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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (TV Mini-Series 1979) Poster

(1979 TV Mini-Series)

Trivia

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Shortly before filming began, Alec Guinness asked author John le Carré to introduce him to a real spy to aid him in preparing for his role. Le Carré invited him to dinner with Sir Maurice Oldfield, who served as Chief of the British Intelligence Service from 1973-78. During their meal Guinness studied Sir Oldfield intently, noting any mannerisms/quirks he could use in his performance; when he saw Oldfield run his finger around the rim of his wineglass, and asked whether he was checking for poison, to Oldfield's astonishment as he was only checking how clean the glass was.
John le Carré has admitted that the vocabulary used in the novels/series (babysitters, lamplighters, the Circus, the nursery, moles) was made up. He was later amused to discover that real agents had begun to appropriate some of his vocabulary once his espionage stories were published.
Alec Guinness was very concerned that he wasn't the right type to portray the "frog-like" George Smiley. Three weeks into filming, Alec Guinness panicked and asked to be replaced, and recommended Arthur Lowe for the role of Smiley. However, he eventually overcome his doubts and went on to receive critical acclaim for his role.
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During production, Alec Guinness complained that George Smiley's characteristic habit, polishing his glasses with the fat end of his tie, could not be done naturally because London's cold weather resulted in Smiley wearing three-piece suits. Thus a handkerchief was used as a substitute. John le Carré's sequel novel 'Smiley's People', mentioned a statement referring to this issue: "From long habit, Smiley had taken off his spectacles and was absently polishing them on the fat end of his tie, even though he had to delve for it among the folds of his tweed coat."
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The code name for the British Intelligence secret service was "The Circus". John le Carré told the producer that the BBC offices matched his image of the Circus, and so parts of the Circus office interiors were filmed in the offices of the BBC.
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John le Carré was so impressed by Alec Guinness's performance as George Smiley that in later novels he wrote Smiley's characterization to be in keeping with Guinness's performance.
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In the United States, syndicated broadcasts compressed the seven British episodes into six (also the current U.S. DVD version), thus scenes were shortened and the narrative sequence altered. In the British version, George Smiley visits Connie Sachs before Peter Guillam's burglary at the Circus, while the U.S. version reverses the sequence of these events.
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John le Carré once paid an unexpected visit to the set during filming. Alec Guinness stopped acting immediately and asked that le Carré leave so he could continue. Guinness later maintained that it was disconcerting performing with le Carré watching, as he had based a lot of Smiley's performance on the writer himself.
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Source author John le Carré included 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' as one of his four best novels during an interview on 5 October 2008 on BBC Four. The other best works he selected were 'The Spy Who Came in from the Cold', 'The Tailor of Panama' and 'The Constant Gardener'.
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The Czechoslovakia scenes were filmed in and around Glasgow, Scotland, which producer Jonathan Powell says "was a very rough, poverty-stricken place" in 1979.
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Smiley's address is 9 Bywater Street, Chelsea. This is an actual existing address, but ironically scenes set at this location were filmed next door, at 10 Bywater Street.
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John le Carré based the character of Karla (played by Patrick Stewart) on the KGB's Major General Rem Krassilnikov who was a counter-intelligence spy for the KGB's State Security Committee.
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Alec Guinness loosely based George Smiley's look and behaviour on Sir Maurice Oldfield, a former head of British intelligence. John le Carré also claims that Alec Guinness "stole his hairstyle" for George Smiley.
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John le Carré's 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' novel, was based on the uncovering, during the 1950s and 60s, of the Cambridge Five traitors who were KGB moles working within the SIS.
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Sir Alec Guinness was the third actor to play John le Carré's famous character George Smiley in film and television. Guinness played him twice, in this mini-series and in its sequel, Smiley's People (1982). Rupert Davies was the first actor to play Smiley in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) whilst James Mason was the second in The Deadly Affair (1966) though the Smiley character here was renamed Charles Dobbs. Denholm Elliott was the fourth actor to play Smiley in A Murder of Quality (1991) whilst Gary Oldman is the fifth actor to play him in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011).
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Bernard Hepton, who plays Toby Esterhase in the series, later went on to play George Smiley in the BBC radio play of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and "Smiley's People".
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John le Carré based the character of Connie Sach (played by Beryl Reid) on Milicent Jessie Eleanor Bagot, a Sovietologist and British Intelligence spy.
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The title of this mini-series and its source novel is taken from an English children's rhyme 'Tinker, Tailor' that reads: "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief".
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The 1974 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' novel is the first book in John le Carré's Karla or Quest for Karla Trilogy, the second and third parts being 'The Honourable Schoolboy' (1977) and 'Smiley's People' (1979).
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This TV series was made and broadcast about five years after John le Carré's 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' novel was first published in 1974.
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Writer John le Carré partially based his famous George Smiley character on a friend, the Lincoln College tutor and Oxford University don, the Reverend Vivian Green. Smiley was also based on le Carré's boss at Mi5, Lord Clanmorris, who wrote crime novels under the pseudonym of John Bingham.
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Sir Alec Guinness's first major television role in a series. Guinness had predominantly worked in film bar a few TV movies.
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While talking to Smiley about his encounter with Toby Esterhase, Ian Bannen's character Jim Prideaux says "He (Esterhase) said the Circus had nearly gone under due to Operation Testify and I'm currently the number one leper..." Years later, Bannen played a leper in Braveheart (1995).
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Alexander Knox and Ian Bannen play the eponymous "Control" and British spy Jim Prideaux, working to identify a Soviet mole in British intelligence. They would later appear as dedicated Soviet officials in "Gorky Park" - as the Soviet General and Prosecutor Iamskoy - there trying to identify three murder victims in Moscow whose identities have been removed.
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Alec Guinness was initially opposed to Beryl Reid's being cast as Connie Sachs, regarding her as primarily a comedienne. However, he was very impressed by her performance. Both of them won BAFTA awards.
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The series's initial broadcast coincided with the UK Government announcing that Anthony Blunt, the Keeper of the Queen's Pictures, was one of the Cambridge Five (a ring of spies in the UK who passed information to the Soviet Union during/post-World War II).
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In the United States, the PBS network broadcast the series as a Great Performances (1971) programme introduced by the Canadian journalist Robert MacNeil, who explained the workings of the British Secret Service.
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The Star Trek universe has many connections to this series. First, Patrick Stewart who played Karla, later famously went on to play Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987). Second, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993) had a recurring character named Garak, who was a tailor and a spy and often made witty comments about his professions which resembled observations made in various John le Carré writings. Third, another Star Trek production was called Star Trek: Voyager: Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy (1999).
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This production was hit by a series of strikes.
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A Number of night-shoots were lost for various reasons.
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Overruns meant a a large number of actors moved to other projects without finishing their roles.
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A number of the cast were cast or offered roles in Peter Grimwade directed Doctor Who.
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Based on author John le Carré's novel 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'.
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Spoilers 

The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

John le Carré based the character of Bill Haydon (played by Ian Richardson) on Cambridge Five double-agent Harold Adrian Russell Philby aka Kim Philby.
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See also

Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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