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Documentary On Spy Novelist John Le Carré, AKA David Cornwell, Coming From Apple TV+, The Ink Factory And Oscar Winner Errol Morris

As Seen In Deadline - 24 July 2023

Published: 14 Aug 2023

David Cornwell, the British spy better known to the world under his pen name John le Carré, reveals secrets of his extraordinary life in a documentary directed by nonfiction filmmaking legend Errol Morris.

The Pigeon Tunnel, from Apple Original Films and The Ink Factory (The Night Manager), is set to premiere on Apple TV+ on October 20.

Following a career in Britain’s MI5 and MI6 in the 1950s and ‘60s, Cornwell became the mega-bestselling author of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Night Manager and The Constant Gardener, all of which were successfully adapted by Hollywood. His fictional creation George Smiley, the veteran intelligence officer who appears in many of those books, has been played on screen by James Mason, Alec Guinness, Denholm Elliott, and Gary Oldman.

“Set against the turbulent backdrop of the Cold War leading into present day, the film spans six decades as le Carré delivers his final and most candid interview, punctuated with rare archival footage and dramatized vignettes,” notes a release about the film. “Drawing on le Carré’s New York Times bestselling memoir The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life, the film is an unprecedented voyage into the lesser-known parts of the iconic and historically private author’s formative experiences, set to an original score by Philip Glass in collaboration with Paul Leonard-Morgan.”

Simon and Stephen Cornwell, co-CEOs and co-founders of The Ink Factory — and David’s sons – said in a statement, “Full of deep insight, and surprising, amusing and often profoundly moving anecdotes, The Pigeon Tunnel charts a conversation between two great minds, both consummate storytellers; one who wove extraordinary fiction from the events he experienced; the other whose interrogation of those events has led so often to a greater truth. Together, they explore the events of the Cold War, and of le Carré’s life, testing the boundaries of truth, memory and imagination. The layered and unorthodox film is a tête-à-tête between a filmmaker and a novelist – both masters of their craft – grappling with the roots of the creative process, the power of fiction and our responsibility to the truth.”

Morris not only brings to the subject matter extraordinary skill as a filmmaker – his canon includes The Thin Blue Line and the Oscar-winning The Fog of War – but experience as a private detective, a shadowy line of work adjacent, one might say, to the spy game. Before he became a filmmaker, Morris did his sleuthing in New York, often investigating cases connected to Wall Street.

Cornwell died in 2020 at the age of 89. He was a prolific writer, with a body of work that includes Call For the Dead (1961), The Naïve and Sentimental Lover (1971), A Perfect Spy (1986), The Russia House (1989), The Tailor of Panama (1996), and A Legacy of Spies (2017), among many others.

Producers of The Pigeon Tunnel are BAFTA Award winner Dominic Crossley-Holland (All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace) and Steven Hathaway (Wormwood), Emmy Award nominees Simon Cornwell (The Night Manager) and Stephen Cornwell (The Night Manager).

Executive producers are Academy Award nominee Hossein Amini (The Wings of the Dove), BAFTA Award nominee and Emmy Award winner P.J. van Sandwijk (The Rescue), Emmy Award winner Michael Lesslie (The Rescue), Joe Tsai (The Night Manager), Arthur Wang (The Night Manager), Michele Wolkoff (The Current War: Director’s Cut) and Katherine Butler (American Animals). The Pigeon Tunnel is produced by The Ink Factory and Fourth Floor Productions, in association with Jago Films, Storyteller Productions and 127 Wall Productions.