, “the largest cache of stolen information ever to emerge from the Soviet Union”.
In his narrative, Lewis describes Vetrov’s story as a tale of “bravery and betrayal”.
Read the rest of the original article at The Guardian