THE RED BULLETIN: What interested you about turning John le Carré’s book into a film?
SUSANNA WHITE: It’s an examination of the world of men today. Ewan McGregor’s character is a professor whose wife [played by Spectre’s Naomie Harris] is more successful than he is. He’s emasculated, a bit of a lost soul. Then he falls under the spell of a major money launderer for the Russian mafia [Stellan Skarsgard]—a traditional, violent, very macho man—and he finds himself in this aspirational world of glamorous parties with beautiful women. I was interested in looking at what it feels like to be a man in the modern world where the power balance is shifting.
It’s a story that spans a lot of locations…
It was huge and crazy. The film starts with a murder in Russia; the producers wanted to film it in the U.K. with fake snow, but it was important that I had a sense of the vast expanse of Russia, the ice lakes and endless snow. So we went to a very remote part of Finland for two days. We shot in England, got on the Eurostar to Paris and filmed a scene on the journey. Then on to Switzerland, Morocco and some inaccessible places in the French Alps that we had to get to on snowmobiles.
Damian Lewis co-stars as an MI6 agent. What about those rumors he’s the next James Bond?
They started to come out when we were editing the film. I was hearing them while I was in the cutting room looking at Damian on screen and smiling to myself. Damian wears some incredible suits that look great on him. You could definitely see him in that role.
SPY VS SPY
Three more big-screen John le Carré thrillers
The Constant Gardener (2005)
This adaptation of le Carré’s 2001 political thriller stars Ralph Fiennes as a British diplomat who blows open a government conspiracy to cover up illegal drug tests in Africa.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
British intelligence officer George Smiley is the main character of several le Carré stories. Gary Oldman got an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Smiley in the film.
A Most Wanted Man (2014)
Director Anton Corbijn adapted le Carré’s topical 2008 novel, casting Philip Seymour Hoffman as a covert German government operative charged with recruiting Islamic terrorist informants.
COMING ATTRACTIONS: What you need to watch this month on TV or at the movies