5 Quotes from Film Independent's Conversation with Gary Oldman

Movie Gary Oldman by Ben Pearson


Friday night, Film Independent hosted A Conversation with Gary Oldman at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Oldman's 1990 crime noir State of Grace was shown on the big screen, curator Elvis Mitchell interviewed the actor, and the night concluded with a screening of the political thriller The Contender from ten years later.

Oldman spoke for nearly an hour on everything from the ever-changing physicality in his roles, to actually running through real fire with Sean Penn in State of Grace, to Malcolm McDowell influencing his decision to become an actor. It was a great opportunity to hear a man with one of the most varied careers in modern Hollywood history talk about his craft, his experiences directing his 1997 film Nil By Mouth, and much more.

They didn't allow photos or recording of the event, but I managed to snag a few choice quotes from Oldman during his discussion. I'm sure Film Independent will put (at least some) video from the event up on their website, so check out FilmIndependent.org for more information. Also, if you're in the Los Angeles area, they host all kinds of great events on a monthly basis, so bookmark their site in your browser.

On losing himself in roles:

It's all about giving the illusion of becoming someone else. If I'm playing a senator, or I'm playing [George] Smiley [in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy], he's not going to sound like Gary and he's not going to move like Gary. So I've spent my entire career trying to get away from Gary, and the sort of demons in my head, you know. That all comes from insecurity and doubt and all sorts of stuff. The happiest I've ever been was in Hannibal, because I completely disappeared and I achieved my goal. I thought, “I can't even recognize my ears.”

On originally passing on Sid and Nancy:

I thought [Sid and Nancy] was banal. I thought it was...”who cares about Sid and Nancy?” I'm not saying now, but at the time. I was a soul man. I was a James Brown guy. I never listened to punk and was not even remotely interested in it. I was working in the theater doing Shakespeare and stuff at the time, and I read this script. And in my arrogance, I thought, “who cares about this?”

On how he joined True Romance:

I met Tony Scott, and he said to me, “I can't tell you the plot, I'm not going to tell you the story.” He said, “I'm no good at that. [Drexl Spivey] is a white guy who thinks he's an African-American and he's a pimp.” I said, “I'll do it.” Unread!

On the challenges of acting in "big" scenes:

Roles that you play, you would come to work and it's like standing at the foot of the mountain and looking at the summit. And you think, “gee, I've got to get there today.” Will I have the reserve, will I have the resource? I'm going to go to a place, and will the well be dry or will it work?

On the filmmaking industry:

You get typecast, and people see you do one thing. First of all, you're at the mercy of what people are writing and what they're making. You're at the mercy of the industry and above and beyond that, you're then at the mercy of the imaginations of the people who are casting. They see you do one thing, and then they keep wanting you to do the thing. You do a comedy, and they see the comedy and go, “oh my God, he's funny! We've gotta get a comedy for Gary Oldman.” I always say to people, “watch Dracula. You know I can do comedy!”

Thanks to Film Independent for hosting, and be sure to check their website for more content from the conversation coming soon.

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