It’s only fitting that the story of Gary Oldman’s hunt for the right glasses to wear as Cold War-era MI6 agent George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (rated R) has the twisty narrative of a good spy novel. It began in 2009 on L.A.’s Sunset Boulevard, where the British actor — an eyeglass-frame connoisseur — was struck by the vintage pair worn by Colin Firth (a future Tinker costar) on a billboard for A Single Man. Months later, Oldman happened upon a magazine article about their source, a Pasadena vintage store called Old Focals, and noted it in his iPhone.
Then last year, having signed on to play Smiley, Oldman headed straight to the store and tried on more than 50 vintage frames to find a perfectly nondescript pair for his character. ”To Smiley, those glasses are as important as Bond’s martini shaken and not stirred,” explains Oldman, who selected an owlish, thick-rimmed pair of 1970s specs, which were sent to England so six copies could be made for the shoot. Director Tomas Alfredson acknowledges that the actor got a little obsessive about the choice. “At some point I decided I’m going to support whatever Gary picks so we can get these bloody glasses on his nose and start working,” he laughs. ”I was so relieved that he finally found something.”