Alec Guinness was asked to play George Smiley for a third time but he passed. Anthony Hopkins, who had previously starred in John le Carré's The Looking Glass War (1970), was offered the role and read a script, but withdrew from the project when script changes were made that he didn't like. Denholm Elliott was approached with just three days until production was to start. Elliott turned it down initially as he was living in Spain and returning to the UK would mean he would be landed with a bigger tax bill. He then agreed to play the role when he was offered twice the fee.
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.
The synopsis of this tele-movie's source novel "A Murder of Quality" (1993) by John le Carré on his personal website reads: "George Smiley was simply doing a favour for an old friend. Miss Brimley had received a letter from a worried woman reader: 'I'm not mad. And I know my husband is trying to kill me.' The writer of the letter was one Stella Rode, wife to an assistant master at Carne School, Dorset, and by the time it arrived, she was dead. Smiley went there to listen, take sherry, ask questions and think. And thus uncover, layer upon layer, the complexities, skeletons and hatreds that comprised this little English institution."
This tele-movie's source John le Carré " . . . novel was the second story to be broadcast in BBC Radio 4's major series to feature all the Smiley novels (The Complete Smiley), with Simon Russell Beale in the main role" according to website Wikipedia.
The closing credits of this tele-movie state that the production was "filmed on location at Sherborne School and in the town of Sherborne, Dorset and at Shepparton Studios". Source novelist John le Carré was born in Poole, Dorset in England, UK.
One of two filmed adaptions of John le Carré novels featuring actor David Threlfall. The productions are The Russia House (1990) (the first) and A Murder of Quality (1991) (the second and final). One was made for TV and the other cinema, whilst both were first released during the early 1990s, and were the only two le Carré filmed adaptations of this 90s decade.
This production is the only ever tele-movie adaptation based on a novel by source novelist John le Carré though there have been about a half a dozen TV mini-series adaptations, A Murder of Quality (1991) is a tele-feature film, and not a television mini-series.
The only made-for television adaptation of a John le Carré novel that was first released during the 1990s decade. The Russia House (1990), which premiered the year before, is a theatrical feature film.
The production featured three Academy Award nominees of whom two became Academy Award winners. Star Denholm Elliott had once been Oscar nominated, for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for a A Room with a View (1985), but did not win. Actress Glenda Jackson has been Oscar nominated four times, all during the 1970s, and prior to this tele-movie, and won the Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar twice. Actor Christian Bale has been Oscar nominated three times, all after A Murder of Quality (1991) had been made and debuted, and has won once, for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.