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Why no gold man for Oldman?
by Thom Williams

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The greatest actor that ever lived.

The greatest actor that ever lived.
For those that have their heads implanted in dark places akin to opinions, we are talking about Gary Oldman and the fact that to date he has never won or even been nominated for an Academy Award. Ironically, Mr. Oldman has won a BAFTA (British version of the Oscars) for his film Nil by Mouth for screenplay and best film as well as several other lesser awards for his directing. He also has a slew of nominations and a few lesser awards for his acting (won a Saturn for his work on Dracula). Recently Mr. Oldman, at one point on everyone's short list for villains, has stepped into smaller supporting roles (the good Batman films, the Harry Potter films) so he could break away from playing villains and continues to write and produce (started his production company SE8 Group to produce Nil By Mouth and later The Contender).

Gary Oldman first stepped into my consciousness without my even knowing it. The first film that I saw with Mr. Oldman was Dracula (1992), filled with at the time higher profile actors; I remember thinking the guy that played Dracula was really good. To this day I believe that Mr. Oldman upstaged everyone in that film; ultimately the film still holds up as a clinic on Oldman's wide range from quiet intensity to raving madness. At the time, I had no idea who he was; Gary Oldman was a name that meant nothing to me.

Several months later, I rented JFK (1991), Oliver Stone's fantastical fiction about the pursuit of JFK's alleged assassins. The movie made an impression; though a plate of pure fiction with truth used
Gary Oldman: Director?

Gary Oldman: Director?
only as seasoning, JFK is a great piece of filmmaking. With a mixture of historical stock footage ("Back and to the left. Back and to the left. Back and to the left") and purposely aged black and white shots, I was amazed by how much the actor that played Oswald looked and acted the part. As I was watching JFK for the umpteenth time I saw a name in the credits that would change my perception of what an actor could accomplish.

Gary Oldman. Where had I seen that name before? Dracula was in JFK? As who? Oswald? Are you kidding me? That's not the same guy. Only it was.

I became obsessed; if Gary Oldman was in it, I had to see it. This led to some delightful discoveries Sid and Nancy (1986), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1990) and some forays into the strange and disquieting Romeo is Bleeding (1993), True Romance (1993) but by the time The Professional (1994) hit the theaters I was officially a student of Gary Oldman's unparalleled acting craft. Afterwards came Oldman's portrayal of Beethoven in Immortal Beloved (1994) and the cold-hearted warden of Alcatraz in Murder in the First (1995). It was about this time that I started to wonder if Oldman had been recognized for his brilliance by the Academy and was puzzled to find that he had not. Now, twelve years later, I am starting to become appalled.

I mean no disrespect to others that have won Oscars during this time frame, but Gary Oldman is, to my way of thinking, the greatest actor of all time. Even if you disagree with that lofty designation and well you
I need to see him play one more great villain.

I need to see him play one more great villain.
may as there are many that I will acknowledge are worthy of the title you cannot deny that he has never given a bad performance, steals nearly every scene that he is in, has a range that far outstrips any of his competition, has excelled in all genres including comedy, horror, romance, and action, and has played a loving father figure (Sirius Black) with the same aplomb as he has a vicious murderer (Dracula among many others). His villains, for which he has made the majority of his hay, are marked by layers of complexity often lacking in others.

As anyone who knows me could tell you, I am a big fan of villains and, from the standpoint of story, I think that villains make it or break it. The greater the villain is, the greater the hero who defeats him. Oldman portrayed a series of villains that collectively could be the greatest rogues gallery ever assembled by a single person. I personally like them all, and I think that Oldman brought something intriguing to every one of them.

I start to wonder now if it will happen for him. His roles are smaller now and less dramatic. Still, when you consider some of his recent work, such as his portrayal of hard-line right wing career politician Shelly Runyon in The Contender or his prosthetic-enhanced dip as deformed pedophile, Mason Verger, in Hannibal you see the possibilities. Of course you can watch a single scene from almost any of his movies only to get reeled in by Oldman's charisma, skill, and emotional outpouring.

The pure volume of quality work by Oldman is enough to warrant more respect by the media and the Academy.

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Other Columns
Other columns by Thom Williams:

To Bear the Arms Right

Bang for the Buck

Be All You Can Be

Hell Lost

Mean Teen Wrecking Machine

All Columns

Thom Williams
Thom is both a maker and lover of films. He loves, and makes, films of all kinds. He is often as surprised by what he likes as by what he creates himself; Thom entered film school with a distaste for silent, black and white, and foreign films, yet left having made one of each. He likes what he likes and make no apologies for his opinions.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Thom Williams by clicking here.

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