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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Colin Firth

'Tinker Tailor' takes on Cold War espionage with political distance

December 7, 2011 |  2:07 pm


When “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” opens in American theaters Friday, it won’t be the first time the John le Carré novel has been brought to the screen. But it will be the first time the spy story has been adapted since the end of the Cold War, giving the filmmakers more of an outsider perspective on the conflict than the creators of the 1979 miniseries had.

“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” -- about Le Carré's iconic spy character George Smiley as he’s forced into retirement -- was published in 1974. (Smiley appears in other Le Carré books as well.) In this adaptation, Gary Oldman fills Smiley's shoes, which have been worn in various projects by Sir Alec Guinness, Rupert Davies and James Mason.

At the film’s L.A. premiere on Tuesday, Colin Firth said the 1979 TV adaptation of "Tinker Tailor" was viewed as “an up-to-date, up-to-the-minute documentation of how these things really unfold. Now of course we can take a rather patronizing look back at how wrong everybody was.” The actor plays intelligence officer Bill Haydon in the film.

PHOTOS: 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' premiere


Some cynicism about the Cold War comes through in a scene when Smiley is talking with MI6 researcher Connie Sachs (Kathy Burke). She says of World War II, “It was a good time.” “It was a war,” Smiley responds, to which Burke says, “It was a real war. Englishmen could be proud then.”

“I don’t think we could have made this film back then. I think there’d have been political implications. It’s given us distance,” co-writer Peter Straughan said.


That four decades-long distance not only creates the opportunity to take a more cynical, critical perspective of the Cold War; it also has given the filmmakers the opportunity to keep the movie focused on the themes of friendship and betrayal.

“If we had done this when the Cold War was going on, people might have wanted us to be more political or dramatic or tried to be philosophical about the East-West conflict. We have chosen to make a very character-driven and emotional drama,” director Tomas Alfredson said.


“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” comes to U.S. theaters Friday, following its premiere at the Venice Film Festival and a September opening in Britain.


Is 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy' the 'film to beat' at Venice?

Tomas Alfredson moves into spy territory with 'Tinker Tailor'

'Shame, 'Tinker' lead British Independent Film Award nominations

-– Emily Rome

Photo: David Dencik, left, and Gary Oldman in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." Credit: Jack English / AP

Oscars: What's next for the winners?

February 28, 2011 |  5:00 pm

Yourhighness They might have stood on the most prestigious stage in Hollywood on Sunday night. But this year’s Academy Award winners won’t necessarily be in Oscar mode when they next pop up on a movie screen.

Because they took jobs before the awards angel landed on their shoulders — or because they simply want to perform in  diverse roles — many of the winners will star in more commercial films than the ones that netted them their statuettes.

In April, Natalie Portman will appear in the (not exactly Oscar-like) stoner comedy “Your Highness" (and opposite Oscar co-host James Franco). Just a month later, she’ll star as a scientist in a Marvel superhero movie, "Thor," the new take on the Norse god. (She'll also appear in a supporting role in the independent drama “Hesher,” which is expected to get a limited release.)

After that? It could be a while before we see the pregnant actress on screen again; Portman said backstage at the Oscars on Sunday that she had no idea how impending motherhood would affect the roles she takes. “One of the exciting things about becoming pregnant is that I’m expecting a complete unknown,” she said.

PHOTO GALLERY: Candid quotes from the red carpet and beyond

Melissa Leo, the “Fighter” costar who provided the, er, most colorful moment of the Oscars during her acceptance speech for supporting actress, will next make more niche appearances on the big screen. She’ll play a gun-toting member of a homophobic cult in Kevin Smith’s “Red State,” which the filmmaker is self-distributing in October, and she’ll star in an independent golf dramedy titled “Seven Days in Utopia,” which does not yet have a theatrical distributor. (She also has a recurring role on HBO’s post-Katrina New Orleans-set series “Treme.”)

After years of romantic comedy roles leading up to his turn as George VI in “The King’s Speech,” lead actor winner Colin Firth is skewing a little bit more commercial than the film that landed him his statuette — but only a little bit.

The English actor will next be seen in the adaptation of John le Carré’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” a film he was shooting while promoting “The King’s Speech” this season. He plays a British intelligence officer (code name Tailor) suspected of being a Russian mole. The espionage drama, whose rights have just been acquired by Universal Pictures, does not yet have a release date.

 Firth this summer also aims to shoot Park Chan-Wook’s “Stoker,” a mystery drama that will put him in a film with another 2011 award-season personality, Nicole Kidman.

PHOTO GALLERY: Behind the scenes of the 2011 Academy Awards

And Christian Bale? He's spent the last part of his Oscar campaign in an artistically rigorous place: in China shooting a part as a heroic priest in the Asian period piece “The 13 Women of Nanjing." But blockbusters aren’t too far from the actor’s mind; Bale will reprise his superhero role in “The Dark Knight Rises,” which is scheduled for the summer of 2012.

“When I finish the movie in China,” he told reporters Sunday, “it’s straight to Batman. Much more Batman.”

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Natalie Portman, Danny McBride, center, and James Franco in "Your Highness." Credit: Universal


Oscars: Natalie Portman and Colin Firth win top acting awards

February 27, 2011 |  8:46 pm

Natalieosc Yeah Natalie; Ye-ye-yeah Colin!!!

I guess the surprise would have been if Natalie Portman hadn't won for her soul-destroyed ballerina in "Black Swan." It may be the defining performance in her career, so visceral it was, so true did it feel. It was one of my favorites of the year the moment I saw it. She came into the night on a tsunami of support -- Indie Spirit award, Golden Globe, SAG, she even got the British vote from BAFTA. That girl can fly.

How wonderful is Colin Firth? He had racked up a whole bunch of gold too -- Globes, SAG, BAFTA too. Stepping onstage to accept his trophy, he came with the threat of dance moves, as only the still stiff upper-lipped Brit so winningly, wryly could. What can you say about the performance? So moving, so much dignity. Onscreen or off, in character or not, he is such a class act.

Though considering the performance this year, maybe next year the academy should consider ties....


Red carpet photos

Oscar scorecard

Complete coverage: The Oscars

-- Betsy Sharkey

Photo: Natalie Portman and fiancee Benjamin Millepied arrive at the Academy Awards. Credit: Lionel Hahn/Abaca Press/MCT 


Hot with Oscar buzz, Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman look to new roles in 'Stoker'

February 11, 2011 | 11:05 am

EXCLUSIVE: Colin Firth has had his pick of roles in Hollywood ever since the Oscar buzz started for his portrayal of King George VI in "The King's Speech." Now it looks like he's made up his mind.

The British actor is negotiating to join "Stoker," a family mystery-drama that South Korean filmmaker Chan Wook-Park is making as his first English-language movie, according to a person close to the production. It would be the first movie that Firth has shot since "The King's Speech" became a box-office and critical phenomenon. (Firth had previously become attached to a remake of “Gambit” that the Coen brothers wrote, but that would in all probability shoot after “Stoker.”)

Nicole Kidman, herself gaining award-season buzz for her turn as a grieving mother in "Rabbit Hole," is also negotiating to come aboard in a lead part, the person close to the production said.

Penned by actor Wentworth Miller, "Stoker" tells of a girl and her mother who are visited by a mysterious uncle after the girl's father dies. Kidman would play the mother and Firth the uncle. The Fox Searchlight film, which is being produced by Ridley and Tony Scott's production company and will star Mia Wasikowska as the girl, India Stoker, is set to start shooting in late spring. Representatives for the actors were not immediately available for comment.

Firth and Kidman, both visiting Los Angeles this week, met with "Oldboy" auteur Park to discuss the nuances of their roles, according to a person familiar with the meeting who was not authorized to speak about it publicly.

The castings would mark the next chapter in the long and complex careers of both Firth and Kidman. The former had heretofore been known to U.S. audiences primarily for supporting roles in movies such as "Bridges Jones's Diary." Kidman, an Oscar winner for "The Hours" in 2002, had recently starred in a number of disappointments, including "Australia" and "The Golden Compass." 

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Colin Firth in 'The King's Speech.' Credit: The Weinstein Co.

The filmgoers' guide to getting your drink on

January 12, 2011 |  3:24 pm


With so many good films in theaters this time of year, dinner and a movie may figure in your night-life plans. Nice idea. But this season’s crop of films seem to be more about booze than cuisine. Apparently, you're not a serious Oscar contender this year unless you have a drink associated with your movie.

Film-cocktails With that in mind, we’ve compiled a pairing guide to help you match your flick ("The King's Speech," "Black Swan," etc.) to your firewater (Scotch, tequila, you get the drift...). Check out the gallery at right, settle on a film and tip back a glass (though maybe not in the theater). To do anything else would be ... un-cinematic.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Colin Firth sips a Scotch in "The King's Speech." Credit: The Weinstein Co.

With so many good films in theaters this time of year, dinner-and-a-movie may figure in your night life plans. Nice idea. But this season’s crop of films seem to be more about booze than cuisine. Apparently, you're not a serious Oscar contender this year unless you have a cocktail associated with your movie.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a pairing guide to help you match your flick to your firewater. Check out the list, settle on a film and tip back a glass (though maybe not in the theater). To do anything else would be ... un-cinematic.

Colin Firth leaves the romantic comedies behind

November 25, 2010 | 10:35 am


He's been the thinking-woman's heartthrob since he played Mr. Darcy in the BBC "Pride and Prejudice" back in the mid-1990s. But as costar of such movies as "Bridget Jones's Diary" and "Love Actually," Firth has been mainly absent  from serious roles, at least here in the U.S., until last year, when he earned raves in the grieving-spouse drama "A Single Man."

Firth establishes his serious-actor bona fides in an even bigger way when he stars as a 1930s-era monarch in the crowd-pleasing royals drama "The King's Speech," which opens in Los Angeles and several other cities around the country this Thanksgiving weekend.

In our story about him in in today's Times, Firth offers a wry take on some of the recent reactions to him. "Someone asked me this morning [about my acting]: 'Did you get better?'" he said with a slight laugh. "I've just carried on doing what it says in the manual."

Saying he felt more comfortable in dramas than comedies, Firth, 50, wants to continue along the path he's recently started down. But it's at least a small point of frustration that these kinds of parts aren't always available. "If I can get a role as good as these last two, I'm all over it," he told us. "I haven't seen it yet. What do I do about that? Do I write it?  I'm afraid there's not much I can do."

The acclaim for "The King's Speech" certainly will help his cause, as will his easygoing likability. After we met with him in New York on Monday, he continued the charm offensive with appearances on "The Late Show With David Letterman" and "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," showing in both the low-key wit that could well put him over the top with academy voters in this year's best actor race.

That charm is a far cry from his character in his new film, in which Firth plays a stuttering Duke of York who must learn to overcome both his handicap and the repression that created it. Despite the movie's focus on the monarchy, though, Firth confesses he never read a book about the royals until he started the film. It's always been rock stars, he says, that have fascinated him.

“Laughable as it might sound given the persona I tend to be associated with," Firth said,  "I'm one of the millions of Englishmen of my generation who wanted to be Keith Richards."

-- Steven Zeitchik



Photo; COlin Firth with Helena Bonham Carter and director Tom Hooper at "The King's Speech" premiere. Credit: Stuart Raimson /Associated Press

Colin Firth's royal pains



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