'Tinker' star Oldman calls 'quiet thriller' 'refreshing'

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International  |  Dec. 12, 2011 at 1:45 AM
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NEW YORK, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- British actor Gary Oldman says he hopes people find his quiet, low-tech espionage thriller "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" a nice change from the high-octane action flicks that routinely "assault" them.

Oldman, 53, plays secret agent George Smiley in the big-screen adaptation of John le Carre's classic 1974 novel by the same name. The film follows Smiley as he tries to root out a Soviet double agent in the highest ranks of the British secret service during the Cold War. In theaters now, the movie co-stars Colin Firth, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds and Tom Hardy.

"It's an interesting period because it's right on the cusp of technology, but it's still an analog world. It's still files. The Internet and the phones and these cameras have really completely changed the face of espionage and the way they do things," the actor told United Press International in New York recently about his latest movie, which is set in various European locations in the early 1970s.

"I admire [director] Tomas [Alfredson] for taking this and not wanting to -- in any way feel the need to -- compete with 'The Bourne Identity' or the Bond movies," Oldman added. "When I saw the movie, it was like watching a lava lamp. The pacing of the movie is like snow falling. I really admire that. You notice sounds. And it's not that they're particularly over-amped up. They have so much silence around them that you hear them and notice them. Movies assault you now. Sound is pumped up. There are too many movies where the cuts are too quick, the sound is pumped up. These movies you go see -- even a comedy like 'The Hangover' -- it comes at you. I think it's nice to see a quiet thriller. I think this is refreshing. I think people are getting tired of that [non-stop action and noise.] What the [expletive] is 3D about?"

Oldman went on to say he likes movies such as "Tinker," which trust the audience to be intelligent and mature.

"You have to listen and focus and concentrate a little more," he concluded.

The actor said he also appreciated how Smiley is a spy who doesn't call attention to himself, unlike famous fictional secret agent James Bond.

"He announces who he is everywhere he goes. 'Mr. Bond is over there. Kill him.' 'How do you know it's Bond?' 'Because he just told me,'" Oldman laughed, while talking to reporters at a roundtable interview. "That's weird to me. 'Who is that handsome-looking guy who's pulled up in an Aston Martin?' 'It's the spy.' I never could get my head around that. I enjoyed it. But it's not realistic. 'Tinker Tailor' is, I think, more [true to life.] You see the casualties of the job."

Although known in the film industry as a human chameleon, the cast member of the Harry Potter and Batman film franchises, as well as the movies "Sid and Nancy," "Bram Stoker's Dracula," "JFK," "Immortal Beloved," "True Romance" and "Hannibal," admitted he hesitated before agreeing to play Smiley, a role previously portrayed by the late Alec Guinness in a popular 1979 television miniseries.

Asked what it was like to follow in Guinness' steps, Oldman replied it was "terrifying, in a word."

"I kind of had to think about it because those inevitable comparisons will be there," he confessed. "I played a trick with my head. What I did was approach it as an actor would a classical part. There's room for new interpretations as there are other Romeos, other Hamlets, other King Lears. You'll do a Hamlet and you'll be compared to [Richard] Burton and [John] Barrymore and all those other people who played it before and I just thought, 'It's time for another interpretation.'"

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