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quarta-feira, 7 de dezembro de 2011

Talking 'Tinker Tailor' with Oldman and Firth; Co-stars' conversation segues from meatballs to family to Oscar buzz

Donna Freydkin, USA TODAY

When addressing his cinematic highness Colin Firth, it's advisable to remember that he won an Oscar this year for playing King George."He insists that you call him Lord Sir," reveals Firth's current co-star Gary Oldman as he waits for the actor to arrive for a joint interview.With script-worthy timing, Firth swoops into the small Scandinavian restaurant where the actors are meeting. "Sorry to be so late. I don't know why I am. Anyway, I'm sorry. Am I interrupting? Don't want to spoil your evening," says the dashing, gregarious Firth.Oldman, whose outward reserve belies a sly and quick wit, informs Firth of what's on the menu, given the venue. "I took the liberty of ordering you some Swedish meatballs." Firth looks a bit dismayed, albeit comically so. "Would Sir like some Swedish meatballs?" he gently corrects Oldman.Their relationship is more nuanced, and fraught, in the Cold War thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, based on John le Carr's classic novel and opening Friday. Oldman, 53, carries the film as the inscrutable, invisible yet lethal George Smiley, a seemingly washed-up agent brought back to plug the leak in the top tier of British intelligence. Firth, 51, smolders on the sidelines as Smiley's colleague Bill Haydon, one of the men suspected of being the mole selling information to the Russians.The film is the anti-Bourne and anti-Bond: It's cerebral, minimalist and atmospheric, with no seductive women, sleek cars or high-tech weaponry. Oldman's enigmatic Smiley spends the first portion of the film slogging through life, without uttering a word."When (his wife) describes him as almost a reptile who can regulate his body temperature, that helped me with the stillness," Oldman says of playing Smiley. "I think this film is like watching a lava lamp. The pace of the movie, it packs a lot in and you never feel that it's rushed."If Smiley is a cool, clear vodka tonic, then Haydon is a Kir Royal: flashy, sparkling and loud."I think Haydon and Smiley are fairly opposite. Haydon is someone who, as a character, works at his character. Haydon is flamboyant and self-conscious. Smiley has a lot more integrity than that. Part of his strategy in life, and what he does, is to disappear," Firth says. "Haydon wants to be seen. He wears red socks. He thinks he's Lawrence of Arabia."Tinker is Oldman's first lead role in years, following notable supporting turns in Christopher Nolan's Batman films, as upstanding cop Jim Gordon, and as Harry Potter's wise godfather, Sirius Black, in the blockbuster film series. And after a critically acclaimed September premiere in Venice, Tinker has ushered in Oscar talk for Oldman, who has never been nominated despite memorable performances as volatile bassist Sid Vicious in 1986's Sid and Nancy and an oily politician in 2000's The Contender.Oldman's quietly deadly portrayal of Smiley, Firth says, "is the best performance I've seen in years -- not just from him, but from anyone."Connecting the dotsDespite their somewhat parallel careers in British film and theater, Firth and Oldman didn't know each other before shooting Tinker. And their paths had crossed professionally only once, during production of 2009's animated holiday flick A Christmas Carol. Oldman was Cratchit to Firth's Fred."We were animated together," Oldman says, turning to Firth. "We were wearing silly suits covered in ping-pong balls. You were actually having dots put on your face when we met. I was sitting in the chair, and you were being made up with the dots."Despite Oldman's ability to play piercing, scary men on screen, in person he comes across as a softie, at least where his three kids are concerned. He has spent the past decade mostly raising his sons Gulliver, 14, and Charlie, 12, from his third marriage, to Donya Fiorentino. After their split in 2001, Oldman got sole custody of the boys; he has another son, Alfie, 23, from his first marriage, to British actress Lesley Manville.He gets emotional when talking about his brood and how well they turned out, knocking on a wood chair for added luck."Makes me all upset, thinking about when they were little like that and their arm comes around and hugs you. It's killer, isn't it?" Oldman says."I know we're here to talk about the movie, but my greatest accomplishment is Charlie and Gulliver. So you've played a couple of good parts, you know what I mean? Having a kid is like having your heart outside of your body."Firth, of course, won an Academy Award for playing stuttering King George in The King's Speech. Lest he focus too much on that, his sons, Luca, 10, and Matteo, 8, keep his royally raging ego in check. "I was on the 100 most influential list earlier this year, and my 10-year-old said, 'You're not even the most influential person in this house,'" says Firth, who lives in England with his wife, Livia Giuggioli. "He is right. I come pretty far down on the list in terms of influence in the family. He's higher than I am."Oldman starts laughing. "That's witty. That's funny."Has the Oscar changed Firth's life? He thinks a moment, then jokes that aside from bringing the statuette to every movie set to be widely admired by his co-stars, it's business as usual."I get more phone messages. That's about it, really. Whatever else you may be asked to do, you can't do all of it," Firth says. "You choose the people around you for what you're looking for in certain ways. My wife doesn't take any crap. We go back quite a ways now. None of my friends take me particularly seriously. My life is founded fairly solidly in what I have outside this profession. You come back quite dizzy from awards season, and it's quite good to have something solid to come back to."Given the feverish intensity of awards season prognostication, the hype is nearly impossible to shut out. Oldman says he has been hearing positive feedback about his performance in Tinker. "I get the odd e-mail that says, 'Oh, read this.' The response to the movie has been terrific," he says, turning to Firth. "Did you get that, when they talk about Oscar buzz?"Replies Firth: "Yeah. But it's very dangerous because it can evaporate. Trying to have a sense of humor about it is critical."Believe it or not, Firth says, it really is more fun to just be nominated, which he was back-to-back for playing a suicidal gay professor in 2009's A Single Man followed by his lauded turn in The King's Speech."The first time around, it was only a privilege and a joy. It was my first-ever nomination. Already it looked like it was going elsewhere, which took the pressure off immensely," Firth says, referring to Jeff Bridges, the 2009 winner for Crazy Heart. "My expectations were so innocent in a way. There was no pressure to see if you could get out there and push out another couple of chat shows. I enjoyed it and had a bit of a celebration at home when the nomination came in. Anything else was gravy. I went to the ceremony knowing I could have a drink and not make a speech."Firth wants to make it clear that he absolutely appreciated his win. Still, he wasn't immune to Oscar madness."If you do get front-runner status, it starts to feel like you can only lose. I ran into one of the Coen brothers just before the Oscars, and he said, 'You're where Jeff was last year.'"Oldman is curious. "Where were you in the polls at the time?"Firth: "Up there. I didn't read polls. But you can't help it. Changing day by day."Oldman: "You'll always hear stuff. In the old days, before we had the Internet, someone was always ready to call you up and go, 'Oh, the review in The Guardian wasn't so good.' They would let you know."How to deal with the hype?The key, Firth says, is "to keep a wry view of it all."Oldman has a tongue-in-cheek coping mechanism that's very Hollywood: "I think Zen Buddhism will help me through this. My healer will come. No, that's interesting. I've not even had this conversation with (Firth). It's something you just don't talk about. You go, 'Congrats.'"Almost a year later, it has finally sunk in that he's part of the winners' circle in Hollywood. "It's getting to me now. That was me it happened to," Firth says.But whichever way the awards season winds blow, Oldman already has earned the respect of his sons and their friends. "I'm the voice of Reznov in the Call of Duty video game. That's where my fame is. Comrades!" he says, mimicking the rat-tat-tat sound of machine guns. "I've done three. Kids come up to me at school and go, 'Are you the guy in Call of Duty?' What about Batman? Harry Potter? No. I'm useless."

December 6, 2011

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