Is 'The Night Manager' A True Story? John Le Carre's Experiences Keep It Realistic

When I first saw a preview for The Night Manager on AMC, I knew I'd be tuning it to see Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie at work, even without much knowledge of the plot. The miniseries premieres Tuesday, April 19, so I did some investigating and learned The Night Manager is not based on a true story. The six-part series already aired over in the UK, and it is based off of the British writer John le Carré's book of the same name. While Hiddleston prepped for his role of Jonathan Pine by working as a manager overnight at an upscale hotel, le Carré's book, and thus the miniseries based on it, is one of fiction. However, le Carré's personal experiences make him absurdly qualified to write about Pine entering the world of the international British Security Intelligence Service, known as MI6.

In The Night Manager, the former soldier Pine gets recruited by MI6 to help bring down Laurie's character Richard Roper, a billionaire philanthropist who is actually an international arms dealer. Those familiar with le Carré's work know this plot of international intrigue and spy games is right up the author's alley since many of his other books with similar themes — like The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and The Constant Gardener — have also been adapted into series or films. Yet, you may not have known that his novels, while fiction, were initially inspired by the fact that le Carré was a spy himself, having worked for Britain's domestic Security Service MI5 and then later for MI6, as the Daily Mail reported.


The author, who is in the far left of the above photo with the cast of his latest adaptation and makes a cameo in The Night Manager, according to the Daily Mail, wrote under his pseudonym of le Carré when he was employed as an intelligence officer in the late 1950s and early 1960s. David Cornwell (le Carré's real name) ended up leaving Britain's secret service to write full time after the success of his book The Spy Who Came in from the Cold had journalists doing their own spying to figure out le Carré's identity, the Daily Mail reported.

While le Carré's former employment does help his novels have elements of truth, don't think when you are watching The Night Manager that these specific events between Hiddleston and Laurie actually happened to le Carré or any other British intelligence agent. Even if the book had been based off of real-life events, the author acknowledged in The Guardian that the miniseries made changes to his 1993 book that he believes helped modernize the story. For example, the series has Pine's handler, who is Leonard Burr in the book, as female agent Angela Burr. Le Carré wrote about this specific change in the Guardian.

Take Mrs Burr. All right, in the novel she was a man; a rough-cut, ponderous, no-nonsense fellow, but a man for all that, and a throwback to my own distant days in the secret world when female agent-runners were a rarity; or if they weren’t, I never met one. But, did we really want this in 2015? One white middle-aged man pitched against another white middle-aged man and using a third, younger, white middle-aged man as his weapon of choice?

The acclaimed British author realized that even though he does have relevant experiences that influenced his novels, the adaptation needed to be updated to be more realistic for audiences in 2016. And, speaking of realistic, although The Night Manager is fiction, The Guardian also covered whether or not the plot in the miniseries could happen in real life, using reports of MI6 interactions with arms dealers as background. The newspaper's verdict being, "The Night Manager may be surprisingly plausible."

So, while the characters of Jonathan Pine and Richard Roper don't exist (and don't confuse Laurie's character with real human movie critic Richard Roeper), The Night Manager has elements that may very much mirror the actions of actual spies. And, while AMC had me at "Tom Hiddleston miniseries," the fact that The Night Manager is from the mind of le Carré has me even more intrigued for the Tuesday night premiere.

Images: Des Willie, Mitch Jenkins/The Ink Factory/AMC