Friday, September 08, 2006

dbackdad's favorite actors: part one -- gary oldman

British actor Gary Oldman is one of my favorite actors. He does not take the normal roles and largely steers clear of the typical Hollywood fare.

My first exposure to Gary Oldman was in college in a movie that went beyond entertainment for my group of friends. The movie was Sid and Nancy, about the life of bassist Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols.

His performance rises to that honorable level of biopic where the actor spurns mere imitation and rather inhabits the role. Much like Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line and Jamie Foxx in Ray. You buy their performance so much that you almost forget it is a movie. It's more like a documentary.

I am not exaggerating to say that we watched the movie 50 times. I'm pretty sure that I could recite all the dialog by memory. Probably an unhealthy adulation of this movie, but it was fun. And the scars from carving words on our arms have been healed for a long time.

The next film I saw with him was Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead. This is a very funny film set on the periphery of a Shakespeare story, much like another by the same author (Tom Stoppard), Shakespeare in Love. Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are two undeveloped characters from Hamlet that are given a life of their own in this movie. Another great British actor, Tim Roth, co-stars.

While a relatively small role (time-wise), his performance is obviously pivotal to the story in the next movie, JFK, in which he plays Lee Harvey Oswald. Oldman does a very believable American accent and bears a strong resemblance to Oswald.

Creepy ... that would describe Oldman's portrayal of Dracula in Bram Stoker's Dracula. This is a great cast including Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder and Richard Grant. I can still hear him in his Romanian accent say, "I've crossed oceans of time to find you." Gives me chills.

Another small but memorable role was in True Romance. He plays a dreadlocked pimp who thinks he's black. If you did not know it was Oldman, it would be hard to believe that it was him. This is a funny, very underrated film that has quite a few small cameos by big actors including Brad Pitt as a hilarious pot-smoker and Val Kilmer as Elvis in an inner-dialog.

Oldman has had too many great performances that I can't mention them all here in depth. But I'd recommend him in The Professional as a corrupt policeman (including a great debut performance by Natalie Portman), in the very stylish Fifth Element as a wacked-out villain, and as Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

A big nod to Sadie and her series of favorite actors. They were well-done and my inspiration:

Kiefer Sutherland
Cate Blanchett
Edward Norton
Jennifer Connelly


Laura said...

He is a chameleon. Sometimes he's in something and you don't know it's even him. Love Gary Oldman! Even though small, one of his best roles was in True Romance. That whole scene is just so well shot.

Sadie Lou said...

Thanks for the Big Props. Gary Oldman is awesome. I fell in love with him In Dracula. Like you said, his performance gave me chills. He was *ahem* extremely sexy in that role as well which added a new dimension to the character. Rosencranz and Gildenstern are Dead is one of those lessor known movies that are wildly underrated.
Great addition to my favorites, I'm doing one right now.

Crystal said...

Ah YES Gary Oldman I LOVE him too! He is really an awesome actor and I too also loved him in Dracula. I also liked him in The Scarlet letter. He's so good in everything though. If I did a top ten actor list I would put him in it for sure!

dbackdad said...

I had completely forgotten about the Scarlet Letter. The movie had its flaws ... but it certainly wasn't because of Oldman. Oldman is great in that he never seems to be mailing it in. He truly seems to take every role very seriously. Even in something like Lost in Space, which is borderline camp.

wunelle said...

A nice little survey--from early in your blogging career, methinks!

I've seen about half of these. I always thought he tends to go a bit over-the-top. Though I loved Leon the Professional, I bought Oldman's character only about 1/2 way. But the wacko works nicely in The Fifth Element (which is all Milla Jovovich, All The Time).

Your affection for him inclines me to look further into his work.

dbackdad said...

Indeed. I think I had only been blogging about a year or so at this point.

Another performance of his I liked that I didn't mention here (because I hadn't seen it yet) was in The Contender. This is a very underrated political drama from a few years back that I later reviewed somewhere on my blog.