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Tahar Rahim to play Charles Sobhraj in BBC drama The Serpent

A Prophet

Story by Jack Foley

AWARD-winning French actor Tahar Rahim (The Looming Tower, A Prophet, The Eddy) will star as Charles Sobhraj in new drama series The Serpent for the BBC.

Based on the astonishing true story of how one of the most elusive criminals of the 20th century was caught and brought to trial, The Serpent will take the form of an eight-part limited series.

Sobhraj was the chief suspect in the unsolved murders of up to 20 young Western travellers across India, Thailand and Nepal through 1975 and 1976.

Psychopath, con man, thief and master of disguise, having slipped repeatedly from the grasp of authorities worldwide, by 1976 serial killer Sobhraj was Interpol’s most wanted man and had arrest warrants on three different continents.

When Herman Knippenberg, a junior diplomat at the Dutch Embassy in Bangkok, unwittingly walks into Sobhraj’s intricate web of crime, he sets off an extraordinary chain of events that will see these two diametrically opposed men engaged in a chase across the porous borders of the Hippie Trail, as Knippenberg seeks to bring Sobhraj to justice for his terrible crimes.

The Serpent is written by Richard Warlow (Ripper Street) and Toby Finlay (Ripper Street) and will be directed by Tom Shankland (Les Miserables).

Rahim – who most recently starred as an FBI agent in 9/11 fact-based series The Looming Tower alongside Jeff Daniels – commented: “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. I couldn’t be happier than to make it under the direction of Tom Shankland and writers Richard Warlow and Toby Finlay.”

Preethi Mavahalli, Executive Producer at Mammoth Screen, said: “It is an absolute honour to have Tahar Rahim, one of France’s finest actors, join us in bringing this extraordinary story of the notorious French serial killer Charles Sobhraj to screen.”

And Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, added: “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.”

Brian Pearson, Vice President, Content Acquisition, Netflix commented: “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.”

The Serpent will be produced by Mammoth Screen (Poldark, World On Fire) and is a co-production between BBC One and Netflix.

The series will premiere on BBC One in the UK and on Netflix outside of the UK.

Further casting will be revealed in due course.