Gary Oldman is a talented English movie star and character actor, renowned for his expressive acting style. One of the most celebrated thespians of his generation, with a diverse career encompassing theatre, film and television, he is known for his roles as Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy (1986), Drexl in True Romance (1993), George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), and Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour (2017), among many others. For much of his career, he was best-known for playing over-the-top antagonists, such as terrorist Egor Korshunov in the 1997 blockbuster Air Force One (1997), though he has reached a new audience with heroic roles in the Harry Potter and Dark Knight franchises. He is also a filmmaker, musician, and author.
Gary Leonard Oldman was born on March 21, 1958 in New Cross, London, England, to Kathleen (Cheriton), a homemaker, and Leonard Bertram Oldman, a welder. He won a scholarship to Britain’s Rose Bruford Drama College, in Sidcup, Kent, where he received a B.A. in theatre arts in 1979. He subsequently studied with the Greenwich Young People’s Theatre and went on to appear in a number of plays throughout the early ’80s, 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 for 1985. Before fame, he was employed as a worker in assembly lines, and as a porter in an operating theater. He also got jobs selling shoes and beheading pigs while supporting his early acting career.
His film debut was Remembrance (1982), though his most-memorable early role came when he played Sex Pistol Sid Vicious in the biopic Sid and Nancy (1986) picking up the Evening Standard Film Award as Best Newcomer. He then received a Best Actor nomination from BAFTA for his portrayal of ’60s playwright Joe Orton in Prick Up Your Ears (1987).
In the 1990s, Oldman brought to life a series of iconic real-world and fictional villains including Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK (1991), the title character in Dracula (1992), Drexl Spivey in True Romance (1993), Stansfield in Léon: The Professional (1994), Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg in The Fifth Element (1997) and Ivan Korshunov in Air Force One (1997). That decade also saw Oldman portraying Ludwig van Beethoven in biopic Immortal Beloved (1994).
Oldman played the coveted role of Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), giving him a key part in one of the highest-grossing franchises ever. He reprised that role in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007). Oldman also took on the iconic role of Detective James Gordon in writer-director Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (2005), a role he played again in The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Prominent film critic Mark Kermode, in reviewing The Dark Knight, wrote, “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.”
Oldman co-starred with Jim Carrey in the 2009 version of A Christmas Carol in which Oldman played three roles. He had a starring role in David Goyer’s supernatural thriller The Unborn, released in 2009. In 2010, Oldman co-starred with Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli. He also played a lead role in Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood. Oldman voiced the role of villain Lord Shen and was nominated for an Annie Award for his performance in Kung Fu Panda 2.
In 2011, Oldman portrayed master spy George Smiley in the adaptation of John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), and the role scored Oldman his first Academy Award nomination. In 2014, he played one of the lead humans in the science fiction action film Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014). Also in 2014, Oldman starred alongside Joel Kinnaman, Abbie Cornish, Michael Keaton, and Samuel L. Jackson in the remake of RoboCop (2014), 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.
Aside from acting, Oldman tried his hand at writing and directing for Nil by Mouth (1997). The movie opened the Cannes Film Festival in 1997, and won Kathy Burke a Best Actress prize at the festival.
Oldman has three children, Alfie, with first wife, actress Lesley Manville, and Gulliver and Charlie with his third wife, Donya Fiorentino. In 2017, he married writer and art curator Gisele Schmidt.
In 2018 he won an Oscar for best actor for his work on Darkest Hour (2017).
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