Colin Firth on his Oscar run, Gary Oldman and “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell At this point last year, Colin Firth had waded up to his waist into the Oscar pool for his courageous work as stuttering King George in Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech.” Firth and the film were beyond the point of treading water, but few would definitively state (in early December) whether the prestigious, inspiration period drama would sink or swim.

Needless to say, Firth floated all the way to the Oscar podium, collecting a Best Actor trophy for a film that would nab Best Director and Picture awards, as well. The performer looked far more relaxed when we met in Manhattan to discuss his role in Tomas Alfredon’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” another period thriller with awards aspirations (though most swirl around Firth’s co-star, Gary Oldman, who’s terrific as British spy George Smiley).

Though it was hard not to start a conversation with Oscar, and so that’s where Firth and I begin: It was around this point last year when you were deep into the awards-season rounds for “The King’s Speech.” Is there anything about that marathon that you miss?

Colin Firth: Oh, well, I wouldn’t have wished it away. But I think that you can’t sustain that sort of intensity. It’s good that it has the lifespan that it has, and that you get to come home at the end of it. I’m still immensely grateful that it happened. And I think that it happened at a good time in my life. It’s hardly the beginning, but I hope we’re still some way from the end. I’m sure that we are. As for “Tinker,” it struck me as a unique exercise in listening, as an actor. Was that the case?

Yes, I suppose so. I mean, unless you are playing a particularly quiet person, it’s unlikely that you are going to get so much screen time without speaking. And that’s because it is an ensemble, and so much of it is rooms full of people. Five guys sitting around a table in a situation that’s not unlike a poker game. And you are free to have your own internal monologue. Because of that, is there a fear that you might not be giving enough in a scene?

Oh yeah, and I think you have to be able to judge it for yourself, but also, you know that you are going to put yourself into the hands of an editor. How are they going to cover you? How are they going to pace it? And how much of you are they going to use if you aren’t doing anything. [Laughs] I’m glad you mentioned the ensemble. “Tinker” gives you an opportunity to finally work with some amazing actors. Are there others you haven’t worked with yet who you’d still like to?

Oh, there are. There are people among my own countrymen who I haven’t worked with. As for Gary, it took maybe 15 years to get to work with him. It’s the first time I’ve worked with John Hurt, as well. But I’ve never worked with Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, or Robert Duvall. I’ve never worked with Al Pacino. I mean, there’s a long list of people with whom I’d love to work. Hopefully soon.

Tomas Alfredson’s “Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy” reaches select theaters on Friday, Dec. 9 before expanding in weeks to come.

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Gary Oldman for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”

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Steve McQueen for “Shame.”

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