“Tetris” is directed by Jon S. Baird from a script by Noah Pink. The film is produced by Matthew Vaughn, Gillian Berrie, Claudia Vaughn, Len Blavatnik and Gregor Cameron, with Zygi Kamasa, Carlos Peres, Iain Mackenzie, Noah Pink, Taron Egerton, Danny Cohen, Amanda Ghost, Vince Holden, Henk Rogers, Alexey Pajitnov and Maya Rogers executive producing
“I’m a politics graduate, and I was particularly interested in the Cold War period,” says Baird, who previously directed the 2018 Laurel and Hardy biopic “Stan & Ollie” and this year’s BBC docudrama Stonehouse. “I knew a lot about that, and that thriller aspect drew me into this story. A lot of the work that I’ve done has been based on true stories.”
When director Jon S. Baird first read the script for the upcoming film, which hits Apple TV+ next month on March 31, the screenplay was titled Falling Blocs. That’s not a typo, but a pun, with “blocs” referring to countries divided during the Cold War. It turns out that the invention of Tetris in the mid-’80s is tied up in the final years of the conflict between capitalism and communism.
When the film begins, the game Tetris has already been invented by Soviet computer engineer Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Yefremov). That’s the easy part. The hard part is figuring out how to license and distribute the game to a worldwide audience at a time when Eastern and Western countries fundamentally disagreed about concepts like “profit” and “intellectual property.”
This Cold War backdrop, Baird says, “Automatically gives you that thriller aspect because it’s communism vs. capitalism, East vs. West, this clash of cultures and clash of ideas while this huge bloc of countries was disintegrating. People were stealing natural resources, and the whole thing was falling apart. It lends itself to this high-stakes, high-paced, high-impact sort of thriller, which just so happens to be about the world’s most famous computer game.”
As a global story, Tetris features an international cast of characters. Taron Egerton stars as Henk Rogers, a Dutch entrepreneur who sees the potential in Alexey’s game and is determined to secure its international distribution rights. Standing in his way are Soviet authorities, ranging from low-level KGB agents to Mikhail Gorbachev (Matthew Marsh) himself. British media mogul Robert Maxwell (Roger Allam) and his spoiled son Kevin (Anthony Boyle) are also eyeing a stake in the game, as is longtime Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi (as seen below, played by Togo Igawa). Although the Maxwells initially purport to be on Henk’s side, they really want Tetris for themselves — and believe they can cheat a good-natured communist like Alexey out of the profits of his own creation.