Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Gary Oldman – Movies Spotlight – January 2010

January’s Movies Spotlight is on Gary Oldman, who appears in the new Hughes Bros.’ post-apocalyptic action film The Book of Eli. Oldman much like another British performer, Peter Sellers, is a character actor able to play any role, and is no doubt one of the best, but he is best known for playing memorable villains.

Early Career:

Oldman began his career in the theatre, winning a number of awards. His film break came as Sid Vicious in Alex Cox’s Sid and Nancy. Oldman’s incredible talent for completely immersing himself into his character won him rave reviews and earned him a role in Stephen Frears’ Prick Up Your Ears, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead and State of Grace. These roles greatly increased his profile and paved the way for his career in Hollywood. Oldman decided to move to LA fulltime and make a career as a film actor.

Hollywood Breakthrough:

JFK was Oldman’s first major Hollywood film and highlighted the beginning of his rise to fame in the 1990s. Oldman took on the difficult role of Lee Harvey Oswald. As his role in Oliver Stone’s film was his most momentous, in terms of its mainstream exposure, he was able to land the lead role in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, which was a global success and the highest grossing of all films based on Bram Stoker’s novel. Oldman was awarded best male performance for his role by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films in 1992. He also took another leading role in Immortal Beloved as Ludwig van Beethoven, and while the film itself is mediocre, Oldman is mesmerizing in his commitment. On a more personal note for Oldman, he was able to use his success to make his own personal project – writing, directing and producing Nil by Mouth, which won him a BAFTA award for best screenplay and British film in 1998. In 2001, Oldman made a hilarious cameo on Friends (The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding, Parts 1 & 2) for which he was nominated for an Emmy (he only agreed to be in the series after Matt LeBlanc convinced him, who he met on Lost in Space, at least something good came form that project).

Classic Villains:

With two major Hollywood successes under his belt, Oldman was able to parlay his niche as a villain into many noteworthy villainous roles. In the Quentin Tarantino scripted True Romance, Oldman plays a murderous white Rasta drug dealer (“He must have thought it was white boy day. It ain’t white boy day, is it?). While his role is not very large in terms of screen time, it is a highlight of the film (which seems to be the case with many of his roles). He next shows up and Stansfield, a psychotic corrupt New York city cop in Luc Besson’s Leon (in America it is known as The Professional). Again, Oldman is not the star, nor does he have lots of screen time, but he certainly steals the show. With The Fifth Element, Oldman again takes on the role of the villain in a Luc Besson film. This time he plays Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, a half human, seemingly half mechanical captain of industry, so committed to power that he is polluted by evil and works as an agent of the big bad. Oldman’s character is completely over the top, and yet still thoroughly believable and organic; it is quite a feat. And yes, Oldman again steals the picture. Next, Oldman, as a Russian patriot hijacker, battles Harrison Ford in Air Force One. Despite the cheesiness of the film, his commitment to his character, to the realism and motivations, is astonishing. Finally, to being the 2000s, Oldman makes his last two appearances as “classic” villains (at least hopefully until his role in The Book of Eli), first as Shelly Runyon the major opposition to Joan Allen becoming the first female Vice President in The Contender. As usual, and there are many fine performances in the film, Oldman soars above the rest and is brilliant. He also appeared in 2001’s Hannibal (not a very good film) and made his character so loathsome and vile that Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter almost seems like a good guy in their interaction.  Oldman was in talks to voice General Grievous is Star Wars: Episode III –Revenge of the Sith. However, he pulled out of the project out of respect for the Screen Actors Guild (the film being made outside the guild).

A Hero is Born:

The acting chameleon that Oldman is, he switched sides, so to speak, accepting good guy roles in the Harry Potter franchise as Sirius Black and the new Batman franchise as James Gordon. Oldman was such a presence on set during the filming of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that Daniel Radcliffe took him on as a friend and mentor. In these two series Oldman showed that he was capable of playing any role hero or villain.

Voice Acting:

In recent years, Oldman has taken on more and more voice acting roles in films and video games, most notably Ignitus in The Legend of Spyro series and as Sgt. Reznov in Call of Duty: World at War. Film wise, he has lent his voice to the animated films Planet 51 and Robert Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol, in which he voiced three roles.

Future Projects:

Oldman has two slated project upcoming and two in development. First, he can be seen in this month’s The Book of Eli playing opposite Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis as the big bad trying to get his hands on the sacred book. Their has been a lot of hype over his role in the film – hopefully it will be warranted, as it has been almost a decade since he last gave the film world a great memorable villain. Next up, he returns to the hero side of things in Easter Sixteen, in 2011, about the Easter Rising Irish revolution of 1916 staring along with Guy Pierce. In development Oldman has the follow up to The Dark Knight (assuming Christopher Nolan and/or Warner Bros. does make a third film, and I really hope that Nolan does) and Ness (a film that I know nothing about and can only speculate is about the Loch Ness Monster, all I do know is it is scheduled for 2012).

Gary Oldman Box Set (Selected Filmography/Career Highlights)

1.)                Sid and Nancy (1986) [DVD] – Lead
2.)                JFK (1991) [Blu-ray/DVD] – Supporting*
3.)                Dracula (1992) [Blu-ray/DVD] – Lead
4.)                True Romance (1993) [Blu-ray/DVD] – Supporting
5.)                Leon (1994) [Blu-ray/DVD] – Supporting
6.)                The Fifth Element (1997) [Blu-ray/DVD] – Supporting*
7.)                Nil by Mouth (1997) [DVD] – Writer/Director
8.)                The Contender (2000) [DVD] – Supporting
9.)                Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) [Blu-ray/DVD] – Supporting*
10.)            Batman Begins (2005) [Blu-ray/DVD] – Supporting*
11.)            Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) [Blu-ray/DVD] – Supporting*
12.)            The Dark Knight (2008) [Blu-ray/DVD] – Supporting*

*Editor’s Picks

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