Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - JAMES WIGNEY

Learn­ing to play the spy game.

GARY Old­man is an ac­tor’s ac­tor, with megas­tars such as Brad Pitt, Daniel Rad­cliffe and Ryan Gosling nam­ing him as a for­ma­tive in­flu­ence.

Os­car- win­ner Colin Firth de­scribes him as ‘‘ a can­di­date for the ti­tle of great­est liv­ing ac­tor’’.

Af­ter learn­ing his the­atre craft in his na­tive Bri­tain, Old­man burst on to the in­ter­na­tional movie scene play­ing tragic Sex Pis­tols bassist Sid Vi­cious in the 1986 bio- pic Sid and Nancy.

Dur­ing the ’ 90s, as he bat­tled al­co­hol ad­dic­tion, he built a rep­u­ta­tion as Hol­ly­wood’s go- to vil­lain, with over- the- top per­for­mances in Air Force One, True

Ro­mance, Leon, and Lost in Space. The three- times mar­ried Old­man beat the bot­tle a decade ago and went on to play cru­cial parts in two of the big­gest movie fran­chises ever, as Sir­ius Black in the Harry

Pot­ter se­ries and hon­est cop James Gor­don in Christo­pher Nolan’s Bat­man tril­ogy.

For his lat­est film, he steps into the shoes of one of his act­ing he­roes, Sir Alec Guin­ness, to play the lead role of Ge­orge Smi­ley in the new ver­sion of John Le Carre’s mas­ter­piece Tinker Tai­lor Sol­dier Spy. Q: What a plea­sure it is to watch a movie that doesn’t feel the need to spell every­thing out for the au­di­ence. Was it as

much of a joy to make Tinker Tai­lor

Sol­dier Spy as it was to watch?

A: Oh yes, we felt we had some­thing spe­cial go­ing in but it’s nice to have that con­firmed. The re­sponse in the UK was amaz­ing and it was the No. 1 film four weeks in a row. There is this un­chal­lenged in­dus­try wis­dom that adult drama is the third rail and you can’t touch it. I am happy to say that it’s alive and well and peo­ple want to see a movie that . . . isn’t dumbed down. Q: There is a lot of af­fec­tion for Le Carre’s book and the Alec Guin­ness mini- se­ries.

How did you feel when you were ap­proached to play Ge­orge Smi­ley?

A: I had a bit of trep­i­da­tion be­cause the ghost of Guin­ness looms so large. It was sort of a dragon I had to slay in my head. You find your­self pro­ject­ing a bit and writ­ing the re­views in your head say­ing: ‘‘ Who the f--- does he think he is?’’ I ap­proached it like any ac­tor play­ing a clas­sic role – if you are go­ing to play Ham­let, you are go­ing to be mea­sured against all the won­der­ful

Ham­lets who have come be­fore. It’s an oc­cu­pa­tional haz­ard. Q: The book’s author, John Le Carre, made him­self avail­able to the cast. What did you get from him and how much of him is in Ge­orge Smi­ley?

A: There is a lit­tle bit of Le Carre in Smi­ley, or I should say there is since I met him. I stole a few lit­tle char­ac­ter­is­tics and the cadence of his voice and some of his man­ner­isms. In a way he is the DNA, the cre­ator, so you can hear the writ­ing in his char­ac­ter and his speech de­liv­ery. Every­thing you need to know about Smi­ley is in the book but he gave his bless­ing to this project. With the author still liv­ing, you just want to know the boss is happy. And he was, so that made me feel bet­ter.

Q: Did you see any­thing of your­self in Smi­ley?

A: You bring all sorts of things but, pri­mar­ily, you use your imag­i­na­tion and you bring your in­tu­ition and your tal­ent to it. You look for sim­i­lar­i­ties as well in a char­ac­ter – that melan­choly that he car­ries around with him and the themes of the movie about friend­ship and loss of friend­ship and be­trayal and loy­alty, those are things you can con­nect with emo­tion­ally. I have been in love and out of love and you bring your life thus far to it as well as 30 years as an ac­tor. Then it be­comes flesh and blood rather than just recit­ing lines.

Q: The bench­marks for spy movies these days are the Bond and the Bourne films. Were they taken into ac­count when mak­ing this ver­sion of the book?

A: I think what makes the film so re­fresh­ing is the fact there was no temp­ta­tion to pan­der to gad­gets and giz­mos. There was no feel­ing that we needed to up­date it or com­pete with those other movies. It’s prob­a­bly the clos­est ver­sion of Spies. Le Carre re­ally re­de­fined the spy thriller and grounded it in re­al­ity rather than it be­ing the male fan­tasy thing that Bond is. I have read a few of the Ian Flem­ing books and I would say that Daniel Craig is prob­a­bly the clos­est to what Flem­ing saw. He is a rather dark bas­tard who would just kill you as eas­ily as blink and is a very dark, com­plex char­ac­ter. I think Bond [ films] moved fur­ther and fur­ther away from what Flem­ing orig­i­nally in­tended. Q: There are plenty of over- the- top vil­lain­ous roles in your past that would seem to make you a nat­u­ral as a Bond bad­die. Have you ever been ap­proached? A: I was ap­proached about 10 years ago [ to be] a Bond vil­lain. I can’t re­mem­ber the cir­cum­stances of why I didn’t do it – it may have been on the tail of some­thing I had just played and I didn’t want to do it again, or it was life cir­cum­stances, in that my kids were young and I didn’t want to travel. Things come in some­times and there are very good rea­sons why you don’t do them. But they haven’t fin­ished yet and I’d still be up for it.

Q: Some of those bad guys you have played are so manic and Smi­ley is so still and con­trolled. Was that a chal­lenge to play?

A: It was a re­lease, re­ally. You are kind of at the mercy of the in­dus­try and the imag­i­na­tion of the peo­ple who are cast­ing you. I have al­ways had a Smi­ley in me in that re­spect. It’s just what you are asked to do. It was re­fresh­ing to be asked to play an­other chord. Q: I’m sure you are un­der pain of death not to re­veal too much, but how is the

Dark Knight Rises com­ing to­gether?

A: We fin­ished it about a month ago and it feels like the fi­nal chap­ter in the tril­ogy. I can’t re­ally say very much about it ex­cept to say that the story is re­ally good. I don’t think Chris Nolan would have made a third just for the sake of it. I think this re­ally de­liv­ers. It’s quite epic and I don’t think peo­ple will be dis­ap­pointed.


Now show­ing Vil­lage and State cine­mas

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