Gary Oldman Poster

Quotes (61)

  • I don't think Hollywood knows what to do with me. I would imagine that when it comes to romantic comedies, my name would be pretty low down on the list.
  • We're given a code to live our lives by. We don't always follow it but it's still there.
  • [on portraying famous people]: It's a double-edged sword because, in one sense, you have a lot of material to work with, but in a strange kind of way, that puts up a framework that you have to keep within. You can't play Beethoven with pink hair but, to an extent, because no-one has ever met him, who's going to tell me that's not Beethoven?
  • With Beethoven [Immortal Beloved (1994)] I said I wanted a role where I didn't have to do anything stupid with my hair. My agent said "Read it again!".
  • [on making Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)]: I've done so much R-rated work, it's nice to have a job you can show your kids.
  • I had this idea of myself as a shy, kind, sweet chap. I was working with Winona Ryder and she turned to me and said, "Fuck, man, you're really intense!" I was so shocked, I went, "What do you mean? I'm not intense, I'm sweet!" My passion and energy get mistaken for anger.
  • [on Dracula (1992)] I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's not Dracula crying, it's Gary Oldman, but using the technique of the character. The emotion is mine, because I don't know what it's like to be undead and live 300 years.
  • Any actor who tells you that they have become the people they play, unless they're clearly diagnosed as a schizophrenic, is bullshitting you.
  • I used to be under the impression that in some kind of wanky, bullshit way, acting was like therapy: you get in and grapple with and exorcise all those demons inside of you. I don't believe that anymore. It's like a snow shaker. You shake the thing up, but it can't escape the glass. It can't get out. And it will settle until the next time you shake it up.
  • [on the shooting for his writing/directing debut Nil by Mouth (1997)]: I set aside three weeks for rehearsals. Those long scenes are like a play. But I wanted things loosely structured, more like jazz. Though there was very little improv on screen, sometimes we'd improvise, rev up, to get the energy before shooting. One rule that I broke was that you need to leave a little air between people's lines, that you can't overlap dialogue because you'll clip words on a cut. But you can overlap dialogue, even though editors don't like it. Otherwise, it's your turn to talk, my turn. Another thing: I used only one camera! I'd say to the cameraman, "I need it from this angle!" From my brief association with Isabella Rossellini, I got a new appreciation of Pier Paolo Pasolini and how he was religious about where the camera should go, whether it was too high, too low. I would ask questions on the set, quietly: "For this emotion, is the camera angle too wide, is the camera too low?" I wanted night to look like night! I bullied the cameraman a bit until he got into the swing. You could pick up the light metre and say, seeing how little light, "You've got to be fucking joking!"
  • Change is vital to any actor. If you keep playing lead after lead, you're really gonna dry up. Because all those vehicles wean you away from the truths of human behaviour.
  • There's an uncanny thing that chemically happens to you when you're in the chronic stages of alcoholic drinking. I have been able, on occasions, to have two bottles of vodka and still be up talking to people. That got very frightening. By nature I'm an isolationalist, so my boozing was at home, thank you. I was not a goer-outer. I mean, I didn't drink for the taste and I didn't want to be social. Someone once described alcoholics as egomaniacs with low self-esteem. Perfect definition.
  • To be able to do this job in the first place you've got to have a bit of an ego.
  • I applaud anything that can take a kid away from a PlayStation or a Gameboy. That is a miracle in itself.
  • I suddenly got obsessive about boxing and Muhammad Ali around the time he was fighting Joe Frazier. I went off and did boxing. I looked incredibly good in the gym.
  • [on True Romance (1993)] I organized Drexl's dreadlocks under my own steam. Then I went to the dentist who made the teeth. Then I thought about the weird eye. I'm only in the film for about 10 minutes - I wanted to make my mark.
  • [on True Romance (1993)] I hadn't read the script, and knew nothing about it. Tony Scott and I had tea at the Four Seasons and he said, "Look, I can't really explain the plot. But Drexl's a pimp who's white but thinks he's black." That was all I needed to hear. I said, "Yes, I'll do it."
  • There are roles that you play. I've played roles that it happens easier than others, it doesn't feel like you're working, it's as easy as breathing. And there are other ones that you really have to work hard for. It's often because of the writing. [2008]
  • Being an actor is a good way to earn a living. And to meet fabulous people. It's great to live very comfortably. I've been lucky, I've had a lot of fun with great roles, but it is true that if I were extremely rich, I would stop and I would go to play football on a beach in the Caribbean with my children. [2004]
  • [SAG acceptance speech on behalf of Heath Ledger] Heath Ledger was an extraordinary young man with an extraordinary talent.
  • [on James Stewart] He's almost too tall to be a star in a strange kind of way. He's too skinny and he's got this really strange voice when he talked and you just think this shouldn't work. He's not Humphrey Bogart, he's not Edward G. Robinson, he's not James Cagney and yet somehow it's magic.
  • [on filming Murder in the First (1995) when the 1994 Northridge earthquake hit] I was thrown against the wall and I was actually under the door frame, which is where you are supposed to be, but the door frame was the set, and there I am, holding on to props. I'm holding on to cardboard, and I can still smell the glue that's drying.
  • If you see me in Air Force One (1997), then you see Nil by Mouth (1997), you get a pretty good idea of what I did with the cash. It does fit together, in a crazy way. There are two Garys that are operating. I'm out there looking for a good role, primarily. But I'm looking for a good price tag, so it would buy me freedom. But there's also the other Gary, who thinks he's wasting his time doing it. There are other things I should be doing. I shouldn't be struggling on a movie set trying to utter some unutterable piece of junk, when I could be playing Iago on the stage, or Hamlet. "Nil by Mouth" is representative of who I am as an artist and what I'm about. But when you play those great parts, and you say those great lines every night--you can't do Shakespeare eight shows a week for six months and not come out a better, more enriched person for it. You can't have understanding and poetry in your mouth and not have your life unfettered by it. I'm certainly going to get a lot more from it than saying, 'Mr. President, get your hands up!' [1998]
  • I loved America when I first came in '81. I moved to New York and I said, "I'm home. This is my town." I'm not one of those Brits that goes to the English pub and plays cricket under the Hollywood sign. I really immersed myself in the culture. And I work in the industry as an American. I have a fantastic ear, and I'm a great people watcher. [1998]
  • [on quitting drinking] There was a day--well, not a day; there was never just a day. There were three-day, four-day, one-week benders. You'd come out of a five-day run of mind-stoking consumption. Mind-stroking. And I would come out the end of it, and "Just this one time...." There were no excuses anymore. That was it. I just read this book, Drinking, A Love Story. There's not a sentence or a page I can't read without going, Yeah. Very simply, you have to live life on life's terms. There is no buffer anymore. You feel the feelings. You experience the experience. Sometimes that can be thrilling and wonderful. It's like the focus pullers--you finally see the image very sharp: "Ah, there it is." I used to--life was sort of a blur of massive color. But I'm still working on all of that, yeah. Like I said, there were just no more excuses. "Hey, the sun's shining! Let's have a martini! Hey, it's raining; let's have a bottle of whiskey. I'm happy; let's celebrate. I'm sad; let's drink." [1998]
  • [on his role in Criminal Law (1988)] I've got nothing in common with 'Ben Chase'. That's why it seemed like a good idea to take the part. It was my first opportunity to ever play a leading man, in the true sense. And, yeah, it was fun. I'm not going to pretend - I can't pretend - it's a work of art. [1990]
  • [on State of Grace (1990)] It's the best thing I've ever done. Ever. Ever. We could do 20 or 30 takes - do it until we got it right. I'm not saying you always need that for it all to gel and be brilliant, but it lets you forget about the finance and just fly. On something like Prick Up Your Ears (1987) you had to get it in one or two takes. Because those kind of movies - British movies - are made for very little money. [1990]
  • [on if he was bothered by not getting an Oscar nomination for The Contender (2000), which many thought he would] I cared, yes. An Oscar would have been nice - it would have got me closer to what I want to do, which is make more films. But I didn't care for very long. The nominations come and if you're not on the list you go, "Oh well," like I've done a lot of times before. [2001]
  • [on his gift with accents] I can do a rough approximation of virtually any accent. I've always done them; as a kid I used to do the Beatles as a party piece. When I was with the Royal Court Theatre we used to piss around and people would say, "I bet you can't do Zimbabwe," so I did it. The accent on The Contender (2000) - Illinois - was the hardest I ever had to do, because there's no melody to catch on to. Most accents have a music to them, but Illinois is a very flat, unimaginative thing. [2001]
  • [on quitting drinking] I did a lot of stupid things. When you're drunk, you think you can pull any bird in the room and they'll just love the idea of it. You also think you can say anything you like to anybody without them taking offense. Actually, you need the sauce to fill whatever hole that's there in yourself. And, believe it or not, I was always a bit shy and retiring really. Honest. But a lot of the time, I wasn't partying. I was drinking alone, which is worse, it's often solitary and desperate. I got to the point where I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I talked on the phone when it wasn't plugged in, and I was getting out of bed, crawling across the floor on my hands and knees, vomiting in the shower and blaming it on the shampoo. You name it, I've probably been there. And back again. [1997]
  • [on the paparazzi] I once had dinner with Brad Pitt at the Ivy in London and when we came out of the restaurant we were surrounded by hoards of photographers waiting for him not me. We had to drive off like the clappers with them chasing. And they were chasing us right through the red lights. It was like the Grand Prix going through the center of London. I couldn't believe it. [1997]
  • [on Nil by Mouth (1997)] To be very honest with you, these lucrative villains subsidize the more personal stuff. Air Force One (1997)'s not a movie I'd particularly want to go and see myself, it's just not my cup of tea. But I'm lucky that I have this lucrative second career. I'm getting older, I'm nearly 40 and I've got responsibilities and a family. I've got to put food on the table and pay the mortgage like everybody else. If I want to take time away from the marketplace as an actor, and take two years out of my life to go off and do something like this that I feel very passionate about, I have to go and do a movie like "Air Force One" that buys me freedom, as cynical as that sounds. [1997]
  • With Sid and Nancy (1986), I'd never really liked the script. It put me off cause I think it was a rather inarticulate, monosyllabic, banal kind of generation of people. I liked that particular idea [director] Alex Cox had developed, to do a love story about Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. But that was about all it had going for it. In terms of dialogue, it was quite terrible. And I think we did a good job of lifting some of that off the page and making it work. Acting is a passion, I'm obsessed. It drives my girlfriend mad cause I'm so self obsessed. I don't want any stone left unturned. I wanted to be Sid Vicious, I didn't want to play him. But there are two scenes I'm happy with a couple of scenes that maybe worked, I never enjoyed the film. [1990]
  • I made the decision not to always play the token Englishman. I think the real juicy roles in my generation are going to go to the American actors. [1990]
  • [on preparing for his role in State of Grace (1990)] The only research I did was drinking in Irish bars. [1990]
  • [on losing 45 pounds to play Sid Vicious] I was obsessed with being really, really, really, skinny. I thought, this is the visual image I want to present, I want this before I do anything else. [1987]
  • [on his character George Smiley from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)] George is a man of few words. He doesn't need the karate and the fast car and the gun. That's what makes George dangerous, is the fact that he does blend in and he disappears. He's the one to watch. He's the leopard camouflaged by the jungle, ready to pounce, so its nice to play someone like that. He operates from a very unseemly passive position.
  • Britain has always had spies and I think we've spied rather well. But we have a rather romantic view of it and [John le Carré] was the first to really show the reality. He told me that you would be given an assignment and go to Russia or to Czechoslovakia. You would be sent to watch someone. You would be in some miserable little room with a fake ID, and it would be very lonely and often very boring. He said that the terror of having your cover blown was exhausting: you were always waiting for the footsteps on the stairs. I guess that's why so many of them hit the bottle.
  • I didn't do drugs. It wasn't my thing. But the drink was terrible. Today when I look back, it's like I was another person. You could call it a coping mechanism, but that would be an excuse. I just drank too much.
  • [on Sid and Nancy (1986)] I was never really that interested in the punk movement. I was a blues guy: I liked Motown, James Brown. I read the script and thought it was a load of rubbish. But my agent said, "They're offering £35,000". I was getting £80 a week at the Royal Court at the time and I thought "I could do with a flat", it changed my life overnight.
  • [on receiving an Oscar nomination for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)] One of my career ambitions was fulfilled working with John Hurt. I loved his work long before I ever had the idea of being an actor, so I was nervous to meet him. I was like a fanboy, like that annoying character on 'Saturday Night Live'. I'm sitting there. 'Do you remember when you were in Midnight Express (1978)? Remember that scene you were in?' And he doesn't disappoint.
  • [on why George Smiley is the role of a lifetime] Well, first of all, it's a role that's all subtext, it's all inside, it's all going on but you're not necessarily expressing it. It's an iconic part, it's just a wonderful leading role and it's the sort of role that one, in a career, dreams about. It's a role that will come along once or twice. If you look at any of those great parts, for instance, you take someone like Daniel Day Lewis -- who I think, any way you slice it, is a genius actor. But look at Daniel Plainview (Lewis's character in There Will Be Blood (2007)). How often do you get a Daniel Plainview? [Robert] De Niro has some incredible roles, but one does think of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver (1976). It's hard to top them. So this kind of role -- and when I say this kind of role, I usually play extrovert characters -- this role is also very quiet, it's subdued, it requires a different kind of thing, it's a minimalist performance in that sense. It's a "please don't ask me to bounce off the walls anymore," you know what I mean? I've been waiting for it.
  • [on the two versions of 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy'] I got from the book that there's a little bit of a sadist in George Smiley and, if anything, (Alec) Guinness' was a little more huggable than mine.
  • Clint Eastwood gave me the best advice when I directed: "Get more sleep than your actors."
  • I don't remember doing Sid and Nancy (1986). I've wiped that from the hard drive.
  • [on Sin (2003)] Oh God, that's possibly the worst movie ever made. I even felt sorry for the trees they cut down for the script paper. I hadn't worked, I needed some money after the divorce [from Donya Fiorentino in 2001]. If you're a connoisseur of the terrible, you might get a twisted joy out of it.
  • I'm 56 now, and if you've managed to work as long as I have, you understand that these roles everyone fusses over are your career; they're not your life. It's just a job, really. You have financial responsibilities, you have children, you have all those things all the regular people have. Honestly, I forget I'm an actor until I'm reminded.
  • It was the most thrilling experience watching myself for the first time in JFK (1991), for example, because I couldn't believe I was in it - Oliver Stone at the very height of his powers, the sheer energy of it all, his commitment. When I saw the finished product I had to pinch myself. I thought, Wow, I'm in this movie. This is terrific.
  • I'm trying to give my sons an education about movies as well. You sit there and watch a comedy, let's say Meet the Fockers (2004), and it's Robert De Niro. You tell them this guy was at one time considered the greatest living actor. My boys look at me and say, "Really? This guy? He's a middle-aged dad." So what I've tried to do recently is introduce them one by one to the great movies of the 1970s - The Godfather (1972), Mean Streets (1973), The Deer Hunter (1978), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), the work of Lindsay Anderson, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Gene Hackman, Al Pacino, John Cazale, Peter Sellers. I try to give them a sense of what cinema used to be like rather than just these tent-pole movies that come and go on demand within five minutes. Don't get me wrong; there are directors I would still want to work with - Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson. I've never worked with Todd Haynes. I love John Sayles. I've never worked with Scorsese. A great director is a great artist.
  • [on Air Force One (1997)] That movie had some enjoyable moments. I remember the flight deck was on a sound stage and there was a big sign that said "No Drinking, No Smoking and No Eating On Set". At one point I looked over and [Harrison Ford] was in the doorway beneath the sign with a burrito, a cigar and a cup of coffee, which I thought was hilarious. I could never get the image out of my head. Nowadays we would take out an iPhone and post something like that on Instagram.
  • There's a lot of rubbish talked about acting, and it's often propagated by practitioners of it. You just want to say, "Oh, shut up."
  • I just think political correctness is crap. That's what I think about it. I think it's like, take a fucking joke. Get over it. I heard about a science teacher who was teaching that God made the earth and God made everything and that if you believe anything else you're stupid. A Buddhist kid in the class got very upset about this, so the parents went in and are suing the school! The school is changing its curriculum! I thought, All right, go to the school and complain about it and then that's the end of it. But they're going to sue! No one can take a joke anymore. [2014]
  • I know it certainly doesn't mean anything to win a Golden Globe, that's for sure. It's a meaningless event. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is kidding you that something's happening. They're fucking ridiculous. There's nothing going on at all. It's 90 nobodies having a wank. Everybody's getting drunk, and everybody's sucking up to everybody. Boycott the fucking thing. Just say we're not going to play this silly game with you anymore. The Oscars are different. But it's showbiz. It's all showbiz. That makes me sound like I've got sour grapes or something, doesn't it? [2014]
  • Now we're in this thing where everything has to be analyzed and dissected behind the scenes. I personally never want to know how the guy pulls the rabbit out of the hat. I don't need people prying. Maybe I'm shy. I don't know. You look at a movie like Hannibal (2001), and even with all that make-up, it was the most free I've ever been. I think it's because I was hidden. On the other side of that coin, the most stressful role, the most painful to do, was Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011). There's no mask. It's very exposed. You have to play boring in an interesting way. Not that Smiley is a boring character, but he's plain. Everything is dialed way down. You look at something like Léon (1994) or True Romance (1993) or even State of Grace (1990), and there's a kinetic sort of ferocity and a fire to those characters, where the volume is up. I understand why Alec Guinness had a kind of nervous breakdown leading up to the shooting of the original Tinker Tailor and wanted out. I had a breakdown too, briefly. At first I passed on the movie, but then I couldn't stop thinking about it. Once I signed on, I thought, Fuck me! I can't do this. I can't pull this off. Everybody's going to see what a fake I am. This is the moment I get found out. Who does he think he is? He thinks he's Alec Guinness. Now, normally I agonize after a movie, not before. I'll walk down a street and suddenly I'm thinking of a scene I did two years ago. I'll go, "That's how I should have done that line."
  • More and more, people in this culture are able to hide behind comedy and satire to say things we can't ordinarily say, because it's all too politically correct.
  • Sometimes, not getting a role ends up being the best thing. When a project turns out to be a disaster, you look at it and go, "Wow, I dodged a bullet there."
  • [on his character Jackie from State of Grace (1990)] He's a sweetheart. I miss him. I just think he needs a good cuddle. [laughs] He's a very tormented soul, Jackie. The reason I like characters like him is that they are bright, they're passionate, they have got the gift of gab. I mean, Jackie should go to drama school!
  • [on his character Jackie from State of Grace (1990)] I'll tell you what's also interesting. On the surface of it, my language in the film is full of four-letter words, but that's mixed with a kind of poetic elegance. It's terribly subtle, but the tune, the lilt, is still very Irish even though it's New York slang. It gives a kind of pelt bristling beneath the cloth.
  • [on 'The King of Cool' Steve McQueen] He just made acting look as effortless as breathing.
  • [on playing Winston Churchill] I think you get to a point where it has to become creation rather than impersonation, you try and get the spirit of the essence of the man. You've not only got this sort of beloved Briton, this iconic figure who is arguably the greatest Briton who ever lived, but you've also got the gallery of other people. So you've got this image of Churchill, but is that contaminated or in any way influenced by Albert Finney as Churchill or Robert Hardy as Churchill?
  • [on Harvey Weinstein] Fortunately he was never in my orbit. We met in '92. He gave me the creeps and I said 'Let's not work with that guy,' and I never did.