The satisfaction of a logically convincing end is what John le Carré ‘owed’ to his readers, the satisfaction that this best selling authors’ fans have enjoyed since 1961! Many of his famous books have been adapted to films and telly series making Carré’s fandom spread far and wide. As David John Moore Cornwell, better known by his pen name John le Carré, breathed his last on Saturday, aged 89, this former teacher at Eton College, an intelligence officer and a famous spy novelist leaves an enviable legacy – score of novels and about as many screen adaptations!
Honouring the memory of the author, who gave George Smiley, a fictional character, a British spy pretty unlike but as famous as Bond, here is a look at films and series that celebrated the genius of Carré…
The Spy Who Came In From the Cold
Rupert Davies gets into the shoes of George Smiley in probably Carré’s most famous The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965) that starred Richard Burton, Claire Bloom and Oskar Werner. A tragic spy story mired in double-cross agents, this one has a dialogue, “What the hell do you think spies are? Moral philosophers measuring everything they do against the word of God or Karl Marx? They’re not. They’re just a bunch of seedy squalid bastards like me, little men, drunkards, queers, henpecked husbands, civil servants playing “Cowboys and Indians” to brighten their rotten little lives,” mouthed by Alec Leamas (Richard Burton). A very contrasting portrayal to rather suave 007. The film fetched Burton an Academy Award nomination, winning a BAFTA for Best British Actor with host of others, including Best British Film.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
A film and a TV series, Carré’s 1974 novel enjoyed a hit cinematic adaptation. The 2011 film won the BAFTA award for Best British Film and three Oscar nominations. This spy thriller set in the cold war period has stellar cast – Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, Mark Strong and Benedict Cumberbatch, with Gary Oldman taking on the role of George Smiley. John Irvin directed the BBC backed mini-series with the same name where Alec Guinness played George Smiley.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy also had a dramatisation for BBC Radio. Carré won espionage thriller genre lovers across the world with his books, radio as well as television shows and films.
The Constant Gardener
Written in 2001 by Carré, The Constant Gardener (2005) and directed by Fernando Meirelles, was a critical as well as commercial success. It got four Oscar nominations, winning Best Supporting Actress for Rachel Weisz. Set in Kenya, this one had Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Danny Huston, Bill Nighy and Pete Postlethwaite in main roles. The plot of this novel was picked by Carré from real case in Kano, Nigeria. The plot revolved around a murder of a British diplomat’s wife revealing the international unethical pharmaceutical nexus.
The Tailor of Panama
John Boorman-directed 2001 The Tailor of Panama had the fifth Bond Pierce Brosnan step into shoes of Andrew “Andy” Osnard. While writing the novel, Carré visited Panama five times. He wrote the screenplay for the film along with Andrew Davies and John Boorman.
The Little Drummer Girl
The Little Drummer Girl was adapted to a geo-political thriller telly mini-series in 2018 as well as a film. Directed by George Roy Hill, the film that came in 1984 with the same title had Diane Keaton as Charlie. While the film didn’t win its audience, Florence Pugh as Charlie in the mini-series won praise as well as was lauded for its deft direction. —TNS