G olden O ldman
Nobody does it like Gary Oldman.
He has dazzled us with his vampiric charms. Made us fear for our lives to board a government plane. Helped us to understand music through the ears of a deaf composer, and even showed us what the magic of a little wizardry can do.
Oldman has broken our hearts with his tears and set us on fire with his rage. He has even spent some time in our nightmares as a shotgun-toting psycho cop, a perverted Hannibal Lecter victim, or the creepy, old man Dracula who finds tonguing a bloody razor makes for a delicious light snack.
Gary Oldman has worn so many faces and walked in so many different pairs of shoes, that it's hard to believe that all of that fits into one man. Gary has made himself practically elusive for art's sake, just to give us the pleasure of believing what we are watching is the real thing.
Oldman's talents and abilities are unlike anything anyone has ever seen on screen, or for those who were lucky enough to witness - on the stage.
Gary Oldman is, in a word, astounding.
Photo:Taili Song Roth
My sister and I first discovered Gary Oldman in the 1992 film Bram Stoker's Dracula. Our dad had taken us, his two 'horror movie loving' young daughters to see it in the theatre for our Thanksgiving holiday. Already being fans of the book, we were ready to see what this Dracula guy was all about. Needless to say, seeing Gary's performance that day was incomparable to anything we have ever experienced before. We were completely floored by the creative genius that is Gary Oldman, and from that moment on, we became bona fide GO Junkies.
Catching up on all of Gary Oldman's films, felt like being a kid in a candy store. One after another, after another. Each performance and character topping the next. From the turbulent punker Sid Vicious to the scandalous playwright Joe Orton. Criminal Law's steadfast attorney Ben Chase to State Of Grace's outrageously explosive, Irish-American mobster Jackie Flannery. Not to mention the amusingly naive Rosencrantz (or was it Guildenstern? We don't remember) The more we watched, the more we were hooked.
From there, we were front row and center at the theatres for every one of Oldman's, now legendary, performances that had hit the big screen. There was the brilliantly brutal pimp, Drexl Spivey, the sleazy Romeo, Jack Grimaldi, the psychotic Stansfield, the iconic Ludwig Von Beethoven, the classic Reverend Dimmesdale, the threatening Ivan Korshunov, and the outlandish Zorg...
Photo: Firooz Zahedi
Photo: Lance Staedler
Oldman had put emotions onto the screen that you could identify with, but never dared to express. He knew how to take you on the best damn emotional roller coaster ride of your life! Whether his characters were good or evil, they were packed with pure, unadulterated FEELING in it's most raw form!
After watching an Oldman film, you almost felt as if you had just been on some sort of thrilling adventure. An exhilarating release that always inspired an unstoppable urge to create - to live! You would wait on the edge of your seat for his next film, just so you could feel that invigorating rush all over again.
Oldman at his finest - a true life altering experience.
These days, there's no denying that Oldman is the "comeback kid". After a short break in 1997 to settle down with his family, as well as try his hand at directing his own film, the critically acclaimed "Nil By Mouth", Gary struck gold in 2004, landing the role of Sirius Black in Harry Potter: The Prisoner Of Askaban. Since, he has marked new territory with today's youth, as well as bringing back his old school fans with his "will not be ignored" blockbuster film franchises such as the Potter films and Chris Nolan's Batman trilogy as the always superb, Commissioner Gordan, not to mention his first ever, Oscar nominated performance as George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Gary is finally receiving the love and the status he had deserved all those years ago - and it suits him well! He has a bright and sunny smile, a pep in his step, spends time with his fans and keeps on working and creating every chance he gets.
Of course, Gary Oldman's latest endeavor is his most massive, portraying the enigmatic leader, Winston Churchill in the recently released Darkest Hour. Oldman takes on the complete package of Churchill's looks, personality and determination, causing an overwhelming Oscar buzz all around him.
Gary Oldman is 59 years old and he is reaching the highest peak of his career so far. How's that for inspiration!
Oldman was brought up by his mother and two sisters, although his sisters were older than him, and fled the nest at a very young age, Gary felt he was technically raised as an only child, but admits he was "very much loved".
Gary Oldman and his mother Kathleen seem to share a very special and loving bond with one another. The two are seen all over Los Angeles together, making such a sweet pair when mum accompanies her son at movie premieres, guest appearances or while shopping on Rodeo Drive. Gary always has a gleam in his eyes when his special lady is on his arm.
As a youth, Gary was a loner, usually keeping quiet and to himself. "I'm quite happy in my own company, living up here in my head," Oldman said. Where Oldman may have missed out socially, he definitely made up for in creativity. "I was one of those children where, if you put me in a room and gave me some crayons and a pencils, you wouldn't hear from me for nine straight hours. And I was always drawing racing cars and rockets and spaceships and planes, things that were very fast that would take me away"
Oldman dropped out of school at the age of 16, to find work as a store clerk. While trying to get by as a young man, Gary never seemed to let his creativity suffer. You would never guess that the now, Master Actor's first love was actually music.
“I didn’t come from the sort of culture that really produced actors,” Oldman said. “There was music, though. I started around 13 playing the piano, and I taught myself how to play the guitar. But I started a little too late. Maybe not too late but — well, I was musical but I wasn’t really gifted."
A young Gary would have never believed that later in life he would perform a vocal duet with David Bowie, learn to accurately play most of Beethoven's compositions and even teach actor Daniel Radcliffe the bass line to The Beatles’ song 'Come Together'.
But of course it was inevitable, though. Like fate, acting was the true destination for Oldman and inspiration found him when he least expected it.
"I saw a movie. I was at home one evening and a preview came up on the tv and it was a Brian Forbes movie with Malcolm McDowell in it, called the Raging Moon---Malcolm McDowell came on and it was like --- I had a moment of clarity. It was like a light going on, and I thought, I want to do that. He had all those things that you need. He has menace. He has vulnerability, unpredictability, just all the things you need, I think, to make an actor, and I just connected with it. I'd never been in plays. I impersonated a little when I was a kid. I used to sort of mimic people. I was always sort of good at that but I was quite a shy kid--- but I saw Malcolm and that was it."
And from there, the rest was history.
Gary Oldman went from acting on the stage to acting behind the camera in only a few short years, landing his break-through role as Sid Vicious in the 1986 film Sid & Nancy. His critically acclaimed performance was the first of a number of vivid biographical portrayals. Oldman could transform himself into any of these historical people as if they were only a closet full of suits that he would inhabit for the day. Lee Harvey Oswald, Joe Orton, Ludwig Von Beethoven-- but it was when he landed the title role of Bram Stoker's Dracula - Francis Ford Coppola's stunning new take on the legendary novel, that Gary Oldman, the versatile mastermind, caught the attention of the world.
Gary Leonard Oldman was born and raised in New Cross, in Southeast London to parents Leonard Bertram Oldman, a welder, and Kathleen Oldman, a homemaker. Gary grew up in a working-class neighborhood spending a lot of his youth dealing with the absence of his father who up and left Gary when he was only eight years old. Oldman says he still gets misty eyed and nostalgic when recalling some of his past memories of his dad.
"My dad was a pipefitter, a welder, and he used to get contracts abroad in the West Indies. He was in Jamaica and he had an affair there and ran off with a... He left my mum, you know. I was eight and it was 67' and we were in a van on the way to Montego Bay, on the way to the airport, and 'Hello, Goodbye' (by The Beatles) came on the radio. I was singing along to it, and the guy who was driving the van was kind of smiling at me, you know. He was kind of amazed that I knew all the words, and my dad was in the back of the van with my mum and he said, rather sort of proudly, 'Oh, he knows all the words.' and that was the last time I saw him. I saw him for one night when he came back to get his stuff and I never saw him again for 13 years."
Almost 30 years later, Gary would dedicate his film "Nil By Mouth" in memory of his father.
"I never told my father I loved him before he died, and I have a lot of issues about that. They're all swimming around in my head, in my heart, unresolved, and in a way it felt fitting to dedicate the film to him"
When viewing one of Oldman's rare and wildly imaginative films, 1988's Track 29, one can't help but notice the particular scene when Oldman's mysterious character Martin sits at the piano to perform the song MOTHER. In this one simple, yet unique moment, there seems to be more of Gary Oldman himself, and less than that of his character. It's as we are glimpsing a 'real moment' creeping in through a scripted scene. A hauntingly mesmerizing tribute to that one of a kind lady in his life? Perhaps. Either way, the performance is both heartfelt and chilling at the same time and definitely worth watching, if for that performance only.
Photo: Ruven Afanador
Working with Francis Ford Coppola had a major impact on Gary's life and career. Years later, when asked if there was ever a person that has greatly influenced him, Oldman answered undoubtedly,
"I think I have to say Coppola. He's so courageous. It's inspiring. I mean for my money, arguably, he's the greatest living American director, and if you hold him up to anyone, in history, he's up there. I just think he is the real deal---He is an extraordinary talented man. He's just enormously gifted."
Mr. Oldman's vast career has earned him some hefty accolades from The Academy, BAFTA, Empire, People's Choice, and most recently he was honored for 'Career Achievement' at the Hollywood Film Awards.
This prolific and beloved British actor has touched the hearts and souls of so many of his admirers with his gifts. He has even changed the lives of some of the fellow thespians he has worked with (as well as some he has not)
The admiration for him is tremendous and very touching.
"He was a big hero of mine since I was like, you know, 13, 14 years old." - Michael Fassbender
"Gary Oldman, I don't know what other things you do, but just keep acting, brother, cause you fuck it up for the rest of us." - George Clooney
"Gary Oldman is my hero." - Tom Hardy
"My acting is never better than when I'm acting with him" - Daniel Radcliffe
"Gary Oldman's the best---Gary Oldman takes a bullet better than anyone you've ever seen." - Brad Pitt
"He's my rock star, as far as actors go, I mean I just think he's one of the great actors of our time." - Jim Carrey
"He's been an acting hero of mine and my generation since as long as I remember being able to watch films that he was in." - Benedict Cumberbatch
"Gary Oldman I have always been blown away by because he's such a good actor that he literally can't get famous because he's unrecognizable in everything. I just think he's amazing." - Jennifer Lawrence
Photo: Justin Bishop
It is not only Oldman's incredible acting, directing, and musical talents that are impressive. If you have only followed Gary's career, then you may have missed out on his unbelievably entertaining personality. Gary is lovable, polite, unpredictable, utterly charming, and most of all - hilarious! He can cleverly joke his way through any interview. He sings, he dances and has such a perfectly contagious smile! You cannot help but find yourself mirroring that cute, cheeky grin, whenever it makes it's appearance. Gary has done countless comedy skits for Jimmy Kimmel Live! ("Stranger Wrestling" will have you in stitches!) he does spot on impressions of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, and as a dad, Gary has even admitted to waking his son in the morning while impersonating Christopher Walken! Who could ask for anything more than that!
Oldman is absolutely brilliant!
Gary Oldman has set the standards very high for any actor - and you'll notice that the ones who admired him the most, growing up with his films, picking up tips, are, hands down, the best actors of today.
Oldman has inspired not only actors, but writers, directors and even musicians.
"The only date I went on in high school was to see Dracula. I used to get in big coffeehouse debates about (his) acting. I would say, “Every single time you see Gary Oldman, he is completely transformed into someone you can’t even recognize.”- Jack White
Oldman has saved films that were not up to par. He has been cut out of films because he was just 'too good'. He takes chances and breaks the rules when need be. He can stand out in a crowd, or blend in completely unnoticed. He is thee ever-changing chameleon king.
Gary Oldman's talent inspires creators to create, actors to push the limits and writers to draw up characters and stories like no one has ever seen before. He is a bottomless well of inspiration that just keeps on giving.
Gary Oldman is a a living legend.
His passion, his energy and his courageous intensity has changed who we are inside and out - He has opened our eyes to new things, showed us that it is ok to "feel" and he has taught us that perseverance is one of the most important lessons you can ever learn.
Never give up - no matter what.
This is why we believe that Gary Oldman can be summed up into one fine fitting word - the one word that we believe defines greatness - and that word is cool.
Mr. Oldman, you sir, are the perfect and complete definition to everything and all that is cool.
That Oscar is yours. Now go get it.
"I always said to him, you'll make it, one day you'll get an Oscar, and I still believe that." - Kathleen Oldman
By M & J Shepherd (2017)