Matt's Blog

Talking With Gary Oldman About Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Gary Oldman

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was one of the highlights of the Brisbane International Film Festival (there were two sold out sessions) and now it’s being released in cinemas across Australia.

 

I was lucky enough to secure a telephone interview with star Gary Oldman and he talked us through the filmmaking process.  He also gave us a sneak peak of what we’re in for with The Dark Knight Rises!

 

You can download a 2 minute audio extract of the interview by clicking here.

 

Here’s how the interview went down…

 

Matt:  There’s no doubt in my mind that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the best of this awards season and I couldn’t be more thrilled to say good morning to the star, Gary Oldman.  Gary, how are you?

 

Gary:  I’m very well, thank you.

 

Matt:  Were you a fan of spy books and movies growing up?

 

Gary:  Well I came to le Carré after the series was televised in 1979 but as a younger boy, I was a fan of James Bond and still am.

 

Matt:  But this is kind of like the reverse James Bond film as we see the life of a spy is a lonely, solitary existence?

 

Gary:  Yes.  Smiley is an anti-James Bond.  There are no martinis, no Aston Martins and it’s not Smiley who is promiscuous and jumping into bed with every girl who comes along but rather it’s his wife.  She’s out there playing the field.

 

Matt:  Do you get the chance to speak to any spies or those that worked for MI6 during the Cold War to get a feel for the era and their profession?

 

Gary:  Yes.  We had access to John le Carré himself as a resource.  He was available to speak to and John was part of MI6.  That said, everything you kind of need to know is in the novel, or I should say the three books which are under the umbrella of the Karla trilogy.  I didn’t have to work much outside of that and the odd conversation with John.

 

Matt:  Your portrayal of the character is a little bit different from Alec Guinness in the television series.  Did John le Carré give you any tips as to how the character should be played?

 

Gary:  Not really.  John gave us his blessing to do what we felt best.  The Guinness portrayal is a little more “school-masterly”, a little more “bookish”.  Guinness was nearly 70 when he played Smiley.  My Smiley is a little more virile and there’s an added cruelty when he needs to turn it on.  He’s a bit prickly.  I think Guinness was a little more huggable than me.

 

Matt:  Do you know if John has seen the final film and what he thinks of it?

 

Gary:  Oh he loved it!  He’d seen several versions of it in the early stages when director Tomas Alfredson was editing and putting it together.  He’s a real champion of the film and is thrilled with it.  We’ve got the old man’s blessing.

 

Matt:  You mentioned the director Tomas Alfredson and I know he described this character, George Smiley, as someone “you immediately forget if you saw him on the street”.  How is it for you playing such an ordinary guy who hardly says a word and maintains the same facial expressions throughout the whole film?

 

Gary:  It was a joy, really.  It was a relief to come into work, sit down in a chair and listen rather than playing someone who expresses himself emotionally in a physical way and bounces off the walls.  It was nice to let all the other people run around and let Tom Hardy to do some of the hard work.

 

Matt:  Did you have a bit of fun with your character’s look and the costume design.  I really liked the combed back hair, the nerdish glasses and the grey suit.

 

Gary:  Yeah.  The initial look of Smiley came from a photograph that Tomas had found of Graham Greene back in the late 1930s, looking rather suave in a mackintosh.  That was a starting point and my greying hair swept back is my little homage to Michael Redgrave.

 

Matt:  I know it’s director Tomas Alfredson’s first crack at an English language film.  What was he like to work with?

 

Gary:  He’s very prepared.  He’s very assured, very confident.  It was unusually quiet and focused on the set.  He’s got a great eye and a great vision.  Above anything else, he was a really decent bloke with a nice sense of humour.

 

I look back on this one with fondness because it was great to reconnect with some of those actors I worked with many, many years ago.  Particularly John Hurt who is superb in the film.  There are lovely performances from everyone really. 

 

Matt:  I know a lot of people talk about the fact you’ve never received an Academy Award nomination and hopefully that’s about to change.  I’m curious to know if that stuff means a lot to you?  The recognition in that regard?

 

Gary:  Let’s put it in this way – at least I’m in the race this year.  I do what I can to promote a movie but I don’t really push myself out there and campaign in that way.  I’ve never coveted an Oscar but I am promoting the film this time and it would be incredibly flattering if I were to receive a nomination.

 

Matt:  Well I hope you do get recognised.  I’d like to finish with one last question about the role you’ve become famous for in the new Batman franchise.  The Dark Knight Rises is going to be one of the biggest releases in 2012.  Can you give us an indication of what we’re in for?

 

Gary:  Of course I am absolutely sworn to secrecy about The Dark Knight Rises but I can say this much – it’s a fantastic story.  I don’t think Christopher Nolan would have made the third one just for the sake of it.  He really wanted to give us a great story to bring the trilogy to a close.  This promises to be a cracker.  A great epic piece.  Unfortunately, I’m not allowed to say any more.

 

Matt:  Well Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is going to give us plenty to talk about over the next few weeks anyway.  So I hope the film a great hit at the box-office here in Australia.  Thank you Gary for talking with us this morning.

 

Gary:  You are very welcome.  Thanks for having me.

 

You can read my review of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by clicking here.