Gary Oldman unsuccessfully applied for a place in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He was told he could apply again the following year, but was also advised to “find something else for a living.” Forty years on his films have grossed over $11 billion worldwide, making him one of the highest-grossing actors of all time. Back in the 1970’s he did, in fact already have a variety of jobs on assembly lines, selling shoes, a porter in an operating theatre and beheading pigs at an abattoir while he attended the Young People’s Theatre in Greenwich, before gaining a scholarship at the Rose Bruford College in south-east London, graduating with a BA in acting.
His stage career began in 1979 and he made his film debut in REMEMBRANCE three years later. By the second half of the 1980’s, having already won acclaim in the theatre with the Royal Court in London and the Royal Shakespeare Company, Gary quickly established himself as a new major force in film, first in Britain then in Hollywood. He was recognised as a member of the ‘Brit Pack’ – a term first used in an article by Elissa Van Poznak in the January edition of ‘The Face’.
BFI season programmer Geoff Andrew wrote, “His playing of real-life figures as different as Joe Orton, Lee Harvey Oswald and Winston Churchill demonstrates his extraordinary versatility; moreover, he’s always been prepared to portray a character’s less than attractive qualities. At the same time, his tonal range has extended from the frighteningly powerful (THE FIRM’s Clive Bissel) to the quietly reticent Le Carre’s George Smiley in TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY)” His career was frontloaded with exceptional performances before moving to America, where he worked with Oliver Stone on JFK and Francis Ford Coppola on BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA as well as becoming a necessary stable in the HARRY POTTER and BATMAN film franchises.
With over 70 feature films, spanning forty-years, Gary has 64 wins from 101 award nominations. It was his portrayal of Britain’s wartime prime minister Winston Churchill in Joe Wright’s DARKEST HOUR (2017), that has won him the most accolades. Written by Anthony McCarten, it covers the critical month in the early days of Churchill’s premiership and the 1940 war cabinet crisis with his refusal to seek a peace treaty with Nazi Germany amid their advance into Western Europe.
Gary’s memorable and mesmerizing performance won the Oscar, the BAFTA, a Golden Globe and the SAG award plus numerous critics gongs including the Critic’s Choice Award. Last years BFI London Film Festival celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Gary’s singular directoral masterpiece, NIL BY MOUTH with a screening of a 4K remastered print. It was followed by a Gary Oldman Season with the man himself taking part in an In Conversation at BFI Southbank on 20 October, when I was fortunate to meet him and get my drawing signed.