Revisiting The First 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'

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John Le Carre's Cold War espionage novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is enjoying a resurgence among today's audiences.

Gary Oldman stars in a 2011 film adaptation of the book — often called Le Carre's finest — as master spy George Smiley, recalled from forced retirement to root out a traitor in the top ranks of the British intelligence service.

While the 2011 film may be some viewers' first introduction to the story, many others will remember the iconic 1979 BBC mini-series starring Alec Guinness. The multi-part series slowly unraveled a labyrinthine tale of intrigue, petty rivalries and bureaucracy against a dreary Cold War backdrop.

John Irvin, director of the original series, joins NPR's Neal Conan to talk about how he crafted his adaptation and why the story still resonates today.

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