Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has acquired domestic distribution rights to Tinker, Tailor, Solder, Spy, the Tomas Alfredson-directed adaptation of the John Le Carre novel that stars Gary Oldman, freshly minted Oscar winner Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong and Ciaran Hinds. The rights were held by Studiocanal, and the film was produced by Working Title. Universal is eyeing a November or December release for the picture, which is in post production. Script was written by Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan.

The project was one of the hottest titles shopped in Berlin, where buyers watched several minutes of footage and read the script for Afredson’s follow-up to Let the Right One In. I’m told that Universal, through its first look deal with Working Title partners Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, had a first look that it initially didn’t exercise. Then the picture got hot, with The Weinstein Company and Summit Entertainment chasing it hard. I’ve heard the bidding was in the vicinity of $5 million for domestic rights before Universal swooped in and took the project off the table. Studiocanal, which fully financed the film, will distribute in the UK, France and Germany and is handling international sales throughout the rest of the world. Bevan and Fellner produce with Robyn Slovo, with Liza Chasin, Le Carre, Peter Morgan, Douglas Urbanski and Debra Hayward exec producing.

In the Cold War tale, a retired espionage vet named George Smiley (Oldman) is pulled away from his semi-retirement to ferret out a Soviet agent in MI6. While the heat is on King’s Speech star Firth and Inception and Dark Knight Rises star Hardy, word is the film’s a tour de force for Oldman.

Universal and Studiocanal confirmed the deal, but would not divulge the price.

“I am very happy with this agreement, Universal is the natural home for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and it’s always a pleasure for us to work with our long-time partner,” Studiocanal COO Olivier Courson said in a statement. “We are thrilled that the film assembled such an incredible cast with Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy, the director Tomas Alfredson and talented producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner at Working Title.”

Rodolphe Buet, Studiocanal’s Executive Vice President International Distribution added: “The great reaction from all buyers to the first footage we screened in Berlin made us all very happy. We sold a lot of territories very quickly, and now having Universal on board with a wide release commitment for the US is really a great achievement.”