Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 1980 & 2011

The new screen adaptation of John le Carré's 1974 novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is now playing in theaters. George Smiley, once played on television by the superb Alec Guinness, is now played on film by another fine character actor, Gary Oldman. In the intervening three decades, we've truly entered the digital age, and the means of producing much promotional artwork has changed radically.

I really like the quiet intrigue of the 1980 television campaign by Richard Hess, but I suppose Hollywood doesn't think such a thoughtful, staid approach can sell movie tickets today. The current film's posters are attention-grabbers, using the digitally-manipulated photographs to suggest a variety of moods, the principle poster showing a thrilling intensity. Both approaches are valid, but you would be forgiven if you didn't recognize that both productions sprang from the same book.
Richard Hess, Alec Guinness as George Smiley, The New Yorker, September 29, 1980

Gary Oldman as George Smiley, 2011

Colin Firth, 2011. I've shown this poster in larger dimensions to give an idea of the detail. Note that there are a few key words scattered among the digits.
Tom Hardy, 2011

Gary Oldman, 2011

Benedict Cumberbatch, 2011

Mark Strong, 2011

Svetlana Khodchenkova, 2011
Image added November 24, 2012

[Spoiler Alert!]
Paul Smith's 2011 limited edition print, one of four created concurrent with the recent theatrical release, reprises Richard Hess's visual chessboard theme from 1980, a theme taken directly from the novel.

MI6 is known as "The Circus"

The 1979 trailer:

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

 (1979) Trailer

Video added June 28, 2012

And the trailer from 2011:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - 

2011 Official Trailer [HD]

Video added June 28, 2012

Note:  I have some lighter poster fare for you here.



  1. Wow! I love the digital portraits, and what a cast. I've got to see this movie.

    ps: Not so always relevant I, appreciates your always user-friendly captchas.

  2. Thanks for visiting, Arthur, and for your encouraging words. Your own blog sure covers a lot of territory, the entire planet it seems on a good day!

  3. That Richard Hess Guinness illustration is splendid! I appreciate the idea behind the digital pieces but they're just a tad too plain for my liking...

  4. I admire the Richard Hess artwork too. The contemporary chess poster by Paul Smith also works for me, but more as an immediate graphic statement than as something I'd want to gaze at all day.

  5. I saw the movie last night and really enjoyed it.