“The Courier” is a new film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, based on the captivating and lesser-known true story of Greville Wynne.
A British electrical engineer and salesman, Wynne became a spy recruited by the United Kingdom’s secret foreign intelligence service, formerly known as MI6.
Director Dominic Cooke joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes to talk about the film, its making, its star actor and the story that inspired them both.
On why Americans likely haven’t heard of Greville Wynne:
“At the time, it was a really major news story, especially in the U.K. And I think there were various reasons why it fell away,” said Cooke. “Once the whole mission was finished, and he came back, he had lost all his business. … He’d started to present himself as a bit of a semi-celebrity, wrote some books and started talking about the missions that he’d been on. … He made quite a lot of stuff up. But MI6 essentially got very fed up with this and said to him, ‘If you don’t shut up, we’re going to take away the pension we agreed to give you.’”
On what drew Cooke to this script:
“There’s this sort of warmth to the writing, and I said to Tom O’Connor many times, who wrote the script, this story couldn’t really be written by a Brit. I’m talking in dreadful stereotypes, but it’s written by an American, and it gives it a warmth and an emotional heart that I think is often missing from spy dramas,” said Cooke.
“The film is a lot about friendship, loyalty and, in a way, the cost of espionage for those people involved. There’s a sort of heroic element to that … I’ve never seen a film that really got into that, at a very human level.”
Working with Benedict Cumberbatch, an actor with a unique approach:
“He’s very thorough in his preparation, but I think what I love most about him is that he’s actually an incredibly intuitive actor, and he responds very much in the moment to what’s in front of him,” Cooke said.
“It’s very exciting to be around because you never quite know what you’re going to get, and I mean that in a good sense. … He’s giving you options.”
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