Oldman at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival
Gary Leonard Oldman
21 March 1958
|Family||Laila Morse (sister)|
Gary Leonard Oldman (born 21 March 1958) is an English actor and filmmaker. He is the recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award, three BAFTA Awards, two Critics' Choice Awards, a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Known for his versatility and intense acting style, Oldman is regarded as one of the greatest actors of his generation.
Oldman began acting in theatre in 1979, and made his film debut in Remembrance (1982). He continued to lead a stage career, during which he performed at London's Royal Court and was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, with credits including Cabaret (1979), The Massacre at Paris (1980), Entertaining Mr Sloane (1983), Saved (1983), The Country Wife (1987) and Hamlet (1987). Oldman rose to prominence in British film with his portrayals of Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy (1986), Joe Orton in Prick Up Your Ears (1987) and Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990), while also garnering attention as a football firm leader in controversial television movie The Firm (1989). Identified with the "Brit Pack", he achieved greater renown as a Hell's Kitchen gangster in State of Grace (1990), Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK (1991) and Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).
Oldman went on to star as the antagonists of several films, including True Romance (1993), The Fifth Element (1997), Air Force One (1997) and The Contender (2000); corrupt DEA agent Norman Stansfield, whom Oldman portrayed in Léon: The Professional (1994), has been ranked as one of cinema's best villains. He meanwhile played Ludwig van Beethoven in Immortal Beloved (1994). In the 21st century, Oldman is known for his roles as Sirius Black in the Harry Potter series, James Gordon in The Dark Knight Trilogy, George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), a human leader in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), and Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour (2017), which earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. Films in which he has appeared have grossed over $11 billion.
In addition to acting in film, Oldman wrote and directed Nil by Mouth (1997); featured in television shows, such as Fallen Angels, Tracey Takes On... and Friends; appeared in music videos for David Bowie, Guns N' Roses and Annie Lennox; and provided the voice of Viktor Reznov in the Call of Duty video game series.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Acting career
- 3 Other ventures
- 4 Acting style
- 5 Legacy
- 6 Personal life
- 7 Filmography
- 8 Awards and nominations
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Oldman was born in London, the son of Leonard Bertram Oldman (1921–1985), a former sailor who also worked as a welder, and Kathleen (née Cheriton; 1919–2018). He has stated that Leonard was an alcoholic who left the family when Oldman was seven years old. Oldman attended West Greenwich School in Deptford, leaving school at the age of 16 to work in a sports shop. He was a pianist as a child, but gave up his musical aspirations to pursue an acting career after seeing Malcolm McDowell's performance in the 1971 film The Raging Moon. In a 1995 interview with Charlie Rose, Oldman said, "Something about Malcolm just arrested me, and I connected, and I said, 'I wanna do that'."
Growing up in south London, Oldman supported his local football club Millwall, and also followed Manchester United so that he could watch his idol, George Best. In 2011, Oldman would learn from his mother that his father represented Millwall after World War II, with Oldman stating, "Just after the war, she ran a boarding house, for football players, Millwall players. And I knew that my dad was involved somehow with the reserve team. But two weeks ago my mum said, 'Oh yeah, your dad played for Millwall. When he was young he had a couple of first team games'."
Oldman studied with the Young People's Theatre in Greenwich during the mid-1970s, while working jobs on assembly lines, as a porter in an operating theatre, selling shoes and beheading pigs in an abattoir. He unsuccessfully applied to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), which welcomed him to try again the following year, but advised him to find something else to do for a living. When asked by Charlie Rose if he had reminded RADA of this, Oldman joked that "the work speaks for itself".
He won a scholarship to attend the Rose Bruford College in Sidcup, Southeast London, from which he graduated with a BA in Acting in 1979. Oldman described himself as a "shy" but diligent worker during his time there, performing roles such as Puck in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Theatre and early films (1979–1990)
After leaving drama school, Oldman was the first in his year to receive professional work. Oldman has stated that this was not a result of being the most talented actor, but rather diligence and application.
He made his professional stage debut in 1979 as Puss, alongside Michael Simkins and Peter Howitt, in Dick Whittington and His Cat, at York's Theatre Royal. The play then ran in Colchester, then with Glasgow's Citizens Theatre; Oldman's work ethic and trademark intensity would make him a favourite with audiences in Glasgow during the 1980s. Also in 1979, he starred in Cabaret.
From 1980 to 1981, he appeared in The Massacre at Paris (Christopher Marlowe), Desperado Corner (Shaun Lawton), and Robert David MacDonald's plays Chinchilla and A Waste of Time. He performed in a 6-month West End run of MacDonald's Summit Conference, opposite Glenda Jackson, in 1982. Also that year, Oldman made his film debut in Colin Gregg's Remembrance, and would have starred in Don Boyd's Gossip if that film had not collapsed. The following year, he landed a starring role as a skinhead in Mike Leigh's film Meantime, and moved on to Chesterfield to assume the lead role in Entertaining Mr Sloane (Joe Orton). Afterwards, he went to Westcliffe to star in Saved (Edward Bond).
Saved proved to be a major breakthrough for Oldman. Max Stafford-Clark, artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre, had seen Oldman's performance and cast him as Scopey, the lead role of Bond's The Pope's Wedding, in 1984. For his acclaimed performance, he won two of British theatre's top honours: the Time Out Fringe Award for Best Newcomer, and the Drama Theatre Award for Best Actor—the latter of which was shared with future film co-star Anthony Hopkins for his performance in Pravda. Oldman's turn in The Pope's Wedding led to a run of work with the Royal Court, and from 1984 to 1986 he appeared in Rat in the Skull (Ron Hutchinson), The Desert Air (Nicholas Wright), Cain and Abel, The Danton Affair (Pam Gems), Women Beware Women (Thomas Middleton), Real Dreams (Trevor Griffiths) and all three of Bond's The War Plays: Red Black and Ignorant, The Tin Can People and Great Peace. Oldman was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1985 to 1986.
The 1984 production of The Pope's Wedding had been seen by director Alex Cox, who offered Oldman the part of ill-fated rocker Sid Vicious in the 1986 film Sid and Nancy. He twice turned down the role before accepting it, because, in his own words: "I wasn't really that interested in Sid Vicious and the punk movement. I'd never followed it. It wasn't something that interested me. The script I felt was banal and 'who cares' and 'why bother' and all of that. And I was a little bit sort-of with my nose in the air and sort-of thinking 'well the theatre – so much more superior' and all of that." He reconsidered based on the salary and the urging of his agent. In 1987, Oldman gained his third starring film role as Joe Orton in Prick Up Your Ears, for which he received a BAFTA nomination for Best Actor. That same year, he appeared in the plays The Country Wife (William Wycherley) and Serious Money (Caryl Churchill). Director Luc Besson told how, on the set of The Fifth Element (1997), Oldman could recite any scene from Hamlet (William Shakespeare), in which he had starred a decade earlier.
Oldman's performances in Sid and Nancy and Prick Up Your Ears paved the way for work in Hollywood, garnering acclaim from prominent United States film critic Roger Ebert. Ebert wrote, "There is no point of similarity between the two performances; like a few gifted actors, [Oldman] is able to re-invent himself for every role. On the basis of these two movies, he is the best young British actor around." Vicious's bandmate John Lydon, despite criticising Sid and Nancy, described Oldman as a "bloody good actor". The performance would go on to be ranked No. 62 in Premiere magazine's "100 Greatest Performances of All Time" and No. 8 in Uncut magazine's "10 Best actors in rockin' roles", the latter describing Oldman's portrayal as a "hugely sympathetic reading of the punk figurehead as a lost and bewildered manchild."
In late 1988, he starred opposite long-time hero Alan Bates in We Think the World of You, and alongside Dennis Hopper and Frances McDormand in the 1989 film Chattahoochee. In 1989, Oldman also starred as football hooligan Clive "Bex" Bissel in controversial British television drama The Firm, giving a performance that Total Film numbered as his best and called "stunning" and "fearless" in 2011. In 1990 he costarred with Tim Roth in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard's film adaptation of his own play of the same name. Total Film also praised the movie, calling Oldman's character "a blitz of brilliant comedy timing and pitch perfect line delivery." Oldman starred opposite Sean Penn and Ed Harris in State of Grace (1990), his first prominent US film; Roger Ebert described Oldman's turn as the highlight. Janet Maslin, another noted US film critic, referred to his work as "phenomenal". He was offered, but turned down, the lead role in that year's Edward Scissorhands. Oldman moved to the United States in the early 1990s, where he has resided since. Oldman and other young British actors of the 1980s who were becoming established Hollywood film actors, such as Tim Roth, Bruce Payne, Colin Firth, Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul McGann, were dubbed the "Brit Pack", of which Oldman was de facto leader.
Mainstream success (1991–2001)
In 1991, Oldman starred in his first US blockbuster, playing Lee Harvey Oswald in Oliver Stone's JFK. According to Oldman, very little was written about Oswald in the script. Stone gave him several plane tickets, a list of contacts and told him to do his own research. Oldman met with Oswald's wife, Marina, and her two daughters to prepare for the role. The following year, he starred as Count Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola's romance-horror Bram Stoker's Dracula. A commercially successful film adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, it was a box office success worldwide. Oldman's performance was recognised as the best male performance of 1992 by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, which awarded Oldman its Best Actor award. Oldman later became a popular portrayer of villains: He played violent pimp Drexl Spivey in the Tony Scott-directed, Quentin Tarantino-written True Romance (1993), a role which MSN Movies described as "one of cinema's most memorable villains"; a sadistic prison warden in Murder in the First (1995); futuristic corporate tyrant Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg in The Fifth Element (1997); and Dr. Zachary Smith/Spider Smith in the commercially successful but critically panned Lost in Space (1998). He was considered for two roles in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994), but neither were realised. Tarantino contemplated Oldman as gangster Jules Winnfield (played by Samuel L. Jackson), while TriStar executives recommended him for drug dealer Lance (portrayed by Eric Stoltz).
In 1994's Léon: The Professional, he played corrupt DEA officer Norman Stansfield, which has since been named by multiple publications as one of the best villains in cinema. Oldman also portrayed various accents; along with the Transylvanian Count Dracula, he gave a critically acclaimed reading of German-born Viennese composer Ludwig van Beethoven in Immortal Beloved, and played Russian terrorist Egor Korshunov in the 1997 blockbuster Air Force One. He portrayed another historical figure, Pontius Pilate, in Jesus (1999). Oldman was considered for the role of Morpheus in The Matrix. He served as a member of the Jury at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. In 1998, MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch aired a match between claymation representations of Oldman and Christopher Walken to determine the greatest cinematic villain.
Oldman appeared opposite Jeff Bridges as zealous Republican congressman Sheldon Runyon in The Contender (2000), in which he was also credited as a producer. Oldman received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for his performance, although some claimed he was dissatisfied with DreamWorks' supposed editing of the film to reflect pro-Democratic leanings. These reports were declared "sloppy sensationalism" by his manager, Douglas Urbanski, who said that Oldman was "the least political person I know". He stressed that neither he nor Oldman had made the statements attributed to them, that they had "produced this film, every last cut and frame", and that DreamWorks "did not influence the final cut or have anything to do with it." Urbanski asserted that Oldman received "creepy phone calls advising him that he was ruining his chances of an Oscar nomination". The notion of Oldman criticising DreamWorks was dispelled as a "myth" by critic Roger Ebert.
In 2001, he starred opposite Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal, as Mason Verger, the only surviving victim of Hannibal Lecter. He spent six hours per day in the make-up room to achieve the character's hideously disfigured appearance, and went uncredited in the film. It marked the second time that Oldman had appeared opposite Hopkins, who was part of the supporting cast of Bram Stoker's Dracula. He received an Emmy Award nomination for two guest appearances in Friends in May 2001, appearing in the two-part episode "The One With Chandler and Monica's Wedding" as Richard Crosby, a pedantic actor who insists that "real" actors spit on one another when they enunciate, leading to tension, then friendship, with Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc). Oldman had previously worked with LeBlanc on Lost in Space.
Career slump (2002–2003)
Following his Friends appearance, Oldman did not appear in any major roles until 2004; it was suggested that he was blacklisted in Hollywood during this time, following the controversy that had surrounded the release of The Contender. In 2002, he starred in the generally well-received Interstate 60, and played the Devil in the BMW short film, The Hire: Beat the Devil. Guardian writer Xan Brooks described the early 2000s as Oldman's "low point", recalling "barrel-scraping roles" in the 2003 films Tiptoes and Sin. Although the film failed to impress reviewers, Oldman did garner praise for his portrayal of a man with dwarfism in Tiptoes: Lisa Nesselson in Variety described his work as "astonishingly fine", and the performance was later mentioned in Mark Kermode's "Great Acting in Bad Films".
Resurgence and franchise stardom (2004–2016)
In 2004, Oldman returned to prominence when he landed a starring role in the Harry Potter film series, playing Harry Potter's godfather Sirius Black. The following year, he starred as James Gordon in Christopher Nolan's commercially and critically successful Batman Begins, a role that he reprised in the even more successful sequel The Dark Knight (2008) and once more in the conclusion, The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Prominent film critic Mark Kermode, in reviewing The Dark Knight, downplayed claims that Heath Ledger's Joker was the highlight of the film, saying, "the best performance in the film, by a mile, is [by] Gary Oldman... it would be lovely to see him get a[n Oscar] nomination because actually, he's the guy who gets kind of overlooked in all of this." Oldman co-starred with Jim Carrey in the 2009 version of A Christmas Carol in which Oldman played three roles. He had a starring role in David Goyer's supernatural thriller The Unborn, released in 2009. In 2010, Oldman co-starred with Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli. He also played a lead role in Catherine Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood. Oldman voiced the role of villain Lord Shen and was nominated for an Annie Award for his performance in Kung Fu Panda 2.
Oldman received strong reviews and earned his first Academy Award nomination and a BAFTA Award nomination for his portrayal of British spy George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), an adaptation of the John le Carré novel, directed by Tomas Alfredson. To prepare for the role of George Smiley, Oldman gained 15 pounds, watched Alec Guinness' performance in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, took accent lessons to improve his British accent, and paid a visit to Smiley's creator John le Carré. In 2012, Oldman played Floyd Banner, a big-hitting mobster, in John Hillcoat's Lawless, alongside Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce and Jessica Chastain. The following year, he portrayed Nicholas Wyatt, a ruthless CEO, in Robert Luketic's Paranoia, along with Harrison Ford and Liam Hemsworth. In 2014, Oldman starred alongside Joel Kinnaman, Abbie Cornish, Michael Keaton, and Samuel L. Jackson in the remake of RoboCop, as Norton, the scientist who creates the title character.
Also that year, Oldman starred in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes as one of the leads alongside Jason Clarke and Keri Russell. In a promotional interview in the July/August issue of Playboy magazine, Oldman slammed what he saw as excessive political correctness in American media, alleged discriminating hypocrisy by entertainers who hide "behind comedy and satire to say things we can't ordinarily say", and downplayed the convictions behind offensive slurs said by actors Alec Baldwin and Mel Gibson, attributing their statements to anger and inebriation, respectively. He went on to say that Gibson – who had faced censure for antisemitic remarks – had "bitten the hand that [feeds]", being in "a town that's run by Jews" (referring to Hollywood). Oldman stressed that he is not "a fascist or a racist", but was nevertheless admonished by the Anti-Defamation League. He issued a public apology for his comments on the 25 June edition of late-night talk show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!
In 2015, Oldman played the head of police that investigates Tom Hardy's character in Child 44, alongside Noomi Rapace and Joel Kinnaman, and had a supporting role in the post-apocalyptic American thriller Man Down, directed by Dito Montiel, and starring alongside Shia LaBeouf and Kate Mara. In 2016, Oldman played a CIA chief in Criminal, directed by Ariel Vromen, and starring Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Ryan Reynolds, Alice Eve, and Gal Gadot.
Awards success (2017–present)
In 2017, Oldman played three film roles: a billionaire entrepreneur in The Space Between Us, a dictatorial President in The Hitman's Bodyguard, and former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour—his portrayal of Churchill garnered critical acclaim. Oldman's transformation into the wartime Prime Minister took 200 hours in the makeup chair, 14 pounds of silicone rubber, and $20,000 worth of Cuban cigars, which gave him nicotine poisoning. In 2018, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama, Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Actor, Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor, and BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. His Golden Globe win came despite Oldman having once been a critic of that award; he noted that he was "amazed, flattered and very proud" to be nominated.
In 2018, in his first post-Oscar role, Oldman voiced an evil artificial intelligence in Netflix's independent film Tau, and starred in Hunter Killer alongside Gerard Butler. In 2019, Oldman stars in horror-thriller Mary, directed by Michael Goi, and appeared in Steven Soderbergh's The Laundromat as Jürgen Mossack, opposite Meryl Streep.
In 2020, Oldman will star in Joe Wright's The Woman in the Window alongside Amy Adams, lead a thriller opposite Olga Kurylenko titled The Courier, appear in Dreamland with Armie Hammer, and star alongside Dylan O'Brien as a hitman in The Bayou. Oldman is slated to direct a biopic about Eadweard Muybridge entitled Flying Horse. He will star as Citizen Kane co-writer Herman J. Mankiewicz in David Fincher's black-and-white Netflix movie Mank, which will follow Mankiewicz's tumultuous development of the script for Citizen Kane alongside director Orson Welles.
Furthermore, Oldman has signed on to play the lead role in the Apple TV+ spy drama television series Slow Horses, based on the book of the same name. Slow Horses will mark the first time Oldman has played a lead role in a television series.
In 1997, Oldman directed, produced, and wrote the award-winning Nil by Mouth, a film partially based on his own childhood. Nil by Mouth went on to win the BAFTA Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film (shared with Douglas Urbanski) and also the BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay, the Channel 4 Director's Award, and an Empire Award. In 1999, it was adjudged by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts as one of the hundred best British films of the 20th century. Nil By Mouth was listed by Time Out as number twenty-one of the top 100 best British films ever.
Oldman and producing partner Douglas Urbanski formed the SE8 GROUP to produce Nil by Mouth. The company also produced The Contender, which also starred Oldman. He completed a screenplay, Chang & Eng, co-written with Darin Strauss, based on the author's book of the same name. In September 2006, Nokia Nseries Studio released the Oldman-directed short film Donut, with music by Tor Hyams. The film was shot with an N93 to promote the phone. Juliet Landau made a 25-minute documentary about the making of the video. In 2011, he directed a music video for then-wife Alex Eden's first single, "Kiss Me Like the Woman You Loved".
Oldman has had a keen interest in music from an early age. He is a proficient pianist and stated in a 1995 interview with Charlie Rose that he would rather be a musician than an actor. Oldman sang several tracks on the Sid and Nancy soundtrack, on which he performed alongside original Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, and sang and played live piano in the 1988 movie Track 29. He traced over Beethoven compositions in 1994's Immortal Beloved. He also tutored Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe on bass guitar. Oldman appeared on Reeves Gabrels' album The Sacred Squall of Now, performing a vocal duet with David Bowie on the track "You've Been Around". He produced a live performance by former White Stripes member Jack White in conjunction with Vevo and YouTube. At the 2016 Brit Awards in London, Oldman paid tribute to Bowie, before receiving the Brits "Icon Award" on behalf of the singer and his family.
Oldman participated in the creation of The Legend of Spyro games, produced by Sierra Entertainment. He provided the voice of the Fire Guardian, Ignitus. He voices Sergeant Viktor Reznov and scientist Daniel Clarke in the Call of Duty games. He also provides the narration of Sergeant Jack Barnes in the Spearhead expansion for Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. In 2015 he voiced Lord Vortech, the evil mastermind who seeks to control the LEGO Multiverse, in the Lego Dimensions video game. Oldman will also be portraying Admiral Ernst Bishop in the upcoming single-player campaign of the Chris Roberts-designed crowdfunded video game, Squadron 42.
In 2015, Oldman and his manager Douglas Urbanski signed a deal with the Simon & Schuster/Atria Publishing label Emily Bestler Books for Blood Riders, a vampire book series.
Oldman studied the teachings of Konstantin Stanislavski and Stella Adler while at drama school but went "off-book", drawing much of his inspiration from American cinema. As a screen actor, Oldman was almost typecast as an anti-social personality early in his career: the necessity to express villainous characters in an overtly physical manner led to the cultivation of a 'big' acting style that incorporated projection skills acquired during his stage training. Oldman further sought to develop a distinctive approach that would distance him from "stuffy" and "often interchangeable" British peers.
Oldman has conceded that his performances often involve an element of overacting, saying, "[I]t's my influence on those roles that probably they feel bigger than life and a little over-the-top. I mean, I do go for it a bit as an actor, I must admit." In another interview, he stated, "If it's coming from a sincere place, then I think the screen can hold the epic, and it can hold the very, very small." Stuart Heritage of The Guardian wrote, "Finding the definitive Gary Oldman ham performance is like trying to choose which of your children you prefer... The man is a long-term devotee of the art of ham." Conversely, Oldman noted that he enjoys "playing characters where the silence is loud", such as with George Smiley in 2011's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Oldman has portrayed various accents and a wide range of characters. He is known for his in-depth research of roles as well as his devotion to them; he was hospitalised after losing significant weight for Sid and Nancy. In a 2017 interview, Oldman differentiated between immersion and impression:
"I have a relatively good ear and can do a few impressions of people. I don't study them, but I think what happens with an impressionist is that they're looking at one particular source. Impressionists have to paint with a very broad stroke because you've got to see it within a couple of seconds... As an actor, though, you look at different aspects of a character. I try to completely surround myself with the assignment. It's like being in a big cloud and then some of it rains through—for instance, looking at not only [Winston] Churchill's way of walking and mannerisms and the way he sounds, but also looking into the psychology."
Oldman has long established a cult following among film fans. He is known for playing the primary antagonist in a number of popular motion pictures, which has seen him referenced in popular culture. At the peak of his popularity in the 1990s, Oldman was dubbed by Empire magazine Hollywood's "psycho deluxe", and was spoofed on popular television shows such as Fox comedy series In Living Color and MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch, as well as drafted in to appear on the first ever cover of Loaded magazine. In 1993, he appeared prominently in the music video for Annie Lennox's international hit "Love Song for a Vampire", written for the soundtrack to Bram Stoker's Dracula, and had a cameo role as the Devil in the video for Guns N' Roses single "Since I Don't Have You"—Oldman also played the Devil in the 2002 BMW short Beat The Devil, alongside Clive Owen, James Brown and Marilyn Manson. He starred as a sleazy priest in the controversial religious-themed video for David Bowie's 2013 single "The Next Day". In contrast to his often dark on-screen roles, Oldman's affable real-life demeanour has been noted, and he was named as one of Empire's "100 Sexiest Stars in Film History" in 2007. In 2011, Empire readers voted him the recipient of the Empire Icon Award, which was presented by Colin Firth.
Washington Post and Independent writers noted that Oldman is regarded as one of the greatest actors of his generation. In 2012, Globe and Mail journalist Lynn Crosbie wrote, "Critics never fail to single Oldman out... he is one of a few truly great living actors – arguably, even, the best." Of his diversity, Yahoo! Movies noted that he had "gained a well-earned reputation as a brilliant chameleon"; the Houston Chronicle dubbed Oldman "the face of versatility". He is noted for his avoidance of the Hollywood celebrity scene, often being referred to as an "actor's actor". His work has been acclaimed by many Hollywood figures: Tom Hardy has described Oldman as his "absolute complete and utter hero" and "hands down, the greatest actor that's ever lived"; Brad Pitt, Daniel Radcliffe and Ryan Gosling have also cited Oldman as their favourite actor. Hardy recalled Oldman's influence on students at drama school, stating that "everybody used to quote him in all of his films". Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hiddleston and Chris Pine have also named Oldman as one of their favourite actors.
Other actors such as Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Shia LaBeouf, Ben Mendelsohn, Johnny Depp, Jason Isaacs, and Michael Fassbender have cited Oldman as an influence; Bale called him "the reason I'm acting". Peers have praised his talents: Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes, Keanu Reeves and Ray Winstone have used the term "genius" in reference to Oldman. John Hurt called him "the best of the bunch"; Colin Firth hailed him as "a very strong candidate for the world's best living actor" and a "hero" of his; and Alec Baldwin described him as "preternaturally gifted" and "the greatest film actor of his generation". Kristin Scott Thomas referred to Oldman as "the most amazing, generous actor". Collaborating directors Luc Besson and Christopher Nolan have lauded his work; the former in 1997 called him "one of the top five actors in the world." David Cronenberg said that Oldman "really is a fabulous actor" who gave "the best version" of James Gordon (in Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy).
Prominent film critics have also been vocal in their appreciation of Oldman. Roger Ebert hailed him as "one of the great actors, able to play high, low, crass, noble"; while Gene Siskel called him "wonderful" and one of his favourite actors. Peter Travers described Oldman as "one of the best actors on the planet". Prior to his first Academy Award nomination for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Oldman was widely regarded as one of the greatest actors never nominated for the award; Leigh Singer of The Guardian called him "arguably the best actor never Oscar-nominated." Before winning for Darkest Hour, he also carried the label of the greatest actor never to win the Oscar. In 2011, Oldman received a Tribute Award from the Gotham Awards. In that same year, the Palm Springs International Film Festival announced that Oldman would be receiving its International Star Award, which honours "an actor or actress who has achieved both critical and commercial international recognition throughout their body of work." The PSIFF chairman called Oldman "a performer whose ability to portray the most extreme of characters is a testament to the enormity of his talent." In 2012, The Hollywood Reporter named Oldman the highest-grossing actor in history, based on lead and supporting roles. To date, films in which he has appeared have grossed over $4.1 billion in the United States, and over $11 billion worldwide.
In 2012, Oldman was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork – the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life that he most admires to mark his 80th birthday. In 2014, he received the Dilys Powell Award For Excellence In Film by the London Film Critics.
In 2018, Oldman received the Variety Award at the British Independent Film Awards, which recognizes a director, actor, writer or producer who has made a global impact and helped to focus the international spotlight on the U.K. Variety's Vice President, Steven Gaydos, remarked that Oldman "has blazed a path as one of international cinema's most versatile and valued actors." In the same year, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival awarded Oldman the Maltin Modern Master Award, the highest accolade awarded by SPIFF that honors an individual who has enriched our culture through accomplishments in the motion picture industry. Leonard Maltin claimed Oldman has "once again proven that he is a force to be reckoned with, and a true master of his craft". Oldman was also awarded his first Career Achievement Award by the Hollywood Film Awards. The Make-up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards as well honored him with the Distinguished Artisan Award, which IATSE President Susan Cabral-Ebert proclaimed him as a "a chameleon, an actor who changes his appearance, his voice, everything about himself from film to film".
English actor Christopher Eccleston hailed Oldman's Oscar win as "massive" to people from working-class backgrounds. He remarked, "Oldman is as fine an actor as Daniel Day-Lewis, but Gary is not double-barrelled."
In 2019, British Airways celebrated its 100th anniversary with a television advertisement featuring key figures from British culture, including Oldman. He was described by BA as "an iconic British legend" who is "regarded as one of the greatest screen actors of his generation".
After establishing himself as an actor, Oldman moved to Los Angeles, California, in the early 1990s. Despite numerous lead and supporting roles in major Hollywood films, he is intensely private about his personal life and is known for his stance on celebrity and the ideals of Hollywood, stating, "Being famous, that's a whole other career. And I haven't got any energy for it."
Oldman's problems with alcohol were well known during the early 1990s: he checked himself into rehab for alcoholism treatment in 1995. In subsequent interviews Oldman acknowledged his problems with alcohol, and called himself a recovering alcoholic in a 2001 interview with Charlie Rose. Oldman lives a teetotal lifestyle and attributes his success in beating his addiction to attending meetings with Alcoholics Anonymous, whom he has publicly praised.
Marriages and family
Oldman has been married five times. He wed English actress Lesley Manville in 1987, and their son, Alfie, was born the following year. Oldman broke up with Manville in 1989, three months after their son was born. She noted in 2018 that the pair are on good terms, saying, "[H]e's got a new wife, and we all get on... Gary and I are friends." They have two grandchildren, Matilda and Ozzy Oldman, through Alfie.
From 1997 to 2001, Oldman was married to model Donya Fiorentino, with whom he had two sons: Gulliver (born 1997) and Charlie (born 1999). During their divorce, Fiorentino accused Oldman of perpetrating a domestic assault in front of their children, something he maintains never took place. The allegation prompted an extended investigation by authorities: Oldman was cleared of wrongdoing and awarded sole legal and physical child custody, with no arrest or charges ever pursued against him. Fiorentino, meanwhile, was granted limited, state-supervised contact dependent on her passing sobriety tests; the court ruled that monitors "be advised" of her "history including, but not limited to drug abuse and disparaging comments about [Oldman]". In 2003, Fiorentino filed for custody citing injurious parenting by Oldman, but the case was dismissed and her access to the children reduced.
Fiorentino resurrected the assault claim via tabloid news outlets in early 2018, leading into and following Oldman's Best Actor win at the 90th Academy Awards (for his performance in 2017's Darkest Hour), while referencing the Me Too movement. In a public statement, a representative of Oldman stressed that he had been cleared, accused Fiorentino of using Me Too "as convenient cover to further a personal vendetta", and noted that she had lost child custody in both of her marriages. Gulliver Oldman issued an open letter in which he lamented the "pain and hardship" caused by his mother's "lies" over the years, and said of the purported assault, "I was there at the time of the 'incident', so I'd like to make this radiantly clear: it didn't happen."
On 31 December 2008, Oldman married English singer and actress Alexandra Edenborough in Santa Barbara, California. Edenborough filed for divorce on 9 January 2015. In September 2017, Oldman married writer and art curator Gisele Schmidt in a private ceremony at the home of his manager, Douglas Urbanski.
Oldman's sister Maureen (known professionally as Laila Morse) is an actress. She had a role in his directorial debut, Nil by Mouth (1997), before going on to play Mo Harris in the long-running BBC series EastEnders.
Awards and nominations
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