Friday 23 February 2018

Colin Firth happy to play second fiddle in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Firth with wife Livia Giuggioli at the Venice International Film Festival. Photo: Getty Images
Firth with wife Livia Giuggioli at the Venice International Film Festival. Photo: Getty Images

Best Actor Oscar winner Colin Firth says he was all too happy to take a step down to supporting actor for his "meaty" new role in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."

It was great to have something that was meaty enough to get my teeth into, but let other people do the heavy lifting." Firth told journalists at the Venice Film Festival Monday. "It's basically all I did last year and it suited me very well."

Firth – who won the Oscar for "The King's Speech" and was nominated for the same award for "A Single Man" – plays the calm, collected intelligence agent Bill Haydon, a counter point character to the film's lead Gary Oldman, playing the main character, retired spy George Smiley.

"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," directed by Tomas Alfredson – the Swedish director of 2008 vampire film "Let the Right One In" – is among entries vying for the top "Golden Lion" prize at the festival's conclusion this Saturday.

Alfredson's interpretation of the John Le Carre Cold War spy yarn has been hailed as a slow brewing, elegant retelling of the classic novel.

Firth defended the film's pacing. "There is a tendency to underestimate audiences. People don't just want 'slash and burn' – so I am optimistic about the film having an enormous audience".

Writer John le Carré said the portrayal of the character Smiley by Firth's co-star Oldman is every bit as good as Alex Guinness's performance in the original.

“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 32 years ago,” the author said.

“George Smiley was Alec Guinness, Alec was George, period. How could another actor equal let alone surpass him

“My anxieties were misplaced. And if people write to me and say, ‘How could you let this happen to poor old 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.”

Le Carré said that Oldman “pays full honour to the genius of Guinness”. He added: “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.

“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.

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