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BBC spy show denied access to ancient Greek temple

A television series adapting spy novelist John le Carre’s The Little Drummer Girl will not include scenes from an ancient site near Athens after a panel of archaeologists turned down an access request by the BBC and US-based cable network AMC.

Greece’s powerful Central Archaeological Council denied the one-day access request to the 2,500-year-old Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion next month, saying the site would be closed to visitors for too many hours and the production team would be too large.

The decision triggered a furious reaction from Greece’s government, which launched a campaign three days ago to attract film productions to the country with a series of incentives.

The government said overseas productions could be a key growth area in the country, which is emerging from eight years of crippling financial crisis.

Florence Pugh (Ian West/PA)
Florence Pugh stars in the drama (Ian West/PA)

“We have declared that Greece is now film-friendly. A few days later, another institution is contradicting this, not us but the hopes and ambitions of artists, technicians and thousands of professionals that are a part of this industry. It is an international embarrassment,” Lefteris Kretsos, general secretary at the government’s media and communication department, said.

The decision, he said, “once again highlights the issues we have as a country”.

Filming at Greek archaeological sites, whether for commercial productions or news reporting, requires a permit from archaeologists that is often near impossible and very costly to obtain.

The six-part series is due for global release next year and stars Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgard and Britain’s Florence Pugh, while South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook will make his television debut with the project.

In the 1983 novel, an Israeli spy chief hunts a Palestinian bomber around Europe, recruiting a young English actress to try to expose him.

Ten of Le Carre’s novels have been adapted for films.

His work is also widely known from the BBC TV series Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley’s People, starring Sir Alec Guinness as Cold War intelligence officer George Smiley.

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