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Gary Oldman
Gary Oldman in 2017 (36334517524).jpg
Gary Leonard Oldman

(1958-03-21) 21 March 1958 (age 60)
New Cross, London, England
  • Actor
  • filmmaker
  • musician
Years active1979–present
  • Lesley Manville
    (m. 1987; div. 1990)
  • Uma Thurman
    (m. 1990; div. 1992)
  • Donya Fiorentino
    (m. 1997; div. 2001)
  • Alexandra Edenborough
    (m. 2008; div. 2015)
  • Gisele Schmidt
    (m. 2017)
FamilyLaila Morse (sister)
AwardsFull list

Gary Leonard Oldman[1] (born 21 March 1958)[2] is an English actor and filmmaker who has performed in theatre, film, and television. Known for his versatility and expressive acting style, Oldman is regarded as one of the greatest actors of his generation. Among other accolades, he has won an Academy Award, three BAFTA Awards, two Critics' Choice Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award, along with nominations for an Emmy Award and the Palme d'Or. In 2011, Empire readers voted him the recipient of the Empire Icon Award.

Oldman began acting in theatre in 1979, and made his earliest film appearances in Remembrance (1982) and Meantime (1983). 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's portrayals of Sid Vicious and Joe Orton, in the films Sid and Nancy (1986) and Prick Up Your Ears (1987), respectively, prompted critic Roger Ebert to describe him as "the best young British actor around". Identified with the "Brit Pack", Oldman gained further domestic recognition as a football firm leader in The Firm (1989) and the titular Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990), while increasingly starring as offshore characters, such 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 greatest villains. He meanwhile gave an acclaimed reading of 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, Lord Shen in Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011), 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 starred 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.

Early life[edit]

Oldman was born in New Cross, London, the son of Leonard Bertram Oldman (1921–1985), a former sailor who also worked as a welder, and Kathleen (née Cheriton; 1919–2018).[3][4] He has stated that Leonard was an alcoholic who left the family when Oldman was seven years old.[5] Oldman attended West Greenwich School in Deptford, leaving school at the age of 16 to work in a sports shop.[6] 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.[7][8][9] 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'."[10]

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.[11] 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."[11]

Acting career[edit]


Oldman studied with the Young People's Theatre in Greenwich during the mid-1970s,[3][12] while working jobs on assembly lines, as a porter in an operating theatre, selling shoes and beheading pigs in an abattoir.[3] 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.[3][10] When asked by Charlie Rose if he had reminded RADA of this, Oldman joked that "the work speaks for itself".[10]

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.[3][12] Oldman describes himself as 'shy but diligent worker' during his time there, where he performed roles such as Puck in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Theatre and early films (1979–1990)[edit]

After leaving school, Oldman was the first in his class to receive professional work.[13] Oldman stated on The South Bank Show that it had nothing to do with being better than someone else, rather his diligence and application.[14]

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;[3] Oldman's work ethic and trademark intensity would make him a favourite with audiences in Glasgow during the 1980s.[12] Also in 1979, he starred in Cabaret.[15]

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.[3] 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).[3]

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.[3] 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.[3][12][16] 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.[3] Oldman was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1985 to 1986.[17]

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.[18] 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).[3] 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.[19]

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."[20] Vicious's bandmate John Lydon, despite criticising Sid and Nancy, described Oldman as a "bloody good actor".[21] Oldman lost considerable weight for the role and was hospitalised.[22] His performance would go on to be ranked No. 62 in Premiere magazine's "100 Greatest Performances of All Time"[23] and No. 8 in Uncut magazine's "10 Best actors in rockin' roles", the latter describing his portrayal as a "hugely sympathetic reading of the punk figurehead as a lost and bewildered manchild."[24]

In late 1988, he starred opposite long-time hero[10] 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 British drama The Firm, a performance which Total Film numbered as his best and called "stunning" and "fearless" in 2011.[25] 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."[25] 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.[26] Janet Maslin, another noted US film critic, referred to his work as "phenomenal".[27] He was offered, but turned down, the lead role in that year's Edward Scissorhands.[28] Oldman moved to the United States in the early 1990s, where he has resided since.[29] 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.[30][31]

Mainstream success (1991–2001)[edit]

Oldman in 2000

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.[32] Oldman met with Oswald's wife, Marina, and her two daughters to prepare for the role.[33] 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,[34] 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.[35] Oldman later became a popular portrayer of villains:[16] 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";[36] 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),[37] while TriStar executives recommended him for drug dealer Lance (portrayed by Eric Stoltz).[38][39]

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.[40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49] 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,[50] 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.[51] He served as a member of the Jury at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.[52] In 1998, MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch aired a match between claymation representations of Oldman and Christopher Walken to determine the greatest cinematic villain.[53]

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.[54]

In 2001, he starred opposite Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal, as Mason Verger, the only surviving victim of Hannibal Lecter. He reportedly spent six hours per day in the make-up room to achieve the character's hideously disfigured appearance.[55] It marked the second time that Oldman had appeared opposite Hopkins, a personal friend who was part of the supporting cast of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Oldman is uncredited in the film, reportedly over a dispute regarding top billing, which was going to co-stars Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore. 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)[edit]

Oldman at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con International

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,[56] 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 critically maligned 2003 films Tiptoes and Sin.[57] 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",[58] and the performance was later mentioned in Mark Kermode's "Great Acting in Bad Films".[59]

Resurgence and franchise stardom (2004–2016)[edit]

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. 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 Gary Oldman's ... it would be lovely to see him get a[n Academy Award] nomination because actually, he's the guy who gets kind of overlooked in all of this."[60] Oldman co-starred with Jim Carrey in the 2009 version of A Christmas Carol in which Oldman played three roles.[61][62][63] He had a starring role in David Goyer's supernatural thriller The Unborn, released in 2009.[64] In 2010, Oldman co-starred with Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli.[65] He also played a lead role in Catherine Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood.[66] Oldman voiced the role of villain Lord Shen and was nominated for an Annie Award for his performance in Kung Fu Panda 2.

Oldman at the London premiere of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in October 2011

Oldman received strong reviews[67] 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),[68] 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.[69]

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. In 2013, 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 RoboCop.

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 an interview in the July/August issue of Playboy magazine while promoting the film, Oldman mocked what he saw as excessive political correctness in American media and the entertainment industry's own discriminating hypocrisy, and argued in support of controversial celebrities Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin. He stressed that he did not relate with most of their viewpoints, but regarding the former, agreed, "Gibson is in a town that's run by Jews"[70] (referring to Hollywood). After criticism from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Oldman apologised to them in an open letter.[71] ADL director Abraham Foxman acknowledged that Oldman was remorseful, but felt his letter was insufficient.[71] Oldman then made a public apology on the 25 June edition of late-night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live![72]

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.

Award success (2017–present)[edit]

Oldman at WonderCon Anaheim in 2014

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.[73] Oldman's transformation into the wartime Prime Minister took 200 hours in the makeup chair, 14 pounds of foam silicon, and $20,000 worth of Cuban cigars, which caused him nicotine poisoning.[74][75] In 2018, he won the Academy Award for Best Actor,[76][77] Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama,[78] Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Actor,[79] Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor,[80] and BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.[81] His Golden Globe win came despite Oldman having once been a critic of that award;[82][83][84] he noted that he was "amazed, flattered and very proud" to be nominated.[85]

In 2018, in his first post-Oscar role, Oldman voiced an evil artificial intelligence in Netflix's independent film Tau and stars in Hunter Killer with Gerard Butler. Oldman is slated to direct a biopic about Eadweard Muybridge entitled Flying Horse.[86] Oldman is also starring in horror-thriller Mary directed by Michael Goi, as well as in an adaptation of John Le Carre's Smiley's People.[citation needed] He is set to star alongside Dylan O'Brien as a hitman in The Bayou,[87] appear in Steven Soderbergh's The Laundromat opposite Meryl Streep,[88] and star in Joe Wright's The Woman in the Window alongside Amy Adams.[89] Oldman is set to star in Peter Briggs's Panzer 88 alongside Jay Baruchel and Thomas Kretschmann.[90]

Other ventures[edit]


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.[91] Nil By Mouth was listed by Time Out as number twenty-one of the top 100 best British films ever.[92]

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 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[93] 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 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.[10] 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.[94] 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".[95] He produced a live performance by former White Stripes member Jack White in conjunction with Vevo and YouTube.[96] 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.[97]

Voice acting[edit]

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.[98] Oldman will also be portraying Admiral Ernst Bishop in the upcoming single-player campaign of the Chris Roberts-designed crowdfunded video game, Star Citizen.[99]


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.[100]

Acting style[edit]

Oldman was almost typecast as a criminal early in his film career.[101] The necessity to express villainous characters in an overtly physical manner led to the cultivation of his 'big' acting style,[102] 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.[38] Oldman remarked: "[Al] Pacino seemed like a valid reference point: I thought he was wonderful. Then there was [Robert] De Niro, John Hurt, Tony Hopkins, Malcolm McDowell [...] All I know is I wanted to develop a style, rather than just read lines by the book, like a million other drama school grads. Whatever I came up with has, fortunately, kept me in work and given me a lot of fans, both in cinemas and behind typewriters."[38]

Oldman has conceded that his approach involves 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."[18] 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."[103] 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.[57]

Oldman has portrayed various accents[27] and a wide range of characters.[12][16] He is known for his in-depth research of roles[104] as well as his devotion to them; he was hospitalised after losing significant weight for Sid and Nancy.[22] 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."[105]


Oldman has long established a cult following among film fans.[29][106] He is known for playing the primary antagonist in a number of popular motion pictures,[16] 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",[107] and was spoofed on popular television shows such as Fox comedy series In Living Color[108] and MTV's Celebrity Deathmatch,[53] as well as drafted in to appear on the first ever cover of Loaded magazine.[109] 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"[110]—Oldman also played the Devil in the 2002 BMW short Beat The Devil, alongside Clive Owen, James Brown and Marilyn Manson.[111] He starred as a sleazy priest in the controversial religious-themed video for David Bowie's 2013 single "The Next Day".[112][113] In contrast to his often dark on-screen roles, Oldman's affable real-life demeanour has been noted,[29] and he was named as one of Empire's "100 Sexiest Stars in Film History" in 2007.[114] In 2011, Oldman was voted as a film icon by Empire readers, with the award presented by Colin Firth.[115]

Oldman signing autographs at the Harry Potter premiere, 2007

Oldman is regarded as one of the greatest actors of his generation.[11][116] Of his diversity, Yahoo! Movies noted that he had "gained a well-earned reputation as a brilliant chameleon";[12] the Houston Chronicle dubbed Oldman "the face of versatility".[117] He is noted for his avoidance of the Hollywood celebrity scene,[118] often being referred to as an "actor's actor".[3] His work has been acclaimed by many Hollywood figures: Tom Hardy has described Oldman as his "absolute complete and utter hero"[119] and "hands down, the greatest actor that's ever lived";[30] Brad Pitt,[120] Daniel Radcliffe[121] and Ryan Gosling have also cited Oldman as their favourite actor.[122] Hardy recalled Oldman's influence on students at drama school, stating that "everybody used to quote him in all of his films".[123] Jessica Chastain,[124] Jennifer Lawrence,[124] Joseph Gordon-Levitt,[125] Tom Hiddleston[126] and Chris Pine[127] have also named Oldman as one of their favourite actors.

Other actors such as Christian Bale,[128] Hugh Jackman,[15] Benedict Cumberbatch,[129][130] Shia LaBeouf,[131] Ben Mendelsohn,[132] Johnny Depp,[129][130] Jason Isaacs,[133][134] and Michael Fassbender[30][129] have cited Oldman as an influence; Bale called him "the reason I'm acting".[135] Peers have praised his talents: Anthony Hopkins,[14] Ralph Fiennes,[136] Keanu Reeves[137] and Ray Winstone[11] have used the term "genius" in reference to Oldman. John Hurt called him "the best of the bunch";[57] Colin Firth hailed him as "a very strong candidate for the world's best living actor"[138] and a "hero" of his;[139] and Alec Baldwin described him as "preternaturally gifted" and "the greatest film actor of his generation".[140] Kristin Scott Thomas referred to Oldman as "the most amazing, generous actor".[141] Collaborating directors Luc Besson[19] and Christopher Nolan[142] have lauded his work; the former in 1997 called him "one of the top five actors in the world."[19] David Cronenberg said that Oldman "really is a fabulous actor" who gave "the best version" of James Gordon (in Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy).[143]

Prominent film critics have also been outspoken in their appreciation of Oldman. Roger Ebert hailed him as "one of the great actors, able to play high, low, crass, noble";[144] while Gene Siskel called him "wonderful"[145] and one of his favourite actors.[146] Peter Travers described Oldman as "one of the best actors on the planet".[147] 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;[6][148][149] Leigh Singer of The Guardian called him "arguably the best actor never Oscar-nominated."[150] Before winning for Darkest Hour, he also carried the label of the greatest actor never to win the Oscar.[151][152] In 2011, Oldman received a Tribute Award from the Gotham Awards.[153] 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."[154] In 2012, The Hollywood Reporter named Oldman the highest-grossing actor in history, based on lead and supporting roles.[155] To date, films in which he has starred have grossed over $4.1 billion in the United States, and over $11 billion worldwide.[156]

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.[157] In 2014, he received the Dilys Powell Award For Excellence In Film by the London Film Critics.[158]

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."[159] 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".[160] Oldman was also awarded his first Career Achievement Award by the Hollywood Film Awards.[161] 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".[162]

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."[163]

Personal life[edit]

After establishing himself as an actor, Oldman moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s.[29] 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."[29]

Oldman's problems with alcohol were well known during the early 1990s: he checked himself into rehab for alcoholism treatment in 1995.[12] In subsequent interviews Oldman acknowledged his problems with alcohol, and called himself a recovering alcoholic in a 2001 interview with Charlie Rose.[164] Oldman lives a teetotal lifestyle and attributes his success in beating his addiction to attending meetings with Alcoholics Anonymous, whom he has publicly praised.[165]

Oldman is a libertarian.[166]

Marriages and family[edit]

Oldman has been married five times. He wed English actress Lesley Manville in 1987, and their son, Alfie, was born the following year.[11] The couple split in 1989. Oldman met American actress Uma Thurman on the set of State of Grace; they were married in 1990, but divorced two years later.[167]

From 1997 to 2001, Oldman was married to Donya Fiorentino, with whom he had two sons: Gulliver (born 1997) and Charlie (born 1999).[11] During their divorce, Fiorentino claimed that Oldman physically assaulted her in front of the pair's children―Oldman denied the accusation. Police investigated but filed no charges, and Oldman was awarded sole legal and physical custody of the children. Gulliver later asserted that the alleged incident was a fabrication on the part of his "sad and very troubled" mother.[168]

On 31 December 2008, Oldman married English singer and actress Alexandra Edenborough in Santa Barbara, California.[169] Edenborough filed for divorce on 9 January 2015.[170] In September 2017, Oldman married writer and art curator Gisele Schmidt in a low-key ceremony at the home of Oldman's manager, Douglas Urbanski.[171]

Oldman has two grandchildren, Matilda and Ozzy Oldman, through his eldest son Alfie.[172]

His sister Maureen (known professionally as Laila Morse) is an actress. She had a role in Oldman's directorial debut, Nil by Mouth (1997),[11] before going on to play Mo Harris in the long-running BBC series EastEnders.


Awards and nominations[edit]


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