Gary Oldman- Biography

Also Credited As:

Gary Leonard Oldman, Leonard Gary Oldman, Maurice Escargot

About Gary Oldman

From the start of his career, actor Gary Oldman displayed an edgy intensity that brought verve to his portrayals of ambiguous and obsessive personalities. Equally at home as either heroes or villains, Oldman gained a well-earned reputation as a brilliant chameleon who first staked his claim playing wayward Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious in "Sid and Nancy" (1986). Following acclaimed turns as playwright Joe Orton in "Prick Up Your Ears" (1987) and a slick attorney in "Criminal Law" (1989), the actor was eerily indistinguishable as Lee Harvey Oswald in Oliver Stone's conspiracy-driven "JFK" (1991). Oldman added to his vast array of characters by playing the famous Count in "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992), a dreadlocked drug dealer in "True Romance" (1993), Ludwig von Beethoven in "Immortal Beloved" (1994) and a terrorist leader in "Air Force One" (1997). In the new millennium, he was conservative senator who vigorously challenged the appointment of the first woman to the vice presidency in "The Contender" (2000) and was virtually unrecognizable as the mangled Mason Verger in "Hannibal" (2001). While sometimes associated with small films, Oldman excelled in blockbusters, playing the mysterious Sirius Black in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (2004) and several sequels, and Lieutenant Gordon in Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" (2005) and "The Dark Knight" (2008). Though virtually unrecognized by awards, Oldman nonetheless remained an actor held in high esteem among critics, audiences and fellow actors, thanks to scores of acclaimed roles under his belt.

The son of a welder and a housewife, Leonard Gary Oldman was born on Mar. 21, 1958 in New Cross, London, England. An academically indifferent student, Oldman dropped out of school at 16 and found a job as a store clerk. He soon discovered his m?tier on stage, becoming active in the Young People's Theater in Greenwich, England. He later won a scholarship to attend the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama in Kent. Graduating in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in theater arts, Oldman quickly found regular gigs on stage. Oldman's hard work and trademark intensity made him a favorite in Glasgow in the mid 1980s, culminating in the lead role in Edward Bond's socially-conscious drama, "The Pope's Wedding." A huge hit with critics, the play earned Oldman's two of the British stage's top honors: the Time Out's Fringe Award for Best Newcomer of 1985-86 and the British Theatre Association's Drama Magazine Award as Best Actor of 1985.

Segueing into television in the mid-to-late 1980s, Oldman brought some of his famous intensity to his small screen roles. An early example was evidenced in one of Oldman's first screen performances as an explosive skinhead in director Mike Leigh's telefilm "Meantime" (BBC, 1983). Oldman later consolidated his wild man persona with two very different, yet similarly doomed iconoclastic figures from English culture: punk rock legend Sid Vicious in the poignant and uncompromising cult classic "Sid and Nancy" (1986), and later the irreverent gay playwright Joe Orton in the finely tuned biopic "Prick up Your Ears" (1987). Though excellent in both roles, Oldman was more remembered for his turn as Vicious, portraying the heroin-addicted bassist in frighteningly accurate fashion. Meanwhile, Oldman continued his exploration of human darkness, traveling to North Carolina to play the mysterious long-lost son of Theresa Russell in Nicolas Roeg's bizarre psychological drama "Track 29" (1987).

In the United States, Oldman displayed his remarkable talent for mimicking American accents and myriad regional dialects. The fruits of his labor resulted in Oldman giving convincing performances as a big-city attorney in "Criminal Law" (1988), a down-home Southern fried mental institution inmate in "Chattahoochee" (1990) and an Irish-American gangster in "State of Grace" (1990). But it was his dead-on impersonation of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in Oliver Stone's "JFK" (1991) that truly cemented his status as a human chameleon; few were able to distinguish the actor's characterization from the stock footage of the real Oswald. Based on the strength of his performance in "JFK," director Francis Ford Coppola offered him the lead in "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992). As the titular bloodsucker, Oldman proved equally compelling in various incarnations - as a wizened old man, a dapper aristocrat and a snarling monster - standing out amid the lavish makeup and visually sumptuous costumes and sets. Oldman was predictably electrifying in his next outing, playing ruthless wannabe Rastafarian pimp Drexl Spivy in the Quentin Tarantino-scripted "True Romance" (1993). Though Oldman was onscreen for only a few minutes, his dominating performance echoed throughout the rest of the movie.

Like many actors, Oldman had his share of demons to battle - in his case, alcohol. Oldman's offscreen binges led to occasional brushes with the law, including a 1991 arrest for driving under the influence. After he completed "The Scarlet Letter" (1995), Oldman checked into rehab and underwent treatment. Once sober, he returned to Hollywood to reactivate his career and raise money for "Nil By Mouth" (1997), a dream project he wanted to write and direct. Meanwhile, Oldman was seen in varying degrees of success, making villainous turns in "The Fifth Element" (1997), "Air Force One" (1997) and "Lost in Space" (1998). Finally, he managed to raise enough money - thanks to an assist from "Fifth Element" director Luc Besson - to make "Nil By Mouth," a blistering semi-autobiographical examination of a working-class family torn apart by alcoholism. From its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, where it picked up the Best Actress trophy for Kathy Burke (as the abused wife), to its 1998 theatrical release, the film earned substantial critical praise for its unflinching writing, assured direction and stunning performances.

Oldman next lent his vocal talents to the animated feature "The Quest for Camelot" (1998), then made a rare excursion into television to play Pontius Pilate in the CBS miniseries "Jesus" (1999-2000). Later in 2000, he was back on the big screen as a conservative U.S. senator attempting to block the appointment of a female colleague as the first woman vice president in "The Contender," written and directed by Rod Lurie. The timely material - which included a sex scandal and pointed references to embattled U.S. president Bill Clinton - marked the actor's first time as an executive producer. Rumors of a tension-filled the set were rampant prior to the film's release and disputes between Oldman and Lurie soon became fodder for public consumption. Not one to suffer fools, Oldman expressed his unhappiness with his character's depiction as the villain. While his arguments with Lurie and the film's distributor DreamWorks played out in the press, "The Contender" failed to make its mark with audiences.

Oldman found himself in another situation with his prominent follow-up role as the exorbitantly wealthy, but hideously disfigured Mason Verger in "Hannibal" (2001). Some reported that the actor originally wanted screen credit. But when he was relegated to third billing, he allegedly opted to take no credit at all. Other articles claimed that he did not want to be identified for the sake of surprise, since the character required prosthetics that would render whoever played the role unrecognizable. Producer Dino De Laurentiis clearly stated at a press conference, however, that Oldman was indeed playing the role, pointing out that an actor of that stature deserved to be recognized for his contribution to the film. Although he spent much of his career playing psychotics and sadistic characters, Oldman underwent a career makeover in the mid-2000s similar to that of Sir Ian McKellan. Eschewing his more typical adult-oriented fair, Oldman began accepting a string of roles that played to younger audiences.

Among his likeable, more sympathetic characters was Sirius Black, a recurring character in the "Harry Potter" series. First introduced in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" (2004), Oldman reprised his role for its two subsequent sequels, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (2005) and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (2007). Around the same period, Oldman delighted comic book fan boys around the world by taking the role of Gotham City Police Lieutenant (and later Commissioner) Jim Gordon in "Batman Begins" (2005), a reboot of the lucrative Batman film franchise. Oldman later reprised the role in "The Dark Knight" (2008). He next portrayed several characters in Disney's 3-D animated take on the Charles Dickens classic, "A Christmas Carol" (2009), lending both voice and image to Jacob Marley, former business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey), Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim. Goldman also voiced General Grawl in "Planet 51" (2009), an animated spoof on alien culture and 1950s Americana.

The following year, Goldman embraced his villainous side as a post-apocalyptic powerbroker opposite Denzel Washington in "The Book of Eli" (2010) then voiced the foul peafowl Lord Shen in the hugely successful animated sequel "Kung Fu Panda 2" (2011). That same year, he played a vengeful werewolf slayer in the critically-panned fantasy-thriller "Red Riding Hood" (2011) and reprised the role of Sirius Black for the final chapter of the blockbuster franchise "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" (2011). Capping off an exceptionally busy season, Oldman admirably filled the shoes of the great Sir Alec Guinness when he took on the role of semi-retired Cold War-era spy George Smiley in the feature adaptation of John le Carr?'s "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (2011). While Guinness' lauded interpretation for the BBC in the late-1970s had set the bar impossibly high, Goldman's impressive run at the character was at the center of one of the U.K.'s highest grossing films of the year. Finally, after a long and versatile career filled with great performances, Oldman nabbed his first-ever Academy Award nomination with a Best Actor nod for "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."



Isabella Rossellini. Engaged to be married in July 1994; ended relationship in 1996


Alexandra Edenborough. Married Dec. 31, 2008 in Santa Barbara, CA


Donya Fiorentino. Formerly married to director David Fincher with whom she has a daughter; married Feb. 16, 1997; mother of Oldman s sons Gulliver Flynn and Charlie John; divorced on April 13, 2001; Fiorentino claimed in 2001 that Oldman had a drug habit and subjected her to domestic abuse, a claim which was investigated - Oldman was awarded legal custody of their children and Fiorentino was granted short court-monitored visits


Lesley Manville. Married in 1987; divorced in 1990


Uma Thurman. Met while she was visiting the set of his film State Of Grace (1990); married on Oct. 1, 1990; divorced on April 30, 1992



Len Oldman. An abusive alcoholic who left his family when Oldman was seven; died of alcoholism c. 1984


Kathleen Oldman. Irish


Laila Morse. Born Aug. 1, 1945; co-starred in Oldman s directorial debut Nil by Mouth (1997); played Mo Harris on the long-running BBC series EastEnders


Alfred Oldman. Born in 1988; mother, Lesley Manville


Charlie John Oldman. Born in 1999; mother, Donya Fiorentino


Gulliver Flynn Oldman. Born on Aug. 20, 1997; mother, Donya Fiorentino


Rose Bruford College
Greenwich Young People s Theatre

Career Milestones

Acted in productions at the Theatre Royal in York, England


Left school at age 16 and worked as a clerk in a sporting goods store


Joined Citizen s Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland; also toured Europe and South America with company


Film acting debut, Colin Gregg s Remembrance


Had a brief part as a skinhead in Mike Leigh s Meantime (BBC)


Came to prominence under the guidance of Max Stafford-Clark (artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre); made London stage debut in Edward Bond s The Pope s Wedding


First starring role in a feature, playing Sex Pistols member Sid Vicious in Alex Cox s Sid and Nancy


Offered a fine turn as playwright Joe Orton in the biopic Prick Up Your Ears


Re-teamed with director Colin Gregg on We Think the World of You ; played a young married man who was the object of a crush of an older gay man (Alan Bates)


U.S. film debut portraying a slick attorney matching wits with a psychopath (Kevin Bacon) in Criminal Law


Portrayed a Southern man erroneously incarcerated in a mental institution in Chattahoochee


Offered an eerie portrayal of the alleged presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the Oliver Stone drama JFK


With Tim Roth, played the title characters in the film version of Tom Stoppard s play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead


First U.S. TV appearance in the A&E rebroadcast of the British TV-movie Heading Home


Gave a memorable interpretation of the titular bloodsucker in Francis Ford Coppola s Bram Stoker s Dracula


Delivered a mesmerizing turn as a dreadlocked drug dealer in Tony Scott s True Romance, scripted by Quentin Tarantino


Cast as Ludwig von Beethoven in the biopic Immortal Beloved


Cast as a crooked cop in Romeo Is Bleeding


Portrayed a murderous DEA agent in L?on/The Professional ; first collaboration with director Luc Besson


Re-teamed with Kevin Bacon for Murder in the First ; played the sadistic prison warden opposite Bacon s portrayal of an Alcatraz inmate


Cast as art representative Albert Milo in Basquiat


Continued in the evil vein as the leader of a terrorist band that hijacks the presidential plane in Air Force One


Feature directorial debut, Nil by Mouth ; also scripted and served as one of the producers along with Luc Besson


Offered a scenery-chewing romp as the villain in Besson s The Fifth Element


Played Dr. Smith in the screen version of Lost in Space


Cast as a conservative U.S. Senator challenging the appointment of a woman to the office of Vice President in The Contender ; also executive produced


Made rare television appearance as Pontius Pilate in the CBS biblical miniseries Jesus


Received an Emmy nomination for two guest appearances on NBC s Friends appearing as Richard Crosby, a pedantic actor who insists that real actors spit on one another when they enunciate


Starred opposite Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal as Mason Verger, the only surviving victim of Hannibal Lecter


Landed a major role in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as Potter s godfather Sirius Black


Cast as Lieutenant Gordon, a detective on the Gotham police force in Christopher Nolan s commercially and critically acclaimed Batman Begins


Reprised role of Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, adapted from the fourth book in the series


Reprised role of Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, adapted from the fifth book in the series


Reprised role of Lieutenant Gordon in the second installment of the revived Batman series, The Dark Knight


Lent his voice to the animated sci-fi film Planet 51


Voiced several characters, including Bob Cratchit, in Robert Zemeckis animated adaptation of A Christmas Carol


Played a corrupted mayor alongside Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli, a post-apocalyptic drama directed by the Hughes brothers


Co-starred with Colin Firth and Tom Hardy in the thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy


Reprised role of Sirius Black for the seventh and final installment of the series directed by David Yates, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2


Voiced Lord Shen in the animated feature Kung Fu Panda 2