- Gary Leonard Oldman
March 21, 1958 (age 62)
- Actor, Musician, Film Producer, Film Director
- Alexandra Edenborough
- Leonard Oldman, Kathleen Oldman
Gary Leonard Oldman (born 21 March 1958) is an English actor, filmmaker, and musician. Oldman rose to prominence in the United Kingdom with his portrayals of Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy (1986) and Joe Orton in Prick Up Your Ears (1987), as well as that of a football firm leader in The Firm (1989), before going on to achieve international renown as Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK (1991) and Count Dracula in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). Oldman starred as antagonist Norman Stansfield in Léon: The Professional (1994), as well as the villains of motion pictures such as True Romance (1993), The Fifth Element (1997), Air Force One (1997), and The Contender (2000); he meanwhile gave an acclaimed reading of Ludwig van Beethoven in Immortal Beloved (1994). In the 21st century, Oldman is known for his portrayals of Sirius Black in the Harry Potter series, James Gordon in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy, and George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011).
As of 2014, films starring Oldman have grossed over $4 billion in the United States, and over $10.5 billion worldwide. He has received various honours during his career, and has been hailed by peers, directors, and critics. Outside of acting in films, he wrote and directed Nil by Mouth (1997), starred in the Friends two-part episode "The One with Monica and Chandler's Wedding" (2001), featured in music videos by artists including David Bowie and Guns N' Roses, and has played voice acting roles such as Viktor Reznov in the Call of Duty video game series and Lord Shen in Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011). A Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Court Theatre alumnus, he is also a multi-award winning stage actor.
Oldman was born in New Cross, London, the son of Kathleen (née Cheriton; born 28 November 1919), a housewife, and Leonard Bertram Oldman (21 May 1921 – October 1985), a former sailor who also worked as a welder. 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, and later a singer, 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'."
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 later 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 describes himself as 'shy' although a diligent worker during his time at Rose Bruford, where he performed roles such as Puck in the performance of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. After leaving school, Oldman was the first in his class to receive professional work.
Before enrolling at Rose Bruford, Oldman had 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 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.
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. His 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.
Villain roles and mainstream success
In 1991, Oldman starred in his first US blockbuster, playing Lee Harvey Oswald in Oliver Stone's JFK. 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 the Best Actor award. Oldman would later become 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). Oldman 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 of modern cinema. Oldman also displayed a skill for world accents; along with the Transylvanian Count Dracula, he played German-born Viennese composer Ludwig van Beethoven in Immortal Beloved, and Russian terrorist Egor Korshunov in the 1997 blockbuster Air Force One. He portrayed another historical figure, Pontius Pilate, in Jesus (1999).
Harry Potter / Batman
In 2004, Oldman returned to prominence when he landed a significant role in the Harry Potter film series, playing Harry Potter's godfather Sirius Black. Oldman and star Daniel Radcliffe reportedly became very close during the filming of the series. The following year, Oldman 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 Gary Oldman's ... it would be lovely to see him get an Academy Award nomination because actually, he's the guy who gets kind of overlooked in all of this."
Oldman was almost immediately typecast as a criminal in his film career. The necessity to express villainous characters in an overtly physical manner led to the cultivation of his 'big' acting style, which hearkened back to his classical theatre training and would become his trademark; this encompassed "playing everything" via layered performances that vividly express each character's emotions and internal conflicts. This approach has garnered Oldman much acclaim during his career, but has also, on occasion, led critics to dismiss performances as overacting of a superfluous nature.
Of his acting, Oldman has said, "[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." Oldman's proficiency with accents has been praised, and his on-screen diversity has brought critical acclaim. His in-depth research of roles has been noted, as well as his devotion to them: he was hospitalised after losing significant weight for Sid and Nancy.
Oldman moved to the United States in the early 1990s. Despite numerous lead and supporting roles in major Hollywood productions, he is intensely private with his personal life and is known for his stance on celebrity and the ideals of Hollywood, once stating: "Being famous, that's a whole other career. And I haven't got any energy for it."
Oldman married English actress Lesley Manville in 1987 but left her in 1989, three months after their son, Alfie, was born. He met American actress Uma Thurman on the set of State of Grace, and they were married in 1990, but the marriage ended two years later. Oldman then settled into a relationship with Italian actress and model Isabella Rossellini. The couple were rumoured to be engaged in July 1994, but separated two years later. Oldman was married to Donya Fiorentino from 1997 to 2001 and has sons with her. After a lengthy state investigation and trial, Oldman was granted sole legal and physical custody of these two sons, and Fiorentino was only allowed occasional state monitored visits.
On 31 December 2008, Oldman married English singer and actress Alexandra Edenborough in Santa Barbara, California. Alex filed for divorce on January 9, 2015. His sister, Laila Morse, is an actress, best known as Mo Harris in the long-running BBC series EastEnders. She also had a role in Oldman's directorial debut, Nil by Mouth.