Gary Oldman Charlie Rose 2012-02-24

In honor of the 84th Academy Awards, Charlie pulls together conversations with 16 contenders including Michelle Williams, Gary Oldman, Viola Davis, Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, George Clooney, Max von Sydow, Wim Wenders, and more.


Charlie Rose: This year’s contenders also include films based on books. «Tinker Tailor, Soldier Spy» is based on John Le Carre’s the classic spy novel. One of the finest actors of our time Gary Oldman delivers a remarkable performance at George Smiley. This is his first Oscar nomination in 33 years of acting.


Gary Oldman: I’m retired, Oliver, you fired me.


Unidentified Male: The thing is, some time ago before Controldied he came to me with a similar suggestion. That there is a mole — he never mentioned his suspensions to you?


Gary Oldman: No.


Unidentified Male: Oh, I just thought it was just you were hisman, so to speak.


Gary Oldman: What did you say to him?


Unidentified Male: Well, I’m afraid I thought his paranoia rather got the better of him and he was going to put his whole house down. That bloody mess in Budapest.


Gary Oldman: Well, I was out of work but I think actors refer toit 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 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. With — with Le Carre, with Smiley, you’re — you can’t fusstoo much and mess with the molecules. It — there’s a — there’s a — there’s a DNA at work here. And you, I — 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 certain character traits that Smiley has, that you — that you — that you can’t mess with.Just for the sake of — of — of making it modern or different.


Charlie Rose: George Smiley was a classic character in the same way that Hamlet is a classic character.


Gary Oldman: Yes, but there’s a motor. There’s 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 is a disenchantment — he’s a — he’s a disillusioned romantic. — genuine — but its topicality makes it suspect.


John Hurt: Smiley is a 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 had access to the most sensitive levels of policymaking. We named it the Operation Witchcraft.


John Hurt: Well, Percy and his pals bypass our Smiley, gonestraight to the minister. Percy has been allowed to keep the identity of his new friend top secret.


Gary Oldman: The wonderful thing about Smiley is there is no sort of self- aggrandizement. There is no — there is no — there’s no ego. It — he operates with moral certainty.


Charlie Rose: He’s oak and strong.


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


Charlie Rose: Yes.


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


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


Gary Oldman: I found the voice in things but he sort of sits as I do in the film, he sort of slit — he sits sort of slightly back.


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: And 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 — that’s a great skill. That’s the great skim 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 — he does what I used to call the tickle. He just tickles people. It’s like if you’re with someone who is 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 have just been insulted but I’m not sure. And that’s the — that’s th sort of great — a great ability that Smiley has.


Charlie Rose: What were you looking for? The kind of glasses he would wear?


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


Charlie Rose: Yes.


Gary Oldman: That had this sort of, these big, these big eyes.And he can — he can sort of, he can see everything. And he hears everything. I mean the great thing is he doesn’t have to rush. There’s a focus that — that you — that you have that I,that I, that is — it’s a similar sort of focus that you can be on a movie set and you can have, you can be, in really in the moment on — on — on your game and they call «wrap». And you can turn to the director or the crew and you can say wow, guys, you know, that was just terrific. And you know, I was — yes, good work today. Good work today. And you’re walking to your trailer and then suddenly you remember oh, God, I’m getting divorced. You’ve — you forget. That’s one of the — that — 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.


Unidentified Male: You’re going to do something for me, Peter. I need the duty officers’ logbook for last November. I’m going to have to send you up a floor into the lion’s den. If you’re called, you can’t mention me. I’m sorry, you’re alone.


Gary Oldman: That’s why I connect, I think, with George. It’s — it’s — you’ve got to get to a place where you can feel worthy.And it’s my time. It’s — I can, I can be loved and it’s all, it’s ok.And I think that you, that I — I just turned it around and I was open — and was open to it. It’s a — just a — it’s a shift of perception. It’s the old thing, isn’t it? You know, it’s a glass half empty or half full. It depends how you look at it. And — and so things are, things are good right now. And then of course this nomination is sort of — this is sort of cherry — a cherry on the cake. And I’m — I’m enjoying it, Charlie. I — I — I think you could, this — again, it’s a choice. I bring 33 years of experience to Smiley. My — my life, my experience to it. You know, am — you know, am I the only actor that could play it? No. But — but it’s a — so I bring, I hope, I bring an interesting, an interesting life to it.


Charlie Rose: And you can do stillness and — and at the sametime it has expression.


Gary Oldman: I hope.