Gary Oldman

Gary Leonard Oldman (born 21 March 1958) is an English actor, writer, director, producer, voice-over artist and occasional musician who has garnered critical acclaim for his chameleonic performances in diverse roles. He is noted for his avoidance of the Hollywood celebrity scene, often being referred to as an "actor's actor".

Oldman came to prominence for his portrayal of ill-fated rocker Sid Vicious in 1986's Sid & Nancy, and has since retained a career as both a lead and supporting actor of more than fifty motion pictures. His most popular starring role was as Count Dracula in the 1992 blockbuster adaptation of Dracula, and he has since starred in several other popular films including True Romance, Léon: The Professional, The Fifth Element, Air Force One, The Contender, three films in the Harry Potter film series (Prisoner of Azkaban, Goblet of Fire, and Order of the Phoenix) and both films in Christopher Nolan's ongoing Batman film series (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight). Along with Sid Vicious, he has portrayed a number of other real-life historical figures on screen, such as Joe Orton in Prick Up Your Ears, Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK, Ludwig van Beethoven in Immortal Beloved and Pontius Pilate in Jesus. His portrayal of Sid Vicious was listed as one of Premiere Magazine's "100 Greatest Performances of All Time". Oldman was also popular in '90s Hollywood for his portrayals of villainous and morally corrupt characters, playing the primary villain of several popular motion pictures. As a result of his varied roles, he is generally regarded as one of film's most diverse actors.

In 1997, Oldman directed, produced, and wrote the award-winning Nil by Mouth, a movie partially based on his own childhood. Oldman has received various awards and honours throughout his career but has at various times expressed his lack of regard for the Oscar and the presenting Academy. Perhaps as a result, he has never been nominated for such an award despite a critically acclaimed career spanning three decades.


Early life

Oldman was born in London, England, the son of Kathleen, an Irish-born housewife, and Len Oldman, a former sailor who worked as a welder. Oldman has said that his father was an abusive alcoholic who left his family when Oldman was seven. Oldman was an accomplished singer and pianist as a child, but gave up music to pursue an acting career. His inspiration was Malcolm McDowell's performance in 1970 movie The Raging Moon. In a 1995 interview with Charlie Rose, Oldman said: "Something about Malcolm [McDowell] just arrested me, and I connected, and I said 'I wanna do that'." Oldman retained his love for music, however, and can be seen singing and playing piano in the 1988 movie Track 29, and tracing over pre-recorded versions of Beethoven's music in Immortal Beloved.


Oldman won a scholarship to the Rose Bruford College, where he received a BA in Drama in 1979. He had initially applied for enrollment into Britain's prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, but was refused entry. Oldman told Charlie Rose in 1995 that he was told to "find something else to do for a living". Rose, surprised, asked jokingly, "Have you reminded them of this?", to which Oldman replied that "the work speaks for itself." Following his graduation from Rose Bruford College, he later studied with the Greenwich Young People's Theatre and went on to appear in a number of stage plays including The Pope's Wedding, for which he received Time Out's Fringe Award for Best Newcomer of 1985–1986 and the British Theatre Association's Drama Magazine Award as Best Actor of 1985.


Oldman appeared on Reeves Gabrels' album The Sacred Squall of Now, performing a duet with David Bowie on the track "You've Been Around".

Film career

Sid & Nancy and foray into American cinema

After graduating from drama school in 1979, Oldman spent almost eight years in theater, winning various awards. During this time he appeared in several minor television films such as Remembrance (1982) and Morgan's Boy (1984). In 1986 he won his first starring role as the Sex Pistols' ill-fated bassist Sid Vicious in the 1986 motion picture Sid & Nancy. The role launched Oldman's career and paved the way for work in Hollywood. Oldman's performance was highly regarded by many, perhaps most notably ex-Sex Pistols vocalist John Lydon, who despite questioning the authenticity of some parts of the film, said of Oldman in his biography: "The chap who played Sid, Gary Oldman, I thought was quite good", and later called him a "bloody good actor". Oldman reportedly lost considerable weight for the role and was briefly hospitalised. His portrayal was ranked #62 on Premiere Magazine's "100 Greatest Performances of All Time." Oldman starred in another real-life portrayal the following year, portraying playwright Joe Orton in the 1987 film Prick Up Your Ears. He played a violent football hooligan in The Firm (1988), and starred opposite Christopher Lloyd in Track 29 the same year. Oldman's first foray into American cinema came later in 1988, when he played a troubled young Boston lawyer opposite real-life friend Kevin Bacon in Criminal Law. It marked the first time Oldman had performed on screen successfully using an American accent. 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 Chattahoochee (1989).

Mainstream success in the 1990s

In 1991, Oldman starred in what was at that point the most significant role of his career as alleged Presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in Oliver Stone's JFK. The following year, however, Oldman would reach new heights of fame. In arguably the most famous performance of his career, he starred as Count Dracula in Francis Ford Coppola's romance-horror blockbuster Bram Stoker's Dracula. By far the most commercially successful film adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, it was a major box office success worldwide, and spawned various merchandise and video games. Oldman's performance is regarded by many as a staple of the horror genre, and was recognised by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films as the best male performance of 1992, who awarded Oldman the prestigious Best Actor award. Some claimed that Winona Ryder and Oldman did not get along on set. Director Francis Ford Coppola said: "The issue was not only that they did not get along... they got along and then one day they didn't – absolutely didn't get along. None of us were privy to what had happened." False rumours of an affair between the two also circulated in the media in 1992. Despite alleged personal issues during production of the film, Ryder has since been complimentary of Oldman's acting talents. The film established Oldman as a popular portrayer of villains in American cinema; he later played a violent pimp in True Romance (1993), a corrupt DEA officer in Léon (1994), a sadistic prison warden in Murder in the First (1995) and a futuristic megacorp tyrant in The Fifth Element (1997). Oldman also displayed a skill for world accents; along with the Transylvanian Count Dracula, Oldman played German-born Viennese composer Ludwig van Beethoven in Immortal Beloved, and Russian terrorist Ivan Korshunov in 1997 blockbuster Air Force One. He also appeared as a grinning demon in the 1993 promo video to the Guns N' Roses single "Since I Don't Have You".

2000 and beyond

Oldman appeared opposite Jeff Bridges as zealous Republican congressman Sheldon Runyon in The Contender (2000), in which he was also credited as a producer. He received a Screen Actors Guild award nomination for his performance. Oldman was reportedly unhappy with the editing process of the film, which he felt made the finished product look dinstinctly pro-Democratic. Oldman stated on the Charlie Rose show that he felt his character was the true patriot of the film and that it was no co-incidence that the allegedly pro-Democratic film was released shortly before a Presidential election. Oldman stated in the same interview that he had had "more than my wrist slapped" for expressing his sentiments in previous interviews. Film critic Roger Ebert rebutted some of the media reports on Oldman's objections, writing that Oldman's manager Douglas Urbanski had denied that the politically withdrawn Oldman had used such strong terms, and citing original interviewer Tom Roston as saying that material from his article had been taken out of context and exaggerated by subsequent media repetitions..

In 2001 Oldman starred opposite Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal, as Mason Verger, the only surviving victim of Hannibal Lecter. Oldman reportedly spent six hours per day in the make-up room to achieve the hideously disfigured appearance of the character. It marked the second time Oldman had appeared opposite friend Anthony Hopkins, who was part of the supporting cast of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Oldman received an Emmy Award nomination for two guest appearances in Friends in 2001, appearing in the two-part episode "The One with Monica and Chandler's Wedding" as Richard Crosby, a pedantic actor who insists that "real" actors spit on one another when they enunciate, leading to the famous spitting scene between Joey (Matt LeBlanc) and himself. Oldman agreed to appear in the series after meeting LeBlanc on the set of Lost in Space in 1998. Oldman later landed a major role in the Harry Potter film series, playing Potter's godfather Sirius Black. Oldman and star Daniel Radcliffe reportedly became very close during the filming of the series. In 2005, Oldman starred as James Gordon in Christopher Nolan's commercially and critically acclaimed Batman Begins, a role he reprised in the sequel The Dark Knight (2008). Oldman will reportedly be appearing in the 2009 version of A Christmas Carol. He is also confirmed for the starring role in David Goyer's Holocaust-themed supernatural thriller Unborn, slated for a 2009 release.


In 1997, Oldman directed, produced, and wrote the award-winning Nil by Mouth, a movie partially based on his own childhood. Nil By Mouth went on to win the Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film, a BAFTA Award (shared with Douglas Urbanski) and also the British Academy Award for Best Screenplay, the Channel 4 Director's Award, and the Empire Award, and was declared by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts as one of the one hundred best films of all time. Recently Nil By Mouth was listed by Time Out as number two of the top 50 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 was also credited as a producer. Oldman has finished his latest screenplay, Chang & Eng, co-written with Darin Strauss, based on the author's book of the same name; SE8 Group will produce. In September 2006 Nokia, Nseries Studio released the Oldman directed short Donut with music by Tor Hyams. The film was shot with an N93 in order to promote the phone. Oldman also directed the music video for "Red Rover", a song from Jewish Rap Group Chutzpah's 2nd CD "Hip Hop Fantasy", shot entirely on the N93.


Oldman has long established a cult following among film fans, perhaps due to his apathetic stance on fame and fortune, his versatile performances, and affable real-life persona. As well as a staggering number of fan-made tribute videos on YouTube, Oldman remains one of the most popular portrayers of movie villains amongst film fans: his array of villainous roles, such as Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's Dracula, Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg in The Fifth Element, Norman Stansfield in Léon, and Ivan Korshunov in Air Force One have seen a page dedicated entirely to him on the website. MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch also aired a match between Oldman and Christopher Walken to determine who was the greatest cinematic villain.

Oldman's famous "spitting scene" with Matt LeBlanc during his appearance on Friends, where Oldman's character insists that "real" actors spit on one another when they enunciate. The ensuing spitting confrontation between the two, has become one of the more popular cameos of the series, and saw Oldman receive an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. Oldman's character also has to dispel Joey's belief that despite his formidable acting abilities, he has never won an Academy Award. This was perhaps a subtle knock on the much-questioned fact, among Oldman fans, that he has never been nominated for such an award, despite a number of critically acclaimed roles.

Younger stars cite Oldman's influence such as Daniel Radcliffe, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Bale and in particular, Ryan Gosling, who cites Oldman as his all time favourite actor. Oldman has also received much acclaim from critics over the years for his diversity of roles and mastery of world accents. Revered film critic Roger Ebert has long been a fan of Oldman's work, hailing him as "one of the great actors, able to play high, low, crass, noble", while Janet Maslin called him a "phenomenal" actor who "since Sid and Nancy has taken on a string of new accents and dramatic identities with stunning ease. Oldman's acting style has, however, occasionally been referred to as being excessive and over-the-top by some critics. This may perhaps be in part due to a long run of being cast as eccentric and outlandish villains, something of which he eventually grew tired.

In contrast to his often dark-themed on-screen roles, Oldman's down-to-earth real-life nature is often cited in articles, and he was recently named as one of Empire magazine's "100 Sexiest Stars in Film History. Motion pictures starring Oldman as leading actor or supporting co-star have grossed over $2.1 billion at the United States box office, and over $5.2 billion worldwide.

Personal life

Despite numerous lead and supporting roles in major Hollywood productions, Oldman is intensely private with his personal life and is known for his stance on celebrity and the ideals of Hollywood, once stating that "being famous, that's a whole other career. And I haven't got any energy for it." Oldman was born and raised in London, England, but moved to the United States in the early 1990s. He currently resides in Los Angeles, California with his young family. He was known for his problems with alcohol during the 1990s; in 1991, he was arrested for drunk driving along with friend and fellow actor Kiefer Sutherland. After a string of alcohol-fuelled debacles he checked himself into Marworth treatment facility in Waverly, Pennsylvania, for alcoholism treatment in 1993. In subsequent interviews Oldman acknowledged his problems with alcohol and called himself a "recovering" alcoholic on a 2001 interview with Charlie Rose. In 2001, former wife Donya Fiorentino claimed that Oldman had a drug habit and subjected her to domestic abuse, a claim which was investigated by the family courts, child custody evaluator, the police, and Los Angeles city attorney—Oldman was awarded legal custody of their children; Fiorentino was granted short court-monitored visits. As of 2007, Oldman lives a teetotal lifestyle and attributes his success in beating his addiction to Alcoholics Anonymous, and has since publicly praised the organization.

Oldman has been married three times:

He has three sons: Alfie (b. 1988) from his marriage to Manville, Gulliver Flynn (b. Aug 20, 1997) and Charlie John (b. Feb 1999) from his marriage to Fiorentino. His sister, Laila Morse, is also an actress, best known as Mo Harris in the BBC's long-running series EastEnders.


Year Title Role Other notes
1982 Remembrance Daniel
1984 Morgan's Boy Colin TV
Meantime Coxy the Skinhead TV
1985 Honest, Decent & True Derek Bates TV
1986 Sid and Nancy Sid Vicious
1987 Prick Up Your Ears Joe Orton
1988 Track 29 Martin
Criminal Law Ben Chase
We Think the World of You Johnny
The Firm Bex Bissell TV
1989 Chattahoochee Emmett Foley
1990 Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead Rosencrantz
Henry & June Pop (as Maurice Escargot)
State of Grace Jackie Flannery
1991 JFK Lee Harvey Oswald
Heading Home Ian Tyson TV
1992 Bram Stoker's Dracula Dracula
1993 True Romance Drexl Spivey
Romeo Is Bleeding Jack Grimaldi
1994 Léon Stansfield (known as "The Professional" in the US)
Immortal Beloved Ludwig van Beethoven
1995 The Scarlet Letter Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale
Murder in the First Milton Glenn
1996 Basquiat Albert Milo
1997 Air Force One Egor Korshunov
The Fifth Element Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg
1998 Quest for Camelot Baron Ruber (voice and vocal)
Lost in Space Dr. Zachary Smith
1999 Jesus Pontius Pilate TV
2000 The Contender Rep. Sheldon Runyon
2001 Friends Richard Crosby TV (2 episodes)
2002 Hannibal Mason R. Verger
Nobody's Baby Buford Hill
The Hire: Beat The Devil Devil
Interstate 60 O.W. Grant
Greg The Bunny Himself TV (1 episode)
2003 Tiptoes Rolfe
Sin Charlie Strom
Medal of Honor: Allied Assault Spearhead Sgt. Jack Barnes (voice) Video game
True Crime: Streets of LA Rasputin "Rocky" Kuznetskov, Agent Masterson (voice) Video game
2004 Who's Kyle? Scouse
Dead Fish Lynch
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Sirius Black
2005 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Sirius Black
Batman Begins Sgt. James Gordon
2006 The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning Ignitus (voice) Video Game
Bosque de Sombras Paul (International English Title: BackWoods)
2007 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Sirius Black
2008 The Dark Knight Lt. James Gordon
Call of Duty: World at War Unknown (voice) Video Game
The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon Ignitus (voice) Video Game
2009 A Christmas Carol Tiny Tim/Bob Cratchit/Jacob Marley
The Unborn Sendak
Planet 51 Voice Only Video Game
Rain Fall Holtzer

Awards and nominations

Saturn Awards


External links

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