It's hard to say that the spy genre doesn't love a franchise. The longest running franchise in cinema history is, of course, the James Bond series, Jason Bourne is Universal's biggest tentpole, and from Harry Palmer to Jack Ryan, if audiences show even a sniff on interest in a character, executives will happily bring them back for future installments, which is why we've had to suffer through things like "xXx2" and "Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London" over the years.
As we discussed in our review from Venice, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is an atypical spy movie; it's pretty much absent of gunshots and explosions, it's meditatively paced, and defiantly retro in both setting and style. But thankfully, it's also both terrific (looking to be on its way towards multiple Oscar nominations), and looking to be a hit; it opened at number one at the U.K. box office last week, taking an extremely impressive number for a film that's as close to an arthouse spy thriller as you could get. And the film's success looks to be opening the door for further installments.
The central character, George Smiley, the role taken on by Gary Oldman, has been a major character in five of author John Le Carré's novels, starting with 1961's "Call of the Dead" (filmed by Sidney Lumet as "The Deadly Affair," with James Mason as the re-named Smiley surrogate Charles Dobbs), as well as cameoing in three others, including the seminal "The Spy Came In From The Cold." As such, the potential has long been there for follow-ups should the film work out, and rumors are starting to circulate of an announcement sometime this week.
Jason Solomons of The Guardian hints that StudioCanal, who backed the film, are hoping to make a Smiley franchise with Oldman at the center, and are expecting to make an announcement of some kind in Paris this week. It seems likely that it'll see the conclusion of the "Karla Trilogy," the three books starting with 'Tinker, Tailor' that focus on Smiley's pursuit of his Soviet nemesis. The second part, "The Honourable Schoolboy," is mostly set in Hong Kong, focusing on ex-journalist Jerry Westerby (played by "Boardwalk Empire" star Stephen Graham in 'Tinker, Tailor'), while "Smiley's People" sees the hero brought back from retirement for one final stab at bringing down Karla.
However, there seem to be some potential hurdles: Oldman tells Solomons that, "I would insist on quite a few factors, such as I would really want Tomas Alfredson to direct it again." Furthermore, in contrast to the trilogy-happy approach of most studios, we may only end up seeing one sequel. Oldman told an Empire webchat last week that "I would think that they may put those two ('Schoolboy' & 'Smiley's People') together. I don't think they would make 'The Honourable Schoolboy' on its own. My guess would be that it would be a composite, an amalgamation of the two, and they would call it 'Smiley's People.'"
To be honest, this doesn't seem like the best approach, considering how plot-heavy these novels are, but we can probably see the logic. Smiley is a supporting character in "The Honourable Schoolboy," and StudioCanal may not be ready to let Graham carry a big movie like this on his own (although how great would that be?). Having said that, if Alfredson's film performs in the U.S. the way it's done in the U.K, we imagine that there'll be more than enough reasons to make two separate sequels. It sounds like we'll find out more later in the week. In the meantime, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" is out now in the U.K, and hits U.S. shores on December 9th.