Taking on the role of John le Carré's master spy, George Smiley, involves navigating two enormous obstacles. First, the legendary Alec Guinness claimed the character for himself in the beloved BBC miniseries of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" from 1979. Second, outside the more descriptive world of the novels, Smiley is a mystery, a silent, poker-faced old pro who knows the spy game too well to betray his thoughts or emotions, if he has any at all.
But Gary Oldman has proved he is up to the task. His performance in the new film adaptation of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" received universal praise from critics as one of his finest and one on par with Guinness'. Oldman opened up to MTV News about playing Smiley and the satisfaction the part gave him.
Personally for Oldman, the role means more than the character's history. "First of all, I haven't really played a leading role in ten years, so the past ten years have been really fantasy-based with Gordon [in Christopher Nolan's Batman films] and Sirius Black [in the 'Harry Potter' films]. It's a colossal role in that sense," he said.
Aside from playing his first lead role in years, Oldman also got to approach a character who internalizes most of his thoughts and emotions. George Smiley's status as an icon of TV and literature also added another layer of complexity to the role.
"It was iconic before I even came," Oldman said. "I mean, there are roles that you play that can become that. It was an opportunity to really live in front of the camera. I've played those people who have had to express themselves emotionally, in a physical way. He was a great opportunity to just breathe."
"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" opens wide today (December 16).
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