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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy - Gary Oldman interview

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Interview by Rob Carnevale

GARY Oldman talks about escaping the ghost of Alec Guinness to play George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and getting to work with such a great British cast.

He also talks about working with John Le Carre and being able to use elements of him as well.

Q. George Smiley is an absolute gift of a part. So, what was the biggest challenge for you of finding him and playing him?
Gary Oldman: Well the biggest challenge was shaking off the ghost of [Alec] Guinness. I mean it’s all there for you in the book and I didn’t work outside of the book, the script and, of course, Le Carre because I had access to him. But any trepidation I had was because Guinness had made it so his own and it was so much beloved by people that you felt that there may be a little bit of ‘who does he think he is?’ They talk about it in such… they wax lyrical about his Smiley. So, that was the thing that made me think and not immediately… I didn’t immediately say: “Oh God, I’ll do it!” I had to think about it. Could one do it? Or could I do it? But you walk through that fire. You have to. It was what it was, he’s the actor he was, it was 30 years ago. But it’s a little scary.

Q. How helpful was it to have John Le Carre close by to be able to pick his brains?
Gary Oldman: He was there as a resource when we wanted him and if there were any questions we wanted to ask him he was very readily available at the end of a telephone. I had breakfast with him and what I really remember is that he has great anecdotes. He’s also a great mimic and a great impersonator. He does a fantastic Alec Guinness. But that was a real breakthrough in creating Smiley… that was paramount to me because he is the DNA of it. And there were vocal inflections and things that I stole – I’m not doing John Le Carre but there are little things; it’s a mosaic of things, composites… you just put it together.

Q. What’s it like for you sitting around a table of such great actors, many of whom said they were in awe of you? I gather you were in awe of John Hurt?
Gary Oldman: Yeah. We’re fans of each other’s work. Ciaran [Hinds] is a wonderful actor, Colin [Firth], Toby [Jones], John [Hurt], David [Dencik]… you know, you sit around that table and they’re all… there’s not a weak one, is there? It’s just really solid. Everybody has brought their game on this one.

Read our review of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Read our interview with Tomas Alfredson and Peter Straughan