Honourable People: Gary Oldman Talks Smiley Sequel
In a web chat at Empire Online (via Dark Horizons), Gary Oldman elaborated on his recent comments about a follow-up to the critical darling Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The next book in John Le Carré's "Karla Trilogy" is The Honourable Schoolboy, but the BBC skipped that one in the early Eighties and elected to skip that one (for budgetary reasons regarding Schoolboy's Far East locations) and go straight to the third book, Smiley's People for their second miniseries starring Alec Guinness. There's been speculation that the producers of the new Tinker Tailor would follow the same strategy, and hope on the part of fans (myself included) that they would adapt Schoolboy for the first time. Oldman seems to believe that the plan is really a little bit of both.
When asked if he'd consider reprising the role for an adaptation of either of those books, the actor said, "I would think that they may put those two together. I don't think they would make The Honourable Schoolboy on its own. My guess would be that it would be a composite, an amalgamation of the two, and they would call it Smiley's People." He added, "I would hope that Peter Straughan [co-screenwriter of Tinker Tailor with his late wife] will write the screenplay and Tomas Alfredson would return as the director, but I would love to revisit the role." Hm. Well, if they do skip directly to Smiley's People, then it would be nice if they included a few key scenes from Schoolboy. But both of those are thick books full of rich characters and complex plots. You lose enough already compressing just one book into a two-hour feature (as opposed to a seven-hour miniseries, as the Beeb made); I feel like we'd lose out on way too much good material if they compressed those two novels into a single film! The reason for the anti-Schoolboy sentiment is probably due to the fact that George Smiley (the character Oldman plays) is not the lead in The Honourable Schoolboy. But he's no bit part, either. Smiley still occupies about half of the nearly 600-page narrative! However, we don't really get into his head the way we do in People. Instead, we see him through Peter Guillem's Dr. Watson-ish eyes, never quite understanding what he's up to. (Benedict Cumberbatch plays Guillem in Tinker Tailor.) All of that could easily be changed in the process of adapting the massive tome down into a screenplay. Le Carré provides more than enough material to make Smiley the lead if that were the tack they wanted to take. Personally, I really, really hope they do. I want to see a movie of The Honourable Schoolboy! (Then Smiley's People, of course.)
In any case, we may know more soon. Tinker Tailor has been a big success in Britain, and The Guardian's Jason Solomons reports, "A source at StudioCanal, the new-look European production and distribution powerhouse who financed Tinker Tailor, tells me they are keen to make Smiley their first franchise (he pops up in as many as eight Le Carré novels). I can reveal that a big announcement is expected in Paris next week - it's likely to be good news for Gary Oldman."