Apple TV+ to Stream John Le Carre Documentary 'The Pigeon Tunnel'

John le Carré (a.k.a. David Cornwell) in “The Pigeon Tunnel”

John le Carré (a.k.a. David Cornwell) in “The Pigeon Tunnel”

(Photo: Apple TV+)

Most Anglophiles have likely heard of John le Carré. After all, he's widely considered one of the greatest novelist of the postwar era, the bestselling mind behind such famous novels as The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and The Constant Gardener. If you haven't read any of his works, you've probably at least seen the critically acclaimed AMC series The Night Manager or the Oscar-nominated feature film adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. (George Smiley, his famous fictional intelligence officer has been played on screen by famous performers ranging from James Mason and Alec Guinness to Gary Oldman.

What they may not know is that John Le Carre is actually the pen name of David Cornwell, a former British spy who worked for both MI-5 and MI-6 during the 1950s and 1960s, where he ran agents, conducted interrogations, taped phone lines, and handled break-ins. In fact, he only left the service after his third novel ---The Spy Who Came In From the Cold --- became such a runaway success that he was able to pursue a writing career full time. 

And now Apple Original Films documentary The Pigeon Tunnel will delve into the lesser-known history of the famed writer. Per Apple, the film will be Le Carre's final and "most candid" interview, and draws from his best-selling memoir of the same name.

Here's the official description: 

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. 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.

The Pigeon Tunnel is directed by Academy Award-winning documentarian Errol Morris (The Fog of War) and produced in collaboration with The Ink Factory, the production shop founded and run by le Carre's sons Simon and Stephen Cornwell

“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," the Cornwells said in a joint statement. "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.”

The Pigeon Tunnel is slated to make its global debut on October 20, 2023, on Apple TV+.

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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