Chat-Worthy Thespian: Gary Oldman

This is my LAMB Acting School debut post. It’s kind of perfect timing as the British thespian just turned 53 this past Monday!

If I were to come up with top ten great actors who haven’t won an Oscar, Oldman would’ve certainly made the list. If you think that idea is atrocious, get this, he actually has never gotten a single nomination!! Wha-? U-huh. Really? Yep. Come on! Exactly.

There are so many of his performances that are Oscar-worthy. Just from what I’ve seen, here are at least three roles that merit a nomination: Dracula (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992), Stansfield (The Professional, 1994), and Beethoven (Immortal Beloved, 1994). It’s challenging to play a persona like Dracula that’s been done so many times over, but Oldman was quite a revelation as the romantic, seductive yet utterly terrifying prince of darkness that it could easily be one of the best Dracula ever. As Stansfield, he was so darn creepy as the pill-crunching corrupt cop who personifies evil through and through, it was a scene-stealing role that puts him as one of the most memorable movie villains. In the same year, he ‘transformed’ himself into one of the greatest composers that ever lived, Ludwig Von Beethoven. He immerses himself in the character and captured the musical genius’ inner turmoil, passion and madness, even in the scenes of him going deaf, it’s as if we could feel his world turning silent.

Now many of you probably would list his iconic portrayal of Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy as his greatest role (which ranked #62 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time in 2006). I haven’t seen the film yet, but from the clips and reviews I’ve read, I have no doubt it was a spectacular performance.

The many faces... and hairstyle of Gary Oldman

You could say that Oldman’s an actors’ actor, as a number of talented actors such as Ryan Gosling and Jason Isaac regard him as one of their favorite actors (per IMDb). Last August I made a post about The Chameleon vs. Perpetually-Typecast Actors and his name is the one that immediately spring to mind when thinking about chameleon actors. He along with under-appreciated thespians such as Alfred Molina, Ciaran Hinds, Sam Rockwell, etc. are the kind of actors who are able to ‘disappear’ into their roles. They’re the kind of actors who consistently seek out roles where they often appear unrecognizable on screen as their looks vary drastically from film to film. Even though he often plays bad guys, he manages to always bring something new to the table and elevate them from being caricatures or one-dimensional characters.

Despite his more indelible psychotic roles, I find him equally convincing as a noble regular guy. Case in point: Commissioner Gordon in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. At first I was quite puzzled Nolan’s choice, but after seeing him in the role, I really think it’s inspired casting! In fact, Gordon stands as one of my favorite Gary Oldman roles, as well as my favorite amongst the stellar cast he shared the screen with. Oh, speaking of stellar cast, his supporting role as Sirius Black in Harry Potter is also one of my top ten faves in that franchise.

Just a couple of tidbits about the actor you might not know about: In 1997, Oldman directed, produced, and wrote a gritty drama Nil by Mouth (starring Ray Winstone), partially based on his own childhood. The movie ended up winning a BAFTA for Best British Film and is regarded by the organization as one of 100 best films of all time. Oldman’s also an accomplished pianist who once considered becoming a musician rather than an actor.

Gary Oldman as George Smiley

I can’t wait to see Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy – a spy thriller with Oldman in the leading role. It’s one of my most anticipated movies 0f 2011. This is a role that another British great Alec Guinness once played in a BBC miniseries back in 1979, a huge shoes to fill of which I’m sure Oldman is more than up for the task.

Too bad we’d have to wait until December for this, but on the plus side, it’s perfect timing for award season that hopefully Oldman would finally get the recognition he deserves. Now that Christian Bale’s won his Oscar, I’m pulling for Oldman to at least garner a nomination next year. Interestingly enough, both British actors often gravitate toward obsessive and/or deranged roles, and have a knack for doing various accents in movies.

Here’s hoping the day of this massively talented thespian getting passed over for an award will soon be at an end.


What are your thoughts about Gary Oldman? I’d also love to hear your favorite Gary Oldman role(s).