Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy – the movie

“The film, through my very
personal prism, is a triumph,”Gary Oldman

John le Carré      

I had learned that the book could be filmed, so when the movie was released in 2011, my main question was: who but Alec Guiness could play George Smiley? And how could the BBC-series’ 315 minutes be reduced to 127? I was proved wrong again, but I was delighted to see that John le Carré had the same concerns:

“I approached the prospect of a feature film of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with the same misgivings that would have afflicted anyone else who had loved the television series of 32 years ago,” the author said. “George Smiley was Alec Guinness, Alec was George, period. How could another actor equal let alone surpass him? My anxieties were misplaced” […] Le Carré said that Oldman “pays full honour to the genius of Guinness”. He added: “He evokes the same solitude, inwardness, pain and intelligence that his predecessor brought to the part – even the same elegance. “But Oldman’s Smiley, from the moment he appears, is a man waiting patiently to explode. If I were to meet the Smiley of Alec Guinness on a dark night, my instinct would be to go to his protection. If I met Oldman’s I think I just might make a run for it.”

“The television version was made, in a curious way, as a love story to a fading British Establishment. It was done with great nostalgia; even the smallest, nastiest characters were in some way huggable. The Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy that has now been made is without sentiment, sexier, grittier and crueller. It had to be.”

On the relationship between the book and film he says: “It’s not the film of the book. It’s the film of the film, and to my eye a work of art in its own right. I’m very proud to have provided Alfredson with the material, but what he made of it is wonderfully his own.” As for comparison’s between Guinness and Gary Oldman in the role of Smiley, the author says: “if people write to me and say, ‘How could you let this happen to poor Alec Guinness,’ I shall reply that, if ‘poor Alec’ had witnessed Oldman’s performance, he would have been the first to give it a standing ovation.”

This is how the director, Tomas Alfredsson has chosen to show the meeting between Smiley and Karla:

And here’s a clip about the making of the scene:


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