Gary Oldman Charlie Rose 2012-02-22

Gary Oldman talks about inhabiting the iconic character of George Smiley in «Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.»
Wednesday 02/22/2012


Charlie Rose: You see he says I can see some of that life that you’ve lived on your face. Gary Oldman for the hour, next.
Unidentified Male: From ou studios in New York City, this is CHARLIE ROSE.
Charlie Rose: Gary Oldman is here. He exploded on to the movie scene in the 1980s with his portrayal of punk rocker Sid Vicious in «Sid and Nancy» and playwright Joe Orton in «Prick Up Your Ears.» Roger Ebert called him the best young British actor around. In recent years he has appeared as «Sirius Black» in the «Harry Potter» films and «Commissioner Gordon» in Christopher Nolan’s «Batman» trilogy. In a new movie «Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy» he takes on the role of one of literature’s greatest spies, George Smiley. The film adaptation of John le Carre’s 1974 espionage novel is the first since Alec Guinness’ iconic portrayal of Smiley in the
Bbc Mini Series Version In 1979. Sir Alec Guinness: But perhaps what you actually did and forgot to tell us about was to burn the British passports you obtained from Mrs. Poole and Miss Danny Poole but kept your own to convince (INAUDIBLE) you thought it was still safe. Then probably you made travel bookings in the name of the Poole family for the same reason.You doctored the Swiss passports for Danny and her mother and made other arrangements for them, like staying inMarseilles, perhaps.
Charlie Rose: And here’s a trailer for «Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.»
Unidentified Male: There is a mole right at the top of the British intelligence. He’s been there for years. For 25 years we’ve been the only thing standing between Moscow and the Third World War.
Gary Oldman: I’m retiring outside the family.



Unidentified Male: I want place to look into this first now.


Gary Oldman: I’ll do my utmost.


John Hurt: I know that it is one of these men. All I want if you is one code name: tinker, tailor, soldier, spy.


Unidentified Male: I need you to do something. I’m going to have to send yo into the lion’s den of your court.


Colin Firth: What the hell are you doing up there?


Gary Oldman: You can’t mention me.


Unidentified Female: I know who you are, I have something totrade, something big.


Unidentified Male: She told me a secret — the mother of all secrets. She had information concerning a double agent. You have to assume they’re watching you. Things aren’t always what they seem.


Colin Firth: It’s about to get ugly.


Unidentified Male: Instead of looking for the weaknesses inone another —


Charlie Rose: I am pleased to have Gary Oldman back at this table. Welcome.


Gary Oldman: Thank you. It’s nice to be here.


Charlie Rose: My pleasure to have you back.


Gary Oldman: It’s nice to be back, yes.


Charlie Rose: Yes, sir. It’s been a good year for you.


Gary Oldman: It has been an extraordinary — it’s been anextraordinary couple of years. For this project falling from the — falling from the sky as it did. I was sitting in my kitchen in — in Los Angeles and — well, I was out of work but I think actors refer to it as resting. I was resting between engagements. And — and the phone rang and they said «Would you like to play George Smiley in ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’?»


Charlie Rose: Yes. And you said?


Gary Oldman: I — well I was intrigued and I did it. I obviously knew the material, I knew the book; I had seen the original series in ’79 with Alec Guinness. And it gave me pause for thought; they’re enormous shoes to step into. He was as you know, a knight of the realm.


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: A much-beloved actor both in the theater and inthe movies. And his portrayal of George Smiley is considered by many to — to have been the definitive performance. And — and he had a huge success with it and it’s a holy cow the»Tinker Tailor» in the U.K. and it’s quite something to take on. I think we all — we all of us — Peter Strong, Richard O’Connor, the writers and Tomas Alfredson, the director I think we all approached it with — with — with the same — we have the same jitters because you’re really putting yourself up for a fall if you can’t pull it off.


Charlie Rose: And there’s something called the ghost ofGuinness, I guess.


Gary Oldman: Yes. The — the — I mean there are — obviously there are comparisons to be made and if you’re a classical actor, let’s say, and you are asked to play Leo or Hamlet or Willy Loman (ph).


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: Blanch Dubois (ph), one of these sort of iconicfigures of — of — of classical literature. You know the inevitable comparison to there, you are going to be measured against all the great Hamlets and all the great Lears that — that — that came before. But your — your canvas for something like «Hamlet» is very, very wide. It’s — it offers up — it invites you itinvite many interpretations. You can have a 19-year-old actor play Hamlet. You can have a 35-year-old actor play Hamlet. You can be mad, you can be sane. You can be — you can be angry.There’s — there’s or it lets you —


Charlie Rose: You can be modern, you can be historic.


Gary Oldman: You can be modern, you can — it’s (INAUDIBLE), or it’s Jacobean, Elizabethan, however you want to do it. With — with le Carre, with Smiley, you’re — you can’t fuss (ph) too much and mess with the molecules. There’s a — there’s a — there’s a D.N.A. at work here and you — and I am, I think, inevitably going to arrive at the same destinations. Not all of them, but the same — the same destination that Guinness arrived at.


Charlie Rose: What do you mean by destination?


Gary Oldman: Well, there are just — there are just certaincharacter traits that Smiley has that you — that you — that you can’t mess with. Just for the sake of — of making it modern and different. So the — that — that (INAUDIBLE) comparison in asense was — was — was a dragon that I had to — that I had to slay.


Charlie Rose: Yes I thought that also in terms of reading aboutyou that what you had done was to in a sense understand thatthis George Smiley was a classic character in the same way Hamlet is a classic character.


Gary Oldman: Yes.


Charlie Rose: And therefore in someone that is a classiccharacter it lends itself to different interpretations because it will be performed by so many different actors.


Gary Oldman: But there’s a motor. There is a — it’s like a little wheel that’s in Smiley.


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: It’s his running condition. There’s a melancholy.There’s a — there’s a disenchantment. He’s a — he’s a disillusioned romantic. There’s a sort of heaviness and sadness to him that that Guinness may have brought because he wasolder than me also. He was — he was 70, nearly 70 when he played the role. That they are — they are just innate characteristics about Smiley that the — you have to follow the sign posts, they are — they are there. And no matter — excuse me — no matter how different you want to be, you — — you’re — you’re going to be led there. And — and I knew that going — I knew that going in. That — that there not — not doing an impersonation but — but you are — you’re following a man, you’re following a great actor who has climbed the mountain and reached the peak and — and put his flag there and — and — and his sort of looking down saying come in, then.


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: Yes, you want to climb it?


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: There were — there were ghosts and dragons in your head as they — as they inevitably are. They’re in your head and I had to kind of — I had to sort of walk through that fire and played a trick with myself exactly. I said this is a — let — let me — this is a classic role and so — and that’s how I convinced myself to say — to say yes.


Charlie Rose: Yes. In the book, John le Carre describes Smiley as follows: small, pudgy, at best middle aged, he was by appearance one of London’s meek who do not inherit the earth.


Gary Oldman: Inherit the earth, yes.


Charlie Rose: His legs were short, his gait anything but agile, his dress costly, ill-fitting and extremely wet.


Gary Oldman: There you are right there. There’s some of the — there’s some of them right there. I am not all those things. But I think he can physically — the silhouette that’s Smiley I think can be many things. As you probably know, James Mason —


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: — played him, a version of him.


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: I think Anthony Hopkins.


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: Denholm Elliot.


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: So there have been a few — there have been a few — a few Smileys.


Charlie Rose: This is what his wife said. She described him as a reptile that can regulate his body temperature. Quote, «George is like a swift» and once told Haydon who was her lover and here. «He cuts down his body temperature until it’s the sameas the environment.»


Gary Oldman: I have been quoting that passage for three months because of this — you know, doing press for the movie and doing Q & A’s and often the question I’m asked is how do you begin to get into George? How do you start to create George? And the passage I have quoted again and again and again is that one.


Charlie Rose: So what does that passage mean to you?


Gary Oldman: That’s the key to — that’s the key to George.That’s the whole physical the key to George. That to me is — I’ve said this — I’ve said this before — in my humble opinion, for me, acting is not intellectual, it’s — it’s a sensation. It’s — it’s a feeling and that gives me — that tells me so much about that man. He’s not — that is not a man who is — who is — there’slittle, there’s very little ego there. He’s not frenetic. He’s not — he’s not busy. There’s a — there’s a wonderful sort of stillness to — to — to Smiley and that is the — that was the key that unlocked the door for me. That — how — how fitting that you — that you quote that.


Charlie Rose: Is he also a man who, when Control — playedbrilliantly by John Hurt — more about him later — but that knew that he would get his man from the get-go?


Gary Oldman: I think there’s no doubt.


Charlie Rose: I agree.


Gary Oldman: In his mind, there is no — the wonderful thingabout Smiley is there’s no sort of self-aggrandizement. There is — there is no — there’s no ego. He operates with moral certainty old values. He’s a — he’s of the old — he’s of that generation what they called the 3945ers who was there with — who is you know, he sort of learned at the knee of — of Control.He is always three or four moves ahead of you. He is master sort of manipulator of — of bureaucracy. He’s — he’s just — he’s like this table. He’s —


Charlie Rose: He’s oak and strong.


Gary Oldman: He’s oak and strong and reliable and —


Charlie Rose: Yes but you added something else to him and Ithink le Carre has said this somewhere. That you gave him more of an element of — more steel and — and — and more even cruelty than Smiley did — than Alec Guinness did.


Gary Oldman: Yes, there’s a real — there’s an iron to George.There’s a bit of a sadist there.


Charlie Rose: A sadist than Alec Guinness did, yes?


Gary Oldman: He’s — he’s complex because there’s. It’s like the afterburners. He — he’s — he knows when to — when to shift and this — this sort of — when I met — when I met le Carre, and I — and I — I did like a black neckties like we are actors. I was looking for a voice for him and I found it in the John.


Charlie Rose: You found the voice in John le Carre.


Gary Oldman: I found the voice and things but he sort of sits as I do in the film. He sort of slids — he sits sort of slightly back.Slightly off the — off the right angle.


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: And people open up and — and that’s — that’s one of the — that’s a great skill. That’s the great skill of — of — of Smiley. He can get people to — he can get people to talk. And when he needs to, that — that side of him that’s a little crueller and — he does what I used to call the tickle. He just tickles people. It’s like if you’re with someone who’s passive aggressive. They put you on the back foot. They discombobulate you because you can’t put your finger on it.You think «I think I’ve just been insulted but I’m not sure.» And that’s the — that’s the sort of great ability that Smiley has. And then there’s the — and then there’s equally there’s themasochist because he stays —


Charlie Rose: In a marriage.


Gary Oldman: That — that a psychiatrist in 2012 would have a field day with Smiley if he had him on his couch. And he would say why do you feel that you don’t deserve —


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: — that you get scraps from the table from this woman.


Charlie Rose: And what would he say?


Gary Oldman: Oh — what will he say? Well, as he says in the movie when he says to Haydon, you know he’s — he’s as well as everything, as well as being a sort of wonderful student of espionage —


Charlie Rose: We’re coming near the end?


Gary Oldman: Yes.


Charlie Rose: Let me just set this up.


Gary Oldman: Yes.


Charlie Rose: So here is a man — and this is what’s intriguingabout this. What makes this such a great story — this is a story of British intelligence and a man knowing that there’s a mole and it’s based on a true story and knowing that there’s a mole and he George Smiley sets out to find out who the mole is. And he knows it is because Control is giving him some leads. One of four people and «Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy» is part of the riddle. And there is some part of the intrigue a fact that there’s a man named Carlo who is a Russian and who he once had anencounter with briefly and has a cigarette. There’s all kinds of interesting things here and how Carlo may have understood him as his true nemesis and took his lighter and at the same time may very well have known that he was getting something from him because somebody under his own control was having a relationship with his wife. And he — he therefore has questions. Bill Haydon, the man who is having the relationship with his wife. He has to have an answer.


Gary Oldman: It’s a — yes. It’s a wonderful creation and a one — it’s such a beautiful device because in fact Smiley is really being cuckolded by a man who is thousands of miles away.


Charlie Rose: Exactly.


Gary Oldman: And —


Charlie Rose: His ultimate nemesis.


Gary Oldman: Yes, and who he has great respect for.


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: And who in some — in some way I think feelsresponsible for, that he created him because he was the one — the one so that he couldn’t turn. He couldn’t crack the code —


Charlie Rose: When they had the confrontation in India he could not get him to turn because he, at that time his nemesis, Carlo, was going back to Russia assuming in the Soviet Union,assuming that he’d be shot.


Gary Oldman: That he’d be shot. And that he wasn’t shot. And —


Charlie Rose: And he climbed his way back to the top?


Gary Oldman: And climbed his way back to the top and — andalways — always had the — always knew, always had his eye on that Mr. Smiley.


Charlie Rose: There’s also — there is also this, the glasses.


Gary Oldman: Yes.


Charlie Rose: I mean you look for something, and you look for a voice. You got the voice from le Carre did you know?


Gary Oldman: I started with — yes it was a spring —


Charlie Rose: And then you moved away from it.


Gary Oldman: As you do, as you create something and you — and you — the more you work on it the more you own it and thefurther it gets away from a — from an impersonation.


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: But — but he is — he is the — I thought whatbetter — what better place to start than with —


Charlie Rose: And you tried on how many pairs — 200?


Gary Oldman: Something like that.


Charlie Rose: Looking for — what were you looking for? The kind of glasses he would wear?


Gary Oldman: Yes. And also I imagined Smiley as sort of a wise old owl.


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: That had these sort of — these big — these bigeyes that he can — he can sort of — he can see everything andhe hears everything. I mean, the great think is he doesn’t have to rush. He doesn’t have to rush to anything. If you imagine — if you imagine Smiley as a — as maybe a spider in a web; you know he’s here, the food arrives he feel it is twitch on the thread but he thinks «I’ll get it later.» You know he’s that — he’s that — he’s that — he’s that confident. So I wanted — I wanted to physicalize that idea. There’s a — there’s a moment at the beginning of the film where my daughter — where Smiley is actually at home watching the television and the — and the door knocks and it’s Guillam —


Charlie Rose: Right. Peter Guillam who works for him virtually.


Gary Oldman: It sort of like — he’s like — he’s like his Watson, in a way.


Charlie Rose: Right, right, right.


Gary Oldman: And they’re off to take me to the minister and I’mabout to find out that there’s a mole.


Charlie Rose: Right.


Gary Oldman: And my head moves. I sort of — there’s a delay and my head moves to the door but my body doesn’t move and it’s rather like a — it’s sort of rather like an owl, sort of seeing everything from — from his perch. And I was looking — I wasn’t absolutely sure what I was looking for, but I — but I did know what I wasn’t looking for. So I tried on these — these — these glasses and landed — and landed on those — the ones I wear in the film and I found them in — I found them in Pasadena.


Charlie Rose: That’s what I wrote Pasadena.


Gary Oldman: Yes.


Charlie Rose: This is — we have set up perfectly this scenebecause I’ve talked about Smiley, I’ve talked about Peter and we talked about the encounter with the Russian agent Carlo, his ultimate nemesis. Here is a clip from «Tinker, Tailor, Soldier,Spy» at that moment.


Gary Oldman: I give him the usual pitch, come to the West and we can give you a comfortable life — after questioning.


Unidentified Male: What did he say?


Gary Oldman: Think of your wife. You have a wife, don’t you?Yes I brought you some cigarettes, by the way. Use my lighter.We can arrange for her to join you. We have a lot of stock to trade. If you go back, she’ll be ostracized. Think of her. Think about — well, enough about your damn wife. Tell me more about you. I should have walked out, of course. But for some reason it seemed important he say this one, so I go on. We’re not so very different, you and I. We both spend our lives looking for the weaknesses in one another’s systems. Don’t you think there’s time to recognize there’s as little worth on your side as there is on mine?


Charlie Rose: So just in terms of craft, tell me about that scene and you. Because that was a — almost a — that was a monologue.


Gary Oldman: It’s like almost like a play.


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: It’s very audacious of them to put something likethem 40 minutes or something into a movie.


Charlie Rose: But it’s gripping. So how did you approach that?


Gary Oldman: It was — well, it was — it was an idea that TomasAlfredson, the director had.


Charlie Rose: The director.


Gary Oldman: He — it presented two problems to him. It’s a flashback in the book.


Charlie Rose: Right.


Gary Oldman: And we — we see the scene and we are there inDelhi and in the cell.


Charlie Rose: Right, right.


Gary Oldman: He did not want to use another flashback at thatpoint and also if you do, you get into that thing of trying tomake me look younger. So you use makeup or CG and it brings you out of the movie. He felt that it would just take you — there’s Gary Oldman now looking 20 years or whatever younger. Look what they’ve done to his hair. He just didn’t want anything — a distraction. So he came up with the idea that — that if Smiley was drunk enough and had a few — had a few whiskeys would he open up in a way and — almost — almost like a confession. And — and — and it was very much a set piece. It was the first thing that I got kind of under my belt. That scene, there’s a —


Charlie Rose: And by doing that you knew you had it?


Gary Oldman: Yes, because I didn’t learn how — it’s that old thing of know it so well that you can forget about it and I didn’t have to search for it. I didn’t — I didn’t — well I wasn’t reaching for it. It was — it was — it was in me. There’s an old — old line from Laurence Olivier who said «It’s not how well you know something it’s how long you’ve known it.» That’s very true. So that was the first piece that I got — I got down. And I knew it — I knew it backwards so I could then — I could then focus on what I was saying and not — and not saying it.


Charlie Rose: Saying it.


Gary Oldman: Yes and we did — the most takes we ever did onthis movie, most of the — most of what you’re watching in»Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy» is two takes, three if you’re lucky.And we had to move quickly with it. And — but that — that was a whole day that was — that was set aside for that scene. So I think that’s nine different angles. I think it worked out about —


Charlie Rose: That’s what we call a pivotal scene.


Gary Oldman: Yes and — and we needed to — we needed to giveit the weight, you know, the weight that it needed. And it’s — it’s — it’s beautiful in many ways because it’s a lovely scene.He’s really saying — also in an indirect way he’s saying — he’s sort of confessing, realizing even as he’s speaking that he created this. He created this monster. It’s his Achilles heel. It’s the ghost that haunts him. And he’s saying to Peter Guillam who has potential, has real potential, cut all ties. Don’t be involved. Don’t be emotionally involved because look whathappened to me. I ended up talking about my wife. I couldn’t get this guy to talk. So it’s a — it’s beautifully crafted and there’s a line at the end that I was fighting for because there was an original cut that was a little shorter and that they were fearful. You’ve got an eight-minute monologue, 40 minutes into a spy thriller — someone sitting drunk in a chair talking. And they thought it’s going to become like Playhouse Theater orsomething and they were trimming it. And there was a line that Thomas cut and when I saw the first cut I was furious. At the end of the speech he says that the next day he handed thepack of cigarettes back to me untouched— and this was a chain smoker — and he got on his plane to what he thought wascertain death. And that chain smoking line was trimmed. And I said but Thomas, look what it says about the character of Carlo. Smiley, you know, finds his favorite brand of cigarettes,goes in there, goes in there armed with his wits and a carton, gives Carlo the cigarettes and the next morning Carlo gives him the cigarettes back and they’re not opened. I mean what does that say about him?


Charlie Rose: Because this is a man who had his last supperbefore he’s going to be executed and he didn’t take it.


Gary Oldman: And he didn’t take it. But he took the lighter.


Charlie Rose: Because he knew that —


Gary Oldman: I’ll remember this guy, yes. He knows. He gets me. He’s silent and he gets me.


Charlie Rose: What’s interesting about that —


Gary Oldman: It’s the reverse psychology.


Charlie Rose: Exactly. But what’s interesting about that, too, is that Smiley didn’t — he took the lighter, maybe he wasn’t thinking that I’m facing sure execution. Maybe he had enough confidence in his wits that he could get past it. So therefore he takes the lighter because he wants to use it somehow for revenge and to taunt Smiley.


Gary Oldman: Yes, he taunts him.


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: He taunts him.


Charlie Rose: He’s doing that.


Gary Oldman: And it’s a wonderful — I think it’s a great thing that Tomas, the director, came up with where we don’t see — the two people that are — that haunt Smiley the most it’s Ann his wife and Carlo and those are the two people that we don’t see in the movie.


Charlie Rose: He has contempt for Haydon or something else?


Gary Oldman: I think by the end it is incomprehensible to himthat Haydon would betray his country, betray his friends.There’s — it’s not just the circus, the MI-5, MI-6 that’s at stake, it’s the West. It’s — you know, and for it to come from where these — you got these Philbys and you’ve got the Burgess and McLeans —


Charlie Rose: Right, right.


Gary Oldman: — where it was so in a way so insidious was thatthese people, they lived off the land kind of thing. It was — they enjoyed all th privileges of their class.


Charlie Rose: And what is different, too, is that they were believers.


Gary Oldman: And they were believers.


Charlie Rose: I mean we’ve had examples of spies who were moles from the FBI and the CIA and it seemed mercenary. It was not ideological. This was a time in which they believed that the Soviet Union offered something that the West didn’t. That the West was more corrupt than the Soviet Union. Right?


Gary Oldman: Yes. And this is the first time —


Charlie Rose: Certainly with Philby.


Gary Oldman: Yes. And this is the first time where you’re dealing with — you’re dealing now with — hot war is one thing and even Connie in the movie played wonderful by Kathy Burke —


Charlie Rose: Absolutely.


Gary Oldman: — reminisces about the war. And she said — I think she says in the book, «Now it’s half angels versus devils» because now we’re in a Cold War and you’re dealing with a different kind of philosophy. Suddenly Smiley is dealing with, you know, God versus Marx with these people who have — and so it’s — it is absolutely reprehensible that he — that Haydon would do this and it’s ironic, I think also in, of course, again, Le Carre, the beauty of the writing, is there is Haydon crying these empty tears and Smiley all that he’s been through that old Hamlet line «If he had the passion I had he would drown the stage in tears.» And there’s Smiley who can keep his composure and then be — and then be the ultimate gentleman because he loves Ann, blindly loves Ann, and turns to Haydon at the end and he says Is there anything in particular you want me to pass on to Ann? What a — What a character. You know, what great — great character.


Charlie Rose: Oh, boy. This is another scene. I want to show you in action here in which Smiley is suspicious of a new piece of intelligence. Roll tape.


Gary Oldman: Where did you get this?


John Hurt: I didn’t. Percy and his little cabal (ph) walked in with it. Shut up.


Colin Firth: Style’s appalling, patently a fabrication frombeginning to end. Just could be the real thing.


Gary Oldman: But, if it’s genuine, it’s (INAUDIBLE). But its topicality makes it suspect.


John Hurt: Smiley is suspicious, Percy.


Gary Oldman: Where did it come from? What’s the access?


Unidentified Male: A new secret source of mine.


Gary Oldman: But how could he possibly have access?


Unidentified Male: He has access to the most sensitive levels of policy making. We’ve named the operation «Witchcraft.»


John Hurt: Will Percy and his pals bypass Smiley, gone straight to the minister? Percy has been allowed to keep the identity of his new friend top secret.


Gary Oldman: There’s a story behind that scene. First of all, it’s six degrees of «Harry Potter,» which we’ve all been in. Nearly all of us around the table I think apart from Colin Firth have been somehow connected with —


Charlie Rose: To «Harry Potter.»


Gary Oldman: — all the «Potter» series. The line, the wonderful line that Colin has there where he says «style appalling and content dubious» or whatever he said, it just could be the real thing, was a line that Le Carre wrote down the phone and was handed to Colin on a piece of paper. And he looked at the line and before we did the take and then he sort of put it in his pocket because it was — it was — one thing — it’s one thing on the page and another when you’re around that table doing it there was no line for Haydon and it was suspicious that he wasn’t speaking. So we needed in situ a line for Colin. And they said, you know, get the bat phone. Get on the line with Le Carre and he came up with that.


Charlie Rose: And the line was?


Gary Oldman: I’ve misquoted but it sort of went where he saidthe style is appalling. It could just be the real thing.


Charlie Rose: Is there anything about it that you would do differently? About your role? Your preparation?


Gary Oldman: Always.


Charlie Rose: Is that right?


Gary Oldman: Always. But I might get another go at it, you see, because we’re seriously talking now about doing «Smiley’s People.»


Charlie Rose: That’s great. Another Le Carre novel.


Gary Oldman: Yes. The third book in the trilogy, Le Carre trilogy; it’s where he gets his man. It’s where he gets —


Charlie Rose: Yes, I read it all.


Gary Oldman: So Le Carre’s cooking something up and he’s got an idea of how he would like to do it so I may —


Charlie Rose: So what? And why is he even involved? I mean the book is out there.


Gary Oldman: He was — he’s very much —


Charlie Rose: Protecting — I mean he’s interested in his characters. He created his characters early his life —


Gary Oldman: Yes. And I think particularly with this book he’sbeen — it was —


Charlie Rose: «Tinker Tailor» or «Smiley’s People»?


Gary Oldman: «Tinker Tailor» — it was a bit of a struggle to — I had to charm him. I had to woo him.


Charlie Rose: He did not — he was not necessarily ready to seeanother version because he thought the definitive version had been done?


Gary Oldman: Yes. And I think that he met with Tim Bevan atworking title and Robyn Slovo the producer and Tomas and was won over and was charmed. And I thought — I thought did a very classy thing. He said to Tomas, please don’t make the book. The book exists. He said if you make a terrible movie, your movie will be terrible and my book will always be good.Spoken like — sounds like John Le Carre. He said take it and interpret it. Re-interpret it and make it your own thing. But he was very much there as a resource, you know. If you wanted to know what the top paper of the book color, the top paper of the secret document was, you know, you could call him or ask him a character question.


Charlie Rose: Now, were you at all wanting to talk to him abouthis life and all the — how he had spent his life and what he had done? You know, and what experience he is drew on when he created these characters?


Gary Oldman: Yes, I mean I didn’t get to — I met him once. I mean, everything I feel that I needed to know about Smiley was there in those pages.


Charlie Rose: In the book.


Gary Oldman: In the book and I asked him a little about the —the younger Smiley and his own time.


Charlie Rose: Right. Here’s a conversation with me in 1993 — 20 years, almost— talking about George Smiley. John Le Carre on this program at this table. Smiley is you?


John Le Carre: I’m still very shy. That’s the truth. It’s not a false shyness. I’m awkward. I never feel I buy the right clothes. I — I find life embarrassing in many ways and Smiley does, too. I think I’m better at work than at living which is Smiley’s situation.


Charlie Rose: Well said.


John Le Carre: And I — I think seeing a lot is very painful andthat was Smiley’s misfortune.


Charlie Rose: In his own eyes and in world.


John Le Carre: And in the world he did.


Charlie Rose: His wife’s infidelity and all of that.


John Le Carre: That’s right. But also in the examination of other people; he had a trained observer’s mind and information about people seemed to come naturally to him.


Charlie Rose: Interesting.


Gary Oldman: Very.


Charlie Rose: Does any of that surprise you? No.


Gary Oldman: No. You get the feeling when you’re with him that —


Charlie Rose: You see Smiley?


Gary Oldman: Yes. I mean when I first started to work on the — like I said on the voice, it’s actually matched. It’s sort of — you know he’s a little — obviously he’s a little fussier and he’s got that sort of — you know, and then you just — you take it to another place and you take it somewhere else. But, yes, he’s — it’s — you get — without him even really saying it you get a great sense that — you get the feeling that there’s a lot. This is a very personal book for him, I think. The whole episode in the school with Prideaux and the owl —


Charlie Rose: Right.


Gary Oldman: — that was his wife. That happened to him with an owl coming down the chimney and catching fire. But it was Ann, his first wife that took the bird and killed it. Yes, you get the feeling that there was — the relationships in his life are based on. I understand the thing about it being better at work.At being better at work than —


Charlie Rose: Than living.


Gary Oldman: Yes, I’m getting better at living as I get older.


Charlie Rose: Because you are a parent or what?


Gary Oldman: I’ve just mellowed and more — I have that — Idon’t have that the same. It’s that ambition and that drive that you have when you’re younger. It’s the first thing you think about when you wake up when you’re young and you’re an actor is you think about acting.


Charlie Rose: And the first thing you think about now is your kids?


Gary Oldman: Yes.


Charlie Rose: Taking them to school and —


Gary Oldman: And sort of —


Charlie Rose: — and watching them emerge in front of your very eyes.


Gary Oldman: Yes. But the — but what was interesting is what he said there. There’s a focus that you have that I — that is a similar sort of focus that you can be on a movie set and you can have — you can be — really in the moment on your game and they call «wrap» and you can turn to the director and crew and you can say «Wow, guys, that was just terrific.» And, you know, I was — good work today. Good work today. And you’re walking to your trailer and then suddenly you remembered «Oh, God, I’m getting divorced.» You’ve — you forget that’s one of the — that’s one of the things about acting is the focus that it requires. You forget everything else. How do you remember all those lines? By forgetting everything else. And that’s what sort of Smiley —


Charlie Rose: Better at work than at living?


Gary Oldman: Better at work than at living. But he carries this melancholy. He has this sort of sadness to him.


Charlie Rose: Because he knows he’s missed something and that all he has is this work?


Gary Oldman: Yes, he’s a casualty of the work.


Charlie Rose: So why has that not been true about you. How did you move away from that?


Gary Oldman: I just got my — I think — I’d like to think a strength of character. I moved away from just doing things that were bad for me.


Charlie Rose: Playing all those villains or something else?


Gary Oldman: Yes. No — just — well, that’s just typecasting.And that kind of —


Charlie Rose: Letting other people define you.


Gary Oldman: Yes and that happens and that is the — yes,that’s the book that defines Gary kind of thing. But it was a whole series of things and it was getting sober and having kids.And personal life has been up until recently it’s been disastrous. I’m — I always remember that. What was that line that Woody Allen had in that movie? He said when it comes to relationships I get the August Strindberg Award. And I — And I’ve met — I’ve finally met someone.


Charlie Rose: Your present wife.


Gary Oldman: Yes.


Charlie Rose: So were you bad at living or bad at —


Gary Oldman: Yes, I’ve lived some. Yes. Bad at living and bad at choosing. Good artistic instincts but when it came to love — oh, boy.


Charlie Rose: Now is that all about her? Really? I mean in other words yo didn’t know what you were looking for but she had something you hadn’t seen?


Gary Oldman: I allowed her in.


Charlie Rose: You allowed her in.


Gary Oldman: Yes. And it’s — it’s — that’s why I connect with — that’s why I connect, I think with George. It’s — it’s — you get to a place where you can feel worthy. And it’s my time it’s — I can be loved and it’s OK and I think that you — that I just turned it around and was open to it. It’s just a shift of perception. It’s that old thing, isn’t it? Is the glass half empty or half full? It depends how you look at it. And so things are — things are good right now and then of course this nomination is a sort of cherry on the cake. I’m enjoying it, Charlie. I think you could — again, it’s a choice. I think you could look at this, you could be stressed out, you could be overwhelmed, you could be cynical, it could be all too much. It’s too much or —


Charlie Rose: Enjoy.


Gary Oldman: — enjoy. And I’m in the front cabin. I’ve been invited up to the front cabin. I’m having fun.


Charlie Rose: But here’s the thing. That’s so eloquent, it really is. But when you — there’s so much interesting about you. First of all the royal dramatic — what’s it called — the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art rejected you and said find another line of work. Right?


Gary Oldman: Living, yes, right. Yes.


Charlie Rose: But you didn’t walk away saying I’ll never be an actor.


Gary Oldman: No, I just —


Charlie Rose: You went somewhere else.


Gary Oldman: I had a second opinion.


Charlie Rose: Did you choose well or wrong? Did you — would you do it differently in terms? Would you know to do it differently or do you have to simply live it yourself?


Gary Oldman: I think you have to live it —


Charlie Rose: You have to live it yourself.


Gary Oldman: — and you have to accept it and it is what it is.


Charlie Rose: You find your own journey.


Gary Oldman: It’s my own story and there have been roles that— certainly in a career there have been roles that I’ve not —that I didn’t do and then they became very successful for other people. One won an Oscar for one of them. But at the time you turn things down because you have your reasons for it so there’s a few that got away. And I made some — I made some silly — some bad decisions. But it’s my story and you can’t — I can’t feel — I can’t feel sorry for myself.


Charlie Rose: And there is also this I think. It is that it is your story because whatever it is that inside of you made you make those choices is the same thing that’s inside of you that made you a great actor. You cannot separate those things.


Gary Oldman: No. And I think maybe — and it’s what makes youmake the right choices.


Charlie Rose: Yes, exactly


Gary Oldman: I mean there’s — I bring 33 years of experience to Smiley. My life, my experience to it, you know. Am I the only actor that could play it? No. But it’s — so I bring — I hope — I bring an interesting — — an interesting life to it. That’s maybe what Tomas was talking about. He says I can see some of that life that you’ve lived on your face.


Charlie Rose: And you can do stillness and at the same time it has expression.


Gary Oldman: I would hope.


Charlie Rose: Let me just say the following to you. This has been an extraordinary opportunity for me to have aconversation with you and I really thank you for coming.


Gary Oldman: Oh, it’s my — absolutely my pleasure. Thank you for having me.


Charlie Rose: Well, I’m going to show you one more thing before we leave here. This is a montage of some of your work that we’ve just talked — this journey you have taken from growing up and going into the theater and then the whole movie career and now «Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.» Here it is, a montage of Gary Oldman’s work.


Gary Oldman: ( SINGING «MY WAY») You know what I’m looking for, Smee. No, tell me again Captain. I’m looking for a boy, Smee. Oh, what kind of a boy, Captain? A wicked boy. A heartless boy. A boy who never ate his rice pudding. Nobody has told me anything except that I’m accused of murdering a policeman. I know nothing more than that and I do request someone to come forward to give me legal assistance.Welcome to my fort. It was freely of your own will and leavesome of the happiness.


Keanu Reeves: Count Dracula?


Gary Oldman: I am Dracula.


Unidentified Male: I’ve been a mystery to you. But I know exactly where your white ass is coming from. See, if I asked if you want some dinner.


Gary Oldman: (INAUDIBLE) He’s coming on like he doesn’t carein the world. Who know who, maybe he don’t. It’s cruel that I got to spend so much time with James and Lily and you so little. But know this — the ones that love us never really leave us. And you can always find them in here. He stayed up with the right people.