Netflix Buys Rights to Israeli Spy Thriller 'The Angel' While It’s Still in Production

Ariel Vromen’s movie tells the story of Mossad agent Ashraf Marwan, who warned Israel about Egyptian attack ahead of Yom Kippur War in 1973

Ashraf Marwan, right, shaking hands with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser during Marwarn's wedding to Nasser's daughter, Mona, July 1966.
AP

For the first time ever, U.S. streaming giant Netflix has bought the rights to an Israeli film while it is still being made. Spy thriller “Hamalach” (The Angel) is by director Ariel Vromen and is set to be completed by August 2018.

The film is based on the real-life story of Egyptian Mossad agent Ashraf Marwan, who was suspected of being a double agent. Israeli production company TTV Productions is coproducing the movie.

TTV’s Zafrir Kochanovsky said he became fascinated with Marwan as soon as he heard about him. “I began to research it and understood there was a book about this story. I contacted the author, hooked up with a French production company and together we went to Netflix. Of all the many, many scripts they get, they chose us,” he said.

The script is based on the Hebrew-language book “The Angel: Ashraf Marwan, the Mossad and the Surprise of the Yom Kippur War,” by Uri Bar-Joseph (and published in English as “The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel”).

Filming on “The Angel” began in London at the end of June. The crew then moved to Bulgaria and will wrap up production in Morocco.

Director Vromen has been working in Hollywood in recent years, his films including “The Iceman” (2012) and “Criminal” (2016).

The film features an international cast, including Israeli actors Sasson Gabai (playing Anwar Sadat), Ori Pfeffer, Mickey Leon and Mali Levi. Marwan will be played by Dutch actor Marwan Kenzari, while British actor Toby Kebbell (“Kong: Skull Island”) also stars.

An undated picture of Ashraf Marwan

Kochanovsky says he cannot divulge the film’s budget, although Hollywood trade newspaper Variety reported that it is about $12 million.

The decision on whether to distribute “The Angel” exclusively on the streaming website or also to show it in cinemas will be made solely by Netflix.

Marwan, who was married to the daughter of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, spied for Israel for years, passing it various pieces of intelligence, even while he was appointed to several senior political positions in Egypt after Anwar Sadat came to power. Marwan most famously informed his Israeli handlers of Egypt’s intention to attack Israel on Yom Kippur in 1973.

The spy died in mysterious circumstances in 2007, after falling from the balcony of his fifth-floor apartment in central London.