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People in Film | Gary Oldman
Updated October 24, 2011
From playing Sex Pistol Sid Vicious to master spy George Smiley, Gary Oldman has created characters so realistic that even if they are not based on real people, we believe they are.
Gary Oldman | Finding George Smiley
In Tomas Alfredson’s TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY, Gary Oldman plays George Smiley, the stoic spymaster who is tasked with finding a mole in the heart of British intelligence. It was a daunting challenge for the actor. Not only did he need to fill the well-worn shoes of novelist John le Carré’s most celebrated character, but he would have to contend with the shadow of Alec Guinness' magnificent portrayal of Smiley in the 1979 BBC mini-series of the novel. Oldman approached Smiley with the same precision he brings to every character he plays. First was the look, getting the slightly paunchy body of Smiley just right. He told The Guardian, “If you're carrying around a few extra pounds, we all feel it. But it also gives you a visual; it's something you can believe in when you look in the mirror, when you put those clothes on. It's the silhouette, which is as important as the emotional or the internal.” And he took time to find just the right glasses. But then there was the emotional journey to find Smiley. Oldman explained to Will Lawrence at The Telegraph, “He is an intelligence officer, a student of espionage. He has a strong moral sense, too, a strong moral compass, even though he recognises the dark, unethical, ugly side of what he does. Also, there’s a melancholy and sadness within George. It isn’t accidental that his name is Smiley.” His hard work paid off. His performance has critics suggesting that Oldman should now get his long-overdue Oscar for this performance. He’s also gotten praise from Smiley’s creator himself. Le Carré saw in Oldman both a continuity and a contrast to Guinness’ Smiley. As he told The Telegraph, Oldman “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.”