Gary Oldman thought he was too young to take on the role of George Smiley in 'Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy'.

The 53-year-old actor was a fan of the TV series when it aired with the almost 70-year-old Alec Guinness in the lead role and admitted he was so worried about making the character younger, he nearly turned down the part.

He explained: "I am old enough to remember the series when it was first shown. Obviously, Alec Guinness made such a mark playing it and carrying the face of Smiley. He was nearly 70 when he played and my first thought was 'Well, I am a bit young'. But it was Tomas Alfredson's idea to cast it younger across the board. I didn't jump at it. I had to consider it."

When he did finally agree to taking on the iconic part, Gary - who recently revealed he plans to take part in a sequel to the spy thriller - admitted the "ghost" of Alec Guinness was evident on set.

He told "The ghost of Guinness was large. You could honestly say that it was almost a definitive portrayal of Smiley. I said, 'God, how do you pull that off?' because he was so beloved and so much part of the British establishment as an icon. In the end, I sort of played a trick with my head. I sort of thought, 'Well, there have been other Romeos, Hamlets, and King Lears, and it is just another reinterpretation'. So I sort of approached it rather how you would approach a classical part.

"It is a role that has been played by someone else, especially in the UK because the inevitable comparisons were going to be there and they have reacted very flagrantly and there have been a few that have said, 'There will only ever be one Smiley.' It is like we are in some kind of competition, you know?"