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Also Known As: David John Moore Cornwell, John Lecarr Died:
Born: October 19, 1931 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Poole, Dorset, England, GB Profession:

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

One of the world's most respected authors of spy fiction, John le Carré is a writer who gives his work added authenticity due to his time spent working for British intelligence agencies. Recruited by MI5 when he was still known as David Cornwell, he was still in college when he began spying on leftist groups that might have Soviet associations. He eventually joined the agency full-time and began moonlighting as a novelist, later transferring to MI6. After the success of his initial espionage books, which included Call for the Dead (1961) and A Murder of Quality (1962), le Carré shifted his career entirely to writing, and it wasn't long before adaptations of his stories hit the silver screen, beginning with director Martin Ritt's lauded "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold" (1965). Reliably producing a novel every few years - sometimes featuring his most famous protagonist, George Smiley, as with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974) - le Carré remained perennially popular, though his profile was elevated during the new millennium, thanks in part to the acclaimed movies "The Constant Gardener" (2005) and "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (2011), as well as his continued and consistently exceptional literary...

One of the world's most respected authors of spy fiction, John le Carré is a writer who gives his work added authenticity due to his time spent working for British intelligence agencies. Recruited by MI5 when he was still known as David Cornwell, he was still in college when he began spying on leftist groups that might have Soviet associations. He eventually joined the agency full-time and began moonlighting as a novelist, later transferring to MI6. After the success of his initial espionage books, which included Call for the Dead (1961) and A Murder of Quality (1962), le Carré shifted his career entirely to writing, and it wasn't long before adaptations of his stories hit the silver screen, beginning with director Martin Ritt's lauded "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold" (1965). Reliably producing a novel every few years - sometimes featuring his most famous protagonist, George Smiley, as with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974) - le Carré remained perennially popular, though his profile was elevated during the new millennium, thanks in part to the acclaimed movies "The Constant Gardener" (2005) and "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (2011), as well as his continued and consistently exceptional literary output.

Born David John Moore Cornwell, John le Carré grew up learning a thing or two about deception from his father, who frequently dabbled in shady business schemes and associated with known gangsters. Rather than follow his dad's trouble-prone path, he became an outstanding student and worked for the British Secret Service (MI5) while still at university, monitoring any possible Soviet influence at Oxford's Lincoln College. By the late 1950s, he was a full MI5 operative and regularly participated in various highly classified activities, including conducting interrogations and setting up surveillance. Inspired by fellow spy-turned-author John Bingham, he started writing espionage novels under the le Carré nom de plume, with his first outing, Call for the Dead (1961), marking the debut of the keenly perceptive intelligence operative George Smiley. The inquisitive protagonist returned to track down a killer in A Murder of Quality (1962), but in le Carré's third novel, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1963), Smiley appeared as only a supporting character, with the focus changing to Alec Leamas, a conflicted secret agent contending with Cold War tensions.

Not long after its publication, The Spy Who Came In from the Cold was made into a Hollywood film starring Richard Burton and Claire Bloom. Given its warm reception, the movie paved the way for future le Carré adaptations, including "The Deadly Affair" (1966), which featured James Mason and was based on Call for the Dead. By this point, le Carré's aesthetic was firmly established, with his deliberately unfolding espionage tales rooted in moral dilemmas and realism, unlike Ian Fleming's cavalier and adventurous James Bond novels. Although he briefly detoured from the spy world for the romance-gone-wrong story The Naïve and Sentimental Lover (1971), which was influenced by his own divorce at the time, le Carré returned to form for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1974), a complex cloak-and-dagger novel that brought Smiley back to the fore. Five years later, the BBC turned the book into an esteemed miniseries that featured the legendary Alec Guinness in the lead role.

After two more Smiley-centric books, The Honourable Schoolboy (1977) and Smiley's People (1979), which rounded out the "Karla Trilogy," the latter novel compelled Guinness to return for another TV stint, once again winning over audiences and critics with his quietly powerful take on Smiley. Shortly thereafter, le Carré turned to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for The Little Drummer Girl (1973), which was swiftly adapted into a 1974 movie by George Roy Hill that starred Diane Keaton and Klaus Kinski, but met with a notably lackluster reception. A Perfect Spy (1986) followed, allowing le Carré to explore his own issues with his father in the themes of the book, resulting in an espionage story with strong emotional undercurrents. Praised by numerous critics, the novel quickly received the BBC miniseries treatment, with Peter Egan playing the central role of double agent Magnus Pym. Subsequent le Carré books The Russia House (1989) and The Tailor of Panama (1996) both led to well-received Hollywood adaptations and provided interesting overlaps with the Bond series, due to the presence of their respective stars, Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan.

Around the same time that "The Tailor of Panama" (2001) hit the screens, le Carré unveiled The Constant Gardener (2001), a novel that followed a mild-mannered English diplomat desperate to solve the murder of his wife, a headstrong activist abroad in Kenya. Four years later, the book became an award-winning thriller starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her emotive role. Meanwhile, still operating at the peak of his powers with tense novels such as A Most Wanted Man (2008) and Our Kind of Traitor (2010), le Carré, who was never big on media attention to begin with, announced in 2010 that he was done with television interviews, preferring to spend his time and effort on writing, a reasonable declaration given that the prolific author was pushing 80 at the time. The next year, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was revisited in feature-film form with Gary Oldman portraying Smiley, backed by an impressive ensemble cast that included John Hurt and Colin Firth, as well as young up-and-comers Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch. In a stamp of approval, le Carré both executive produced the movie and briefly appeared in a party scene, giving the project a vaguely valedictory mood. However, not one to rest on his considerable laurels, he pressed ahead writing his next spy story, A Delicate Truth (2013), while another le Carré movie thriller, "A Most Wanted Man" (2013), carried on the author's prominent cinematic presence.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

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Milestones close milestones

1950:
Joined Intelligence Corps of the British Army, working as a German language interrogator in Austria
1952:
While studying at Lincoln College in Oxford, worked covertly for British Security Service MI5
1958:
Promoted to MI5 officer
1960:
Transferred to foreign-intelligence service MI6
1961:
Published first novel, <i>Call for the Dead</i>; introduced popular recurring character George Smiley
1962:
Published second novel, <i>A Murder of Quality</i>
1963:
Third novel, <i>The Spy Who Came In from the Cold</i>, became a worldwide bestseller
1964:
Left the service to work full-time as a novelist
1965:
<i>The Spy Who Came In from the Cold</i> adapted into feature film starring Richard Burton
1966:
<i>Call for the Dead</i> adapted into the Sidney Lumet thriller "The Deadly Affair"
1974:
George Smiley returned for <i>Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy</i>, inspired by his experiences with British double agent Kim Philby
1979:
Novel inspired BBC miniseries "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" with Alec Guinness as George Smiley
1982:
"Smiley's People," again starring Alec Guinness, became another BBC hit
1986:
Published most autobiographical novel <i>A Perfect Spy</i>
1990:
Feature release of "The Russia House," starring Sean Connery and Michelle Pfeiffer and based on the 1989 novel
2001:
Made feature producing debut with feature adaptation "The Tailor of Panama"
2005:
<i>The Constant Gardener</i> (2001) adapted into a feature by Fernando Meirelles and starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz
2011:
Executive-produced feature adaptation of <i>Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy</i> (1974), starring Gary Oldman as George Smiley; also made cameo as a party guest
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Education

Sherborne School: -

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