Wait, That's Gary Oldman?


I think the first movie I saw Gary Oldman in was Batman Begins. Not long after, I was a teenager and dodged my parents’ prohibition on the Harry Potter franchise (they were right, eventually, but for very different reasons of course) I saw him as Sirius Black and had no idea that it was the same guy. And when someone got me to watch this weird nineties sci-fi movie about elements and love or something, I again didn’t recognize him as the antagonist until way later. I’m currently into the second season of Slow Horses, and it’s more of the same – wait, that’s Gary Oldman? He’s amazing!

There are actors who are good, but you can never forget who you’re watching. I’m not talking about the folks who sort of always play the same types of characters due to typecasting or whatever, or actors in comedies or action movies where there’s less breadth in characterization. It’s more that for most actors, their star power overshadows their role.

Like, say, Jeff Goldbloom. I love me some Jeff Goldbloom, and he is a suave eccentric gentleman, but it’s always Jeff Goldbloom up there. Tom Hanks is always Tom Hanks, and a lot of his movies would have done very poorly without his genuine likability. Al Pacino’s great but he’s always Al Pacino. Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter, and Angelina Jolie prove it’s not just an issue with guys. John Lithgow. David Tennant and Matt Smith, as heretical as it is for a nerd to criticize a Doctor. They’re fine, or great, or astounding actors. But you never forget who you’re watching. They don’t disappear.

There’s the method actor type, the canonical example of which is Daniel Day-Lewis. A guy who supposedly goes for it so hard it’s annoying to those on set, and does two movies a decade but they’re Very Important Movies that film students will study and I will not find very fun to watch. Marlon Brando method acted too, and was obviously amazing. But he shared the same problem as Day-Lewis: even though they lived as their characters, and produced amazing performances, I can’t avoid seeing the actors first and the characters second. They lived their roles, but didn’t disappear into them.

I think Gary Oldman is the greatest actor working today. He inhabits his roles to the point where you look past the actor and just see the character. As if you’re not watching TV or a movie, and you’re reading a book instead. There are others – Karl Urban has made me do similar double-takes. But nobody does it like Gary Oldman.