Please Don't Give an Oscar to Gary Oldman
Why is nobody talking about the Best Actor frontrunner's ugly past?
or his performance in Darkest Hour, a Winston Churchill biopic, the iconic British actor Gary Oldman is expected to take home the Best Actor Oscar. It’s the kind of capital-P performance the Academy loves: ever-so-slightly overblown and prone to being described in reviews as “transformative” or “chameleonic.” (Oldman, after all, can hardly be detected under a fat suit and pounds of old-age makeup.)
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Oldman is undoubtedly a talented actor. One of the best of his generation, in fact. Just look at his work in films like Sid and Nancy, JFK, True Romance, or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He is, like peers Daniel Day-Lewis or Christian Bale, capable of disappearing into any part with apparent ease.
But as it’s gone with so many “gifted” artists throughout cinema history, the mainstream media has mostly overlooked Oldman’s controversial personal life. Like many, I’ve always been vaguely aware of Oldman’s behind-the-scenes volatility. But perhaps as a result of undercoverage or willful ignorance of that volatility by said media, I’ve also never exactly internalized the details of his sizable wrongdoings.
But thanks to the recent The Daily Beast opinion piece, “Gary Oldman: The Oscar Frontrunner with a Dark Past,” and a couple other damaging examinations, I’ve come to realize that Oldman is not exactly the bad boy of his industry so many would like to think of him as. In actuality, he’s a hellion with a history of domestic abuse, anti-semitism, and misogyny. He isn’t all that far off from the morally abhorrent men at the center of the Time’s Up movement. So why is nobody talking about it?
Oldman was first revealed to be something of a monster in 2001. Amid divorce proceedings, his third wife, Donya Fiorentino, alleged that her then-husband had violently assaulted her with a telephone in front of their children. Oldman denied the claims. But look over Fiorentino’s terrifying statement — in which she graphically recounts how her husband struck her three to four times after a spat persuaded her to call 911 — and you’ll hardly be moved by Oldman’s assertions that Fiorentino’s accusations were “replete with lies, innuendos, and half-truths.”
And as brought up in a post-Golden Globes piece published in The Independent, Oldman has no problem sympathizing with other caustic men. In a 2014 Playboy interview, which was met with a hurricane of backlash, Oldman defended the disgraced actor and filmmaker Mel Gibson’s racist and misogynistic verbal attack on girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva in 2011. (To jog your memory, Gibson told Grigorieva: “You look like a f--king pig in heat. If you get raped by a pack of n----rs, it will be your fault.”)
Oldman defended Gibson, decrying his “outcast” status, lamenting that sometimes people say things they don’t mean, and pulling out the cringeworthy “he was drunk” excuse. Oldman even made light of the time Gibson made anti-semitic remarks about the policemen who arrested him for driving under the influence in 2006.
“Mel Gibson is in a town that’s run by Jews, and he said the wrong thing because he’s actually bitten the hand that I guess has fed him, and doesn’t need to feed him anymore because he’s got enough dough,” Oldman said.
Then, he haphazardly declared that men like himself, Gibson, or Alec Baldwin, for example, are often penalized for making politically incorrect jokes while individuals like Bill Maher or Jon Stewart never are. (Which, to clarify, isn’t true.) The worst part in the interview comes when he says that, if he called Nancy Pelosi a “f--king useless c--t,” he’d get in trouble, whereas Maher or Stewart would not. Sure, Gary.
The rest of the Playboy interview is just as horrific. Inevitably, Oldman did say he was sorry. But it’s clearly one of those apologies that comes from the Notes app of an irate publicist rather than the person who said such things in the first place.
Somehow, few in Hollywood seem to be considering Oldman’s repulsive past. And you’d think some would, given that the Best Actor trophy was awarded to another controversial figure, Casey Affleck, last year. Or that the industry itself is so fervently trying to rid itself of morally unsteady men.
Oldman is a great actor. But during a period where so many are declaring that “time’s up,” it seems a little strange that he’s remained largely unscathed. Though nominations have yet to be announced, it’s unlikely that the actor won’t get a nod. It’s also unlikely that he won’t eventually be walking away with a little gold man.
I’d say give the prize to my favorite newcomer of the year, Timothée Chalamet, who recently became the first mainstream actor to publicly apologize for working with Woody Allen. Or to Tom Hanks, who seems incapable of doing wrong. At least James Franco’s probably no longer in the running.
- JANUARY 18, 2018
This piece also appeared in The Daily.