Behind-The-Scenes Stories About Working With Gary Oldman

Actor Gary Oldman seems to be in everything and also happens to be really good in everything. Whether he's chewing scenery in The Fifth Element or making an award-winning turn as Winston Churchill, he embodies his role so completely, you forget you're watching a film. Yet stories about Gary Oldman behind the scenes aren't full of the method actor bluster you hear about from time to time; instead, they're stories of kindness and friendship.

Oldman's co-stars don't have any problem telling behind-the-scenes stories about the actor or discussing how he's helped them with their careers long after they leave the set. It's rare that someone this hardworking and prolific has time for friends, but apparently, he's just a really cool guy.

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and Part 2, the final films in the Harry Potter franchise, are intense even by adult drama standards, and Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe worried about being able to find the emotional strength to get through his pre-battle conversation scene with Sirius Black.

    Thankfully, according to Radcliffe, Gary Oldman had a way of putting him at ease on set. He told MTV:

    I don't know whether it is from some kind of quite pure and childish desire to want to impress him or out of the fact that he just gets something out of me - having him around for some reason on the fifth film was such an amazing thing for me as an actor, and hopefully he'll have that effect again.

  • As Mason Verger in Hannibal, Oldman plays a man so hideously deformed that he's hard to physically look at while he's on screen. To play such a rough-looking character, Oldman had to go through hours of makeup, which can be tormenting for some actors.

    Makeup artist Greg Cannom told The Guardian that it was a treat to work with Oldman, and the actor had a hand in making the makeup look even more disgusting than planned:

    I knew we could get away with more with him than some other actor. The first thing he said was, "Can we stretch my eye open?" It's really disgusting. I've been showing people pictures [of Oldman as Verger], and they all just say, "Oh my God," and walk away, which makes me very happy.

  • Christian Bale Continued To Lean On Oldman For Advice After Finishing The 'Dark Knight' Trilogy
    Photo: Batman Begins / Warner Bros. Pictures

    Christian Bale is willing to dramatically change his appearance to get into character, so when the actor was preparing to play Dick Cheney in Vice, he decided to gain some weight. Bale called up his former Batman costar Oldman to see how he put on pounds to play Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

    It turns out that Oldman just used prosthetics. Bale told Sam Rockwell:

    I talked to Gary about all of that. We had very different approaches to it. I had said, "I don’t know how to do this except I’ve got to gain the weight myself." I was in the middle of doing that. I was a large toddler. I called up Gary and I said, "How much weight did you gain for the role?" And he said, "I didn’t gain anything." I went, "What?" I was already well down the track. I felt like such an idiot. I didn’t understand that [prosthetics and makeup] had come such a long way.

  • Colin Firth Thought Seeing Oldman Work Was 'Like Watching Close-Up Magic'
    Photo: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy / StudioCanal

    While presenting Oldman with the Empire Icon Award at the Jameson Empire Awards in 2011, Colin Firth explained that he's been a fan of Oldman for decades, and watching him was a bit like seeing someone trick you over and over again.

    Similar to a lot of actors who speak highly of Oldman, Firth said you simply forget to act when you're working with him:

    He is, as far as I'm concerned, a candidate for the world's best living actor. I've marveled at the intensity, the courage, and the intelligence he brings to every film he's in... I've just recently gotten to see it from a few inches away. Making Tinker Tailor [Soldier Spy] was like watching close-up magic.

  • Sid & Nancy chronicles the rise and demise of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, punk rock's most doomed couple. In the film, Oldman and co-star Chloe Webb seem like they're really in love and barely holding on to the rest of the world.

    Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Webb said that by the time they were finished making the film, she and Oldman had grown so close it felt like they were the only two people on the planet:

    It was an extremely depressing film to make and, depending on who you talk to, some people would say Gary and I were really pulled under during the shooting. The film was more or less shot in sequence and it was like being on a road trip that grew increasingly oppressive. Sid and Nancy’s world got smaller and smaller, they saw other people less and less, and grew increasingly obsessed with each other. Toward the end of the film, it’s as if Gary and I were alone together on a filthy mattress that was like a tiny life raft.

  • Francis Ford Coppola Thought Oldman Was Too Often Cast As A Villain
    Photo: Bram Stoker's Dracula / Columbia Pictures

    Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula received mixed reviews upon its release, but critics across the board loved Oldman's turn as the ageless vampire. He throws himself into the role, and, according to Coppola, was happy to hang out and share ideas with the crew.

    In 2015, Coppola told Entertainment Weekly:

    Gary Oldman was on set for three weeks before he started shooting his scenes. He spent all this time hanging out with the makeup guys and they kept inventing new personages - the bat creature and all these prosthetic suits and things. Those things that later tormented Gary, he had invented and added in those weeks of creative waiting... He loves cooking up ideas. He’s a very intelligent person. It’s a pity that he gets cast as villains too much of the time.