“I feel like I’m back in my old hometown—Gotham. He abandoned you, didn’t he—Nolan?” said Gary Oldman with a laugh, as he kicked off a Q&A in Chicago following the showing of his new film with Swedish Director Tomas Alfredson (2008’s “Let the Right One In”). The reference, of course, was to Oldman’s role as Lt. Jim Gordon in 2008’s “The Dark Knight.” The “Nolan” reference is to Christopher Nolan and that director’s choice of Pittsburgh as the setting for the newest Batman movie in the franchise, to be released in 2012.
Oldman’s presence in Chicago this night with Director Tomas Alfredson was to publicize “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” the movie version of John LeCarre’s novel of the same name. (LeCarre worked as a producer on the film). Oldman said, “I’ve waited 30 years for a role like this. I had to rein in emotion for this one. It was a nice difference.” Referring to a scene in the film where George Smiley, Oldman’s character, lets a fly out of the car where it has been bothering the three occupants, he says, “The fly scene in the car encapsulated Smiley. He expends only enough energy, like a cat. Smiley is a real study in economy. That (fly scene) tells you more about his character than any dialogue.”
Noting that John LeCarre was a producer on the film, Oldman said, “The shadow of Alec Guinness (who played the part previously) was large enough. And, of course, we had John LeCarre as a resource. He had written the book and lived the life. John could fill in the earlier days for me, as this book was more autobiographical for him than some others. One stop shopping, for me.” He added, “That’s the exciting thing, for me. You go to work and the work happens in the moment. Hopefully, the cloak of inspiration will fall.”
Director Tomas Alfredson said he wanted to make a period piece steeped in atmosphere. “I tried to create a voyeuristic perspective. I wanted to recreate the feeling of London in those days. Sort of a damp tweed and cabbage feeling. It’s a lot of fun to make period pieces and its easier if the period is further away.” The director also commented on the atmospheric soundscape of the film, where the sound of toast being buttered or a tea cup is important. “It’s refreshing to see a movie that isn’t just cut, cut, cut and doesn’t assault you,” both agreed. Noting that, “The secret to playing this (George Smiley) was in the book,” Oldman agreed with Alfredson about the film’s emotional depth. “I thought one of the great things about it is that we were not forced to kick it up a notch. It was sort of like watching a lava lamp,” he joked.
What both men meant was that there are not gratuitous explosions or car chase scenes, but simply the story of a mole within “the Circus,” the London location of MI6’s headquarters at Cambridge Circus. Several times in the film this line occurs: “There’s a rotten apple. We have to find it.”
On a humorous note, Director Alfredson told of a scene where Oldman is filmed frying an egg. It was a very quiet scene, with Oldman cooking the egg and then carefully cutting and eating it. As he watched the daily rushes, Oldman smiled and said to Alfredson, “I used to be Sid Vicious, you know,” a reference to his portrayal of Sid Vicious in the 1986 film “Sid and Nancy.”
“Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy” opens wide December 9th.