Gary Leonard Oldman (born 21 March 1958 in London, England) is an English actor who found fame in roles such as Sid Vicious in the 1986 biopic Sid & Nancy and the title character of the 1992 blockbuster Bram Stoker's Dracula. Often hailed as one of the greatest chameleons of his time, it can be almost impossible to spot him from one role to the next. He is known for portraying real-life figures, like the aforementioned Sid Vicious, or Lee Harvey Oswald. Oldman is also known for playing the main villain, particularly hugely obvious villains whom everyone trusts anyway, in movies (such as The Professional, Air Force One and The Fifth Element)... except for when he hangs out with Batman or Harry Potter, or when he's Beethoven or Guildenstern... We're pretty sure he was Guildenstern. (He's actually Rosencrantz, but who's keeping track?)
But besides these four, when Oldman isn't the villain, he's just plain crazy. (Ever seen his guest spot on Friends?) And it's not like Sirius doesn't have his moments. Despite his obvious villain roles, he can play an excellent chessmaster, though still usually with a patina of dark humour. However, as turkeys like Quest for Camelot and The Unborn demonstrate, he also has an unfortunate tendency to do anything for money (except, of course, when it's a non-union project).
He has directed one film, Nil By Mouth, a deeply grim, profanity-laden film about a dysfunctional family living in East London (allegedly inspired by his own rough childhood). He also directed the live stream of a Jack White concert.
His career is seen as a good indicator of how actors have to actively pursue awards. It took him thirty years to receive an Oscar nomination (for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), despite his undeniable talent, and it's pretty clear that he just doesn't care about that sort of thing. He did finally win in 2018 for playing Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.
- Sid & Nancy (1986) — Sid Vicious. His first starring role. Even John Lydon (who was not consulted for the movie about his former friend and bandmate and had little good to say about the biopic) said Oldman was "quite good."
- Prick Up Your Ears (1987) — Joe Orton
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1990) — Rosencrantz ("What?" "...Guildenstern." "What?")
- Henry & June (1990) - Pop
- JFK (1991) — Lee Harvey Oswald
- Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) — Count Dracula, an obvious villain whom everyone trusts.
- True Romance (1993) — Drexl Spivey, the pimp who fancies himself a black rastafarian.
- Romeo is Bleeding (1993) — Jack Grimaldi
- Immortal Beloved (1994) — Ludwig van Beethoven
- Leon (or) The Professional (1994) — Norman Stansfield ("Bring me... everyone", "Whaddaya mean "everyone—", "EEVVVERRYYYYONNNEEEE!"). Despite being a complete maniac, Stansfield is a chief inspector and DEA agent, making him another obvious villain whom everyone trusted.
- Murder in the First (1995) — Warden Milton Glenn
- The Scarlet Letter (1995) — Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale
- The Fifth Element (1997) — Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg
- Air Force One (1997) — Ivan Korshunov
- Lost in Space (1998) — Dr. Smith, one of his extremely obvious villain roles (whom everyone trusted) from 1998, according to The Nostalgia Critic.
- Quest for Camelot (1998) — Sir Ruber, the other, even more blindingly obvious villain role who was so implicitly trusted he was a knight at the round table.
- The Contender (2000) — Rep. Sheldon Runyon
- Hannibal (2001) — The horribly disfigured Mason Verger (trusted by everyone). He was left uncredited in this role, which led a Movies in 15 Minutes review to speculate:M15M: And in a role so disgusting even Gary Oldman didn't want his name on it...
- Tiny Tiptoes (2003) — Rolfe, a dwarf
- Harry Potter (2004 — 2011) — Sirius Black
- The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005 — 2012) — Commissioner Gordon
- The Unborn (2009) — Rabbi Sendak
- Planet 51 (2009) — General Grawl
- The Book of Eli (2010) — Carnegie
- Red Riding Hood (2011) — Father Solomon. Trusted by absolutely nobody. Nah, just kidding, trusted by everyone.
- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) — George Smiley
- Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) — Lord Shen
- Lawless (2012) — Floyd Banner
- Guns, Girls and Gambling (2012) — Elvis
- RoboCop (2014) — Dr. Norton
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) — Dreyfus
- Criminal (2016) — Quaker Wells
- The Hitman's Bodyguard — Vladislav Dukhovich
- Darkest Hour (2017) — Winston Churchill, his first Oscar for Best Actor.
- TAU (2018) as Tau.
- The Laundromat (2019) — Jurgen Mossack
- The Courier (2019) - Ezekiel Mannings
- The Woman in the Window (2021) – Alistair Russell
- Mank (2020) — Herman J. Mankiewicz
- Oppenheimer (2023) – Harry S. Truman
- The Hire: Beat the Devil — The Lord of Darkness, Satan himself.
Tropes that apply to Gary Oldman as an actor:
- Ax-Crazy: Many of his villainous roles certainly qualify with Norman Stansfield being probably the best example.
- Big Bad: Oldman is often cast as the antagonist in a lot of movies and he enjoys hamming it up.
- Chronically Killed Actor: It comes with often being cast as the villain, and sometimes when not the villain.
- Fake Nationality: He plays a variety of nationalities apart from his native English, to the point where (according to an interview on Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me) he actually had to work with an accent coach in preparation for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. His mock PSA against NBA players acting in film also makes it obvious that Oldman's original accent has started to fade as a result of living in America for many years.
- Faux Affably Evil: He's very good at playing characters whose outward good manners and charisma mask sadism, depravity and a complete lack of morals.
- Large Ham: It comes with being cast as the villain. Even the more heroic roles have him getting over-the-top - the sole exception is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, where he barely emotes.
- Man of a Thousand Faces/Man of a Thousand Voices: Just look at the list of characters. If you didn't know who was playing them, you'd never think Lee Harvey Oswald, Dracula, Norman Stansfield, Zorg, Commissioner Jim Gordon and Winston Churchill were portrayed by the same actor.
- Money, Dear Boy: Oldman took the role of Sirius Black because he desperately needed the work, not having done a film in over a year. This turned out to be a positive version of the trope though as he thoroughly enjoyed making the films and reprised the role throughout the rest of the series, and, combined with Jim Gordon in The Dark Knight Trilogy, served as a Career Resurrection for him.
- Playing with Character Type: When he was cast in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as Sirius Black, a mass-murderer after Harry, no one was surprised. By the end, it's revealed that Sirius never murdered Peter Pettigrew or betrayed Harry's parents, and in later movies he becomes the closest thing Harry has to family (naturally, this came as no surprise to viewers who'd already read the books).
- Promoted Fanboy: He did Kung Fu Panda 2 because he was a fan of the first one. It also applies to his roles in RoboCop (2014) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, having being a fan of the original film series of both.
- Typecasting: He's often cast as villainous or, at the very least, antiheroic characters. Many are insane or just peculiar. A third field is a Reasonable Authority Figure, such as Jim Gordon in The Dark Knight Trilogy, George Smiley in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Dr. Norton in RoboCop (2014). Christopher Nolan mentioned his casting of Oldman as Gordon was a deliberate casting against type.