Who Is Alec Leamas?

Inside Criterion / Sneak Peeks — Sep 10, 2013

Novelist John Le Carré created one of literature’s most fascinating characters in Alec Leamas, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold’s main heavy, who is on a final, fateful mission in East Germany. In Martin Ritt’s movie version, now out on Criterion Blu-ray and DVD, Richard Burton embodies Leamas with a morbid gravitas for the ages. In the following short excerpt from an exclusive, exceptionally wide-ranging interview with Le Carré, recorded for Criterion in 2008, he talks about his inspiration for the rueful Leamas. Then watch a clip from the film, in which Burton brilliantly elucidates his character’s philosophy—or rather lack thereof.