Books

John le Carré's favourite adaptations of his books

Four productions of television and film that span 1965 to 2016 stand out to John le Carré as the best.
A Legacy of Spies is the latest instalment in le Carré's famed series of espionage books starring George Smiley. (Canadian Press/Penguin Random House)

John le Carré's tense, twisted spy novels have made for excellent television and film since he began his bestselling publishing career more than 50 years ago. CBC Books asked le Carré to share some of his favourite adaptations of his work.

Le Carré's new book A Legacy of Spies is a contemporary George Smiley and Peter Guillam spy thriller. His interview with CBC's Eleanor Wachtel kicks of the Writers & Company's 2017 season. You can listen to Writers & Company on Sundays at 3:00 p.m. ET/AT, 3:30 p.m. NT and 5 p.m. CT/MT/PT or by subscribing to the podcast.

1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979 miniseries)

Alec Guinness, pictured here in 1977, portrayed George Smiley in a BBC production of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, based on the novel by John le Carré. (Hulton Archives/Getty Images)

Based on le Carré's novel of the same name, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was a seven-episode miniseries aired and produced by BBC in 1979. Alec Guinness as George Smiley is one of le Carré's favourite portrayals of the master spy — and many of the author's fans would agree. Guinness won a BAFTA TV Award and Broadcasting Press Guild Award for his performance.

2. The Night Manager (2016 miniseries)

This 2016 miniseries adaptation of le Carré's 1993 book garnered three Golden Globe Awards for stars Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman. Le Carré said, "I loved Hugh Laurie's performance particularly — Tom Hiddleston's performance, Tom Hollander's performance and the beautiful Elizabeth Debicki too. I thought that was a beautiful production."

3. The Constant Gardener (2006 film)

Published in 2001, this le Carré novel became a widely acclaimed film under the direction of Fernando Meirelles. Rachel Weisz took home the Oscar for best performance by an actress in a supporting role. Le Carré said, "I have a great affection for The Constant Gardener because it was actually a film and a book which I can truly say did good. It held the pharmaceutical industry to account, and it told a narrative that woke people up to the use of human guinea pigs in clinical trials and that kind of thing."

4. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965 film)

Le Carré's 1963 bestseller The Spy Came in from the Cold became a film in 1965 starring Richard Burton as Alec Leamas. The movie was nominated for two Oscars and won four BAFTAs. Le Carré said, "I was so close to it and it was such a huge thing in my life. I still can't quite come to terms with it. I think Burton's performance was magnificent. I think the direction was wonderful. Claire Bloom, absolutely super. Oskar Werner, again, magic. "

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