Share & Connect
Coordinating with production designer Maria Djurkovic, costume designer Jacqueline Durran had to thread into her designs for the Oscar nominated ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’ for each character’s idiosyncrasy, while trying to illuminate their secretive natures.
Yet the basic outfits of the players of MI6 — the Circus — remained straightforward, and so Durran’s team veered even farther away from 1970s clichés than Djurkovic’s. As the costume designer explains, “Because the main characters in the story are middle-aged and upper-middle-class, they dress not all that far removed from how they would have for the past 10-15 years. They would have chosen the style of their suits as younger men, and probably stuck with it.
“We accessed all the different colors of suiting available to men of that period, but not even a sharp dresser like Haydon or a younger agent like Guillam would be sporting something strange and outlandish. It was also about, what set of associations do the men want to promote to their colleagues and peers? These MI6 men were not going to [the U.K.’s famed 1960s fashion mecca] Carnaby Street, they were going to [the more traditional tailors’ locus] Savile Row as they always have.”
Durran cites George Smiley’s costume as an example of director Tomas Alfredson’s attention to detail, pointing out that “Tomas always said from the beginning that he wanted Gary [Oldman] to wear a gray suit. So we had an ex-Savile Row tailor create a plain dark gray three-piece in the style of the 1950s.
“Tomas’ initial thought was that Gary wouldn’t change costume at all from scene to scene, that Smiley would wear that one suit every day. But Tomas, Gary, and I then figured we would probably benefit from the one change. So I found the darkest gray, most plain tweed available, and we made a sports jacket – in exactly the same pattern as the suit. The viewer might not even notice, but we realized that we needed to do it for ourselves.”
That realization soon impacted her and Alfredson’s approach to the other characters. Given that numerous scenes would feature what she calls “a sea of suits,” Durran reveals that “we chose a telling detail for each person and saw that they were constant. Most of the characters have two suits; some only have one.
Visually, it would have been more confusing if they were constantly changing clothes, so it was clearer to keep everyone consistent. It helps peg the players in this game, just as Control has. For example, Esterhase – beyond his two suits – has his pipe, which Tomas suggested.
“With the hard work and creativity everyone has put in, the film looks and feels authentic. I think it gave the actors confidence.”
“It was a joy to come to work,” affirms Oldman. “The cast and the crew were all great people who were good at their jobs.” Stephen Graham adds, “This was like getting picked to play for England. You’re in drama school, eating beans on toast, and you never dream that you’re going to be working with people like Gary Oldman and John Hurt.
Then you do, and it gives you even more inspiration.” Mark Strong states, “This shoot was a revelation, and not only because of playing scenes from a brilliant script with these actors. There was a director who was guiding you towards the kind of character details and extra layers that you’re always hoping to discover, and who comes at everything from different angles that would often astonish.”
Alfredson remembers one day as being especially ideal. “We were shooting the Circus holiday party sequence over two days, with 100 extras. I’d worked out the shots with Hoyte, and Maria and Jacqueline’s teams had everything right.
“John le Carré came to the set the second day, and all the cast and crew crowded to see him. We knew we had to keep working, and Robyn Slovo had told his wife that we’d put him into the scene, so now he was going to be part of his own story.”
The author muses, “I had to imagine who I was, at my great age, sitting in that Circus community. I decided that I was an elderly gay librarian who’d been brought in for love of old times, and was given license to get plastered.” Producer Tim Bevan notes, “He had a good time. I think those were the only two days that all of the principal actors are in the same scene; this is because the sequence takes place in the past, significantly, back when everything was fine at the Circus – or at least seemed fine.
“In fact, it’s a scene that’s not in the book.”
Image Courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/tinkertailorsoldierspy