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A Short History of George Smiley
Updated November 17, 2011
Since he appeared in John le Carré’s 1961 novel, Call For The Dead, the unassuming intelligence operative George Smiley has become the most intellectually cunning and emotionally complex spy of modern times.
© Photo by Jack English
Gary Oldman in TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY
In Tomas Alfredson’s TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY, George Smiley is played by Gary Oldman in a performance that dazzled the character’s creator, John le Carré. “With Gary you share Smiley’s pain, share the danger of life, the danger of being who he is,” le Carré comments. Created in 1961, Carré’s most famous character, the unassuming spy master George Smiley, has become a figure as iconic as Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot. Producer Tim Bevan describes him as “a quiet guy who disappears into the woodwork of a room, watches and listens very carefully.” Alfredson sees him as “‘the perfect spy.’ He is someone you would immediately forget if you saw him on the street.” Yet his story, which stretches out through eight novels, and has been interpreted in nearly as many films, mini-series, and radio plays, is an epic tale that captures the complicated political, moral and social drama of life in the late 20th century. And all of this in the bespectacled middle-aged face of a man whose chief virtue was his stunning ability to barely be noticed.