“The Pigeon Tunnel: John le Carré’s Life and Works Inspired a Documentary on Apple TV+”
Everyone loves a good spy, and for more than six decades, it’s not anyone else but George Smiley who has captured the imaginations of readers. While Smiley may be a rival to another popular spy, James Bond, he has been immortalized on screen by several actors.
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Who was David Cornwall, aka John le Carré?
The creator of Smiley, David Cornwall, better known by his pen name John le Carré, was a prolific novelist who penned over 30 espionage thrillers like “The espionage masterpieces of “The Agent Who Arrived from the Frost,” “Craftsman, Spy, Soldier, Spy,” and “An Impeccable Espionage Operative” solidified his presence atop the charts of literary success
The interesting documentary “The Pigeon Tunnel,” which was made by Oscar-winning director Errol Morris, is now focused on the author who changed careers from spy to writer.
The documentary provides light on the mysterious world of Cornwall/le Carré and spans six decades. It is based on le Carré’s 2016 autobiography “The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories of My Life” and was motivated by his early recollections of witnessing pigeons being pursued.
The Pigeon Tunnel Trailer
How was the documentary made?
Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris conducted interviews with David Cornwall in late 2019, including his final interview as he passed away in the winter of 2020.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Morris said, “I had read ‘The Pigeon Tunnel,’ and it became my favorite book of le Carré’s, and I wanted to capture it on film. I realized that John le Carré was a documentarian when this movie was being made. He performed an unending inquiry of the political climate around him, and each of his writings is based on historical and present events.
The son of a confidence trickster and a jailbird, Ronnie Cornwall, who achieved literary immortality in 1986 with “A Perfect Spy,” often wove elements of his personal life into his fiction. Portraying his subject as an introspective soul, Errol Morris revealed that there was a powerful moral force driving his writing.
“I expected someone who would be critical, but I got the sense that he was a man sitting in front of me who believed in truth and goodness and evil. I got to know him and started to grasp what he was writing. I had the opportunity to learn something by having the potential to do a movie like this, which is what I did, Morris said.
The sons of John le Carré, Stephen and Simon Cornwall, who co-produced the movie, called it an amazing experience. Throughout the course of making the movie, they came across many engrossing, amusing, and profoundly moving stories in addition to gaining important insights.
“This was his final interview. He placed a premium on saying exactly what he intended to express. He was aware that he was nearing the end of his life, so watching him on film was an emotional experience for us, according to Stephen Cornwall. He went on to portray his father as “exceedingly guarded about his personal life and the welfare of his kin,” while simultaneously being “exuberantly eager for individuals to center their attention on his body of work, a source of his self-identity.”
Did he watch ‘The Night Manager’?
The Pigeon Tunnel: John le Carré’s works have also been successfully adapted for the screen, including titles like “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” “The Russia House,” “The Constant Gardener,” and “The Night Manager,” the last of which had an Indian adaptation released earlier this year, starring Anil Kapoor, Aditya Roy Kapoor, and Sobhita Dhulipala.
“It’s a lamentable occurrence that the Hindi adaptation of ‘The Night Manager‘ encountered the untimely demise of its creator well before its broadcast.” But they were thrilled to know it was being adapted, and even when the initial work on the show started, he was alive, and it was incredibly exciting to see that,” Simon Cornwall shared.
“The Pigeon Tunnel” was recently showcased at the Toronto International Film Festival and is now available on Apple TV+.