Gary Oldman "Waited Thirty Years" for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Role; Sequel in the Works?
11.22.11 by Ryan
Actor Gary Oldman has played a variety of memorable roles over his long career, varying from darker, conflicted characters like Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK and the titular vampire in Bram Stoker's Dracula, to more heroic characters like Sirius Black in the Harry Potter movies and Commissioner Gordon in the recent Batman movies. It's Oldman's latest role, however — that of semi-retired British intelligence agent George Smiley in the upcoming thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy — that could be the actor's favorite.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Oldman revealed that he has been "waiting 30 years to play" Smiley, who comes out of retirement to uncover a Soviet mole that has infiltrated British intelligence. Oldman notes that what he liked most about the character was the contrast the part gave his career.
In the past I’ve been asked to play these characters who, you know, jump around a bit, they’re frenetic and they physicalize. [Smiley] doesn’t slouch. There’s a line in the book by Ann, the wife, and she describes – I’ll have to go back to it, dig one out to find the quote exactly – but she describes him as a swift. Like a creature that can regulate his body temperature to the room. He then sort of disappears, and you forget he’s there. The trick is, you’ve got to play a very smart man, but socially a little awkward, a little dull, he doesn’t dress very well. You’ve got to make, as far as that’s concerned, an uninteresting character interesting. You have to give a very plain man enough charisma.
Based on the 1974 novel by John le Carré, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy has already been adapted with Alec Guinness famously playing the role of Smiley in a popular BBC mini-series in 1979. Oldman admitted that, because of the series, the movie adaptation was a "very brave" choice for director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In).
I was familiar with the books prior to being asked to do the film, so I was pretty well-versed in the world of it before it came along. I believed that they would never make a movie because the series was very successful and Guinness was a very much beloved actor and there’s a lot of people that ran shy of it, wouldn’t go near it, because it was a bit like an institution. So, it’s very audacious, very brave of Tomas to take it on and for it to be his first film in the English-speaking language.
Oldman said that le Carré offered his help with his input if they wanted it but was also happy to get out out the way as well. "He said, go and make the film and make your film," said Oldman of le Carré's conversation with Alfredson. "Don’t make my book, make a movie."
It's a good thing too. Tinker opened at the top of the box office in the U.K. in September, and is already earning Oscar buzz in the U.S. prior to its December 9th debut, particularly for Oldman's performance. "You hear it and it’s very flattering and it’s nice and then you kind of go about your day, you know?" said Oldman of the Oscar nomination rumors.
There's also a good chance Oldman will get to play the character again. Alfredson told The Playlist that "there are ideas, and plans, and intentions" for a sequel, with screenwriter Peter Straughan saying that a sequel to Tinker would likely be based on le Carré's third book featuring Smiley, titled, Smiley's People.
The obvious choice would be Smiley's People. The second book in the trilogy is The Honourable Schoolboy but it's set entirely in Hong Kong, and George Smiley's not a major character in it, but it might be possible to take some material from that and combine it into Smiley's People in the sequel.
Of course, if Tinker doesn't find the same amount of success in the U.S. as it did overseas, a sequel may not ever happen. Still, with the buzz surrounding Oldman's performance, armed with a supporting cast that includes Tom Hardy (Inception, Warrior) and recent Academy Award–winner Colin Firth (The King's Speech) as well as the excellent reviews the movie has already received, we're thinking a sequel is looking pretty good.