As Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy gets rave reviews in Venice, author John Le Carre offers his support of the film and says Alec Guinness himself would have given it a standing ovation.
It’s an unusual move for an author of the source material to give such a rave of a film, but British national treasure/acclaimed author/film fan John Le Carre has issued this statement in support of Tomas Alfredson’s adaptation. What a class act. His statement in full:
I approached the prospect of a feature film of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with the same misgivings that would have afflicted anyone else who had loved the television series of thirty-two years ago.
George Smiley was Alec Guinness. Alec was George: period. How could another actor equal let alone surpass him?
And how could any movie director, even one as distinguished as Tomas Alfredson, tell the same intricate story in a couple of hours?
The television series had needed seven episodes. And slice it how you will, television drama is still radio with pictures, whereas feature film these days barely talks at all.
My anxieties were misplaced. Alfredson has delivered a film that for me works superbly, and takes me back into byways of the novel and its characters that the series of thirty-two years ago didn’t enter.
Gary Oldman’s Smiley pays full honour to the genius of Guinness. He evokes the same solitude, inwardness, pain and intelligence that his predecessor brought to the part - even the same elegance.
But Oldman’s Smiley, from the moment he appears, is a man waiting patiently to explode. The danger, the pressed-down fury and the humanity that almost doesn’t manage to keep its head above the parapet of despair, are Oldman’s own. If I were to meet the Smiley of
Alec Guinness on a dark night, my instinct would be to go to his protection. If I met Oldman’s, I think I just might make a run for it.
The film, through my very personal prism, is a triumph. And if people write to me and say, ‘How could you let this happen to poor Alec Guinness,’ I shall reply that, if ‘poor Alec’ had witnessed Oldman’s performance, he would have been the first to give it a standing ovation.
It’s not the film of the book. It’s the film of the film, and to my eye a work of art in its own right. I’m very proud to have provided Alfredson with the material, but what he made of it is wonderfully his own.
The film, a Working Title production for StudioCanal, premieres today in Venice and then opens in the UK on Sept 16.