Gary Oldman Talks THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, His Paralyzing Fear Of TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, CALL OF DUTY, and a Lot More
Gary Oldman wrapped up his 3-day, 7-film retrospective at New York’s Landmark Sunshine Cinema with a fun, extended Q&A after Wednesday night’s screening of his Oscar-nominated performance in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
The first time Academy Award nominee fielded questions from a theater filled with hundreds of his fans with nearly an hour. Oldman also hung around for autographs, pictures and additional questions. Hit the jump for stories from the set of The Dark Knight Rises, his paralyzing doubt on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and what he thought while watching Heath Ledger as The Joker.
The film is the latest adaptation of John Le Carre’s novel. Sir Alec Guinness (Star Wars, Lawrence Of Arabia) preceded Oldman in the role of spy George Smiley, to huge success in a 1979 miniseries based on the book and a follow-up miniseries Smiley’s People in 1982. The new version features several generations of elite UK actors, including John Hurt, Oldman, Ciaran Hinds, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy. The plot is a jigsaw puzzle of espionage, murder, and double agents. Any real explanation would involve far too many spoilers that would lead to a rather angry comments section below.
So, before you see the film, enjoy the highlights from Wednesday night’s event:
-Oldman told the crowd his Tinker Tailor character, George Smiley, is dangerous because he fades into the background easily and that director Tomas Alfredson told him “You’ve sort of got to play boring. You can’t BE boring.” He compared Smiley to a “leopard in the jungle” that you don’t see coming.
-Also for the first time in his career, Oldman “dithered” for about a month, until he was “pressured” into doing the film that he is now grateful to have made. His doubt was so pronounced that one week into the shoot, as the director, Tomas Alfredson, filmed the opening sequence in Budapest (that did not require the star onset), Oldman called to say, “Maybe I’m not your man.” He admitted that he was sure the producers would not have let him quit.
-Having lived in America for two decades, Oldman’s British accent had changed over time and was compromised by too much time away from England. “I’ll pronounce certain words (with an American accent) and I won’t hear them.” It presented a big issue when playing the Brit, Smiley. “Believe it or not, I (went) to a Jewish New Yorker voice coach (Elizabeth Himelstein) to get my English accent back.” (He was in good hands with Himelstein, who’s worked with dozens of stars challenged with dialect, including Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer on True Blood, Andrew Garfield on The Amazing Spider-Man and Drew Barrymore on Grey Gardens).
-On the Oscar nomination: “I’m having a terrific time… I think you can either be overwhelmed, stressed, cynical about the whole thing or you embrace it and enjoy it … I’ve been in the front cabin. I’ve always wondered what was beyond that curtain (in first class).”
– Of the characters he’s played: “They’re all outsiders, in one way or another … you don’t get offered every script.” He said after the two films he did with Luc Besson, Leon: The Professional and The Fifth Element, he was typecast in villainous roles for years.
– On Dracula: He says, “I wanted to play that role just to say” the line, “I’ve crossed oceans of time to find you.” Interestingly, Oldman delivers the line off-camera as the camera is on a tight shot of Winona Ryder‘s face.
-Oldman considered his 34 year-old Tinker Tailor and The Dark Knight Rises co-star Tom Hardy “sort of a contemporary” but “I’ve got 20 years on him, almost.” He’s reminded of his age “when Tom says ‘(I) used to watch you when I was a kid.'” Oldman admits he was the same way around John Hurt, who plays Oldman’s superior in the film. “I was like a fanboy.”
-Fatherhood: Referencing each of his three divorces as a “domestic accident… I’ve had a few,” Oldman was a single father with two kids. He says as film production shifted to Eastern Europe, he turned down several films so he could stay closer to home. Oldman expressed gratitude for “the blessing” of his role as Sirius Black in the Harry Potter film series “falling from the sky,” because it allowed him the freedom to raise his children, without being away too much. As his children have gotten older and Oldman is settled into a happy marriage, he says he may begin to pursue some of those roles again.
-Oldman joked that the moment he realized he was going to be an actor was “when I realized I wasn’t going to be a musician.” He explained that it was actually an early experience seeing Malcolm McDowell onscreen with a mix of menace, vulnerability and unpredictability that drew him to acting.
-Oldman revealed the origin of his character, Drexl Spivey, in True Romance. He was in a trailer on the set of Romeo is Bleeding during a night shoot in Brooklyn, when he heard a group of guys walk by and one had a voice that struck him. He recalls, “I ran out and I said to this kid… Can I borrow you?” The two reviewed the True Romance script in the trailer with Oldman asking him “How would you say this?” and “What words here don’t work?” The encounter led to the formation of Spivey.
-After praising director Mike Leigh’s unconventional style of direction on their work together in the 1984 film Meantime, Oldman deadpanned “I would never work with Mike Leigh again. I’m too famous. I’m not too expensive. Too famous.”
-He called Sid & Nancy, “a thorn in my side.” Oldman didn’t entirely back away from his past criticism of the film, saying, “It IS an old work. It’s cold coffee for me… I’m hyper-critical of what I do and so I watch (it) and go, ‘Oh, get off Gary.'”
-Saying that age may prevent him from the type of outsized roles he played earlier in his career, he continued, “I look at Heath Ledger. You know, that extraordinary performance as the Joker, and I would think, rather you than me, kid. You know, I look at Tom Hardy and those actors (in) Warrior. What a f—ing day that must have been… You gotta do THAT. It’s really asking something of someone and so (Tinker Tailor) was such a relief to keep it in.”