Exclusive: Gary Oldman can’t wait to slip back into George Smiley’s shoes — but whether or not “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” will get the sequel (or sequels) the actor wants remains to be seen.
Speaking to The Playlist following his career tribute at the Gotham Awards, Oldman said the quiet, reserved Smiley was a character almost unlike any he had played, given the actor’s penchant for going grandiose. “It’s a different animal to, say, Sirius Black,” Oldman said, referring to his beloved ‘Harry Potter‘ prison escapee. “Or even Drexl in ‘True Romance,’ which was a kind of fairy tale. I hope I wasn’t over-the-top as Lee Harvey Oswald [in ‘JFK‘]! But it’s been a long time since I’ve played someone like that, and Smiley’s the one to do it with.”
“Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” is part one of the famed Karla trilogy, in which Smiley takes down his arch nemesis from Moscow Centre, first by finding the mole the Russians have planted within the British intelligence service. If the filmmakers wanted to keep true to the trilogy, the next installment of the series would be “The Honorable Schoolboy,” although the focus would shift off of Smiley and onto Jerry Westerby (played in the new film by Stephen Graham). Oldman predicts they’ll instead move straight towards “Smiley’s People,” but incorporate some of the plot from “The Honorable Schoolboy.”
“They’re now saying they might do ‘Smiley’s People,'” he confirmed. “It’s a very different story, very different to ‘Tinker Tailor.’ We don’t want it to feel like a sequel, you know, because it stands on its own, but we’ve sort of established this world, and there’s enough material to do more films.”
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If the filmmakers want to extend beyond the Karla trilogy and incorporate Smiley stories from books such as “Call for the Dead,” “A Murder of Quality,” “The Spy Came In From the Cold” — which feature events prior to “Tinker, Tailor” but include many of the same characters, such as Peter Guillam, Mendel, Control, and Smiley’s estranged wife Ann — Oldman’s game for more, if a little hesitant about signing up for the long haul straight away.
“I don’t know if I would do all five of them!” he laughed. “But we’ll see. There’s no guarantee we’re going to do any of them. It’s all up in the air [based on U.S. box office]. On the Thursday night prior to the open in the U.K., none of us knew if it would make a dollar, and it surprised everyone there by staying number one for weeks. And so I think the people have spoken there — they kind of want one more, at least. I don’t want to curse anything, but we’re getting the sense that there can be a wave of them, because the material supports it. And certainly, the more you look at the material, the more you dig, the better it gets. It only got richer. It never got boring. So I would love to play him again.”
Should there be a next installment, Oldman would vote for a Russian actor to come in to play Karla, who remains unseen in this film. Also unused in ‘Tinker, Tailor’ is the code name for the product Witchcraft — Source Merlin, but as coincidence would have it, Oldman is being sought to play the Russian source’s namesake in a separate film, “Arthur & Lancelot.” “It’s up for debate,” Oldman demurred. “We’re just talking right now. It’s not been confirmed.”
As Oldman prepares for a possible stretch as Smiley, he’s putting one of his other longstanding characters to bed — that of Commissioner Jim Gordon from Christopher Nolan‘s Batman series. “I’ve retired Jim Gordon,” Oldman said. “[‘The Dark Knight Rises’] is my last.”
If some of the parts don’t materialize, however, Oldman hopes to turn his hand to directing once again (he last directed 1997’s “Nil by Mouth“). Refuting reports that he already had a project to helm starring his “Tinker, Tailor” co-star Colin Firth, Oldman clarified: “That was a misquote. I’m not directing anything yet, although the two of us do have a project we’re going to work on together, as actors. I’m looking for something to direct, but it seems things are busy at the moment, and I need to navigate my way! I’m seeing what comes around.”
“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” opens on December 9th and “The Dark Knight Rises” arrives on July 20, 2012.