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Playboy Interview: Gary Oldman
  • June 25, 2014 : 17:06
  • comments

PLAYBOY: What’s this sequel about?

OLDMAN: We are 10 or 15 years on from the last movie. The simian flu has pretty much taken care of the world’s population except those who were immune to it. Those who did survive are facing chaos and complete societal breakdown. It’s apocalyptic. I’m a designated leader in the small community of humans trying to reestablish some kind of order to life as it was, having experienced my own personal tragedy in it. It’s a fragile peace between man and ape, and my character is hoping the two factions can co-exist. It’s like putting life back together after Hiroshima or something.

PLAYBOY: It sounds pretty bleak.

OLDMAN: The ultimate message is more hopeful, but yeah, it’s a rather dark view of the future.

PLAYBOY: What’s your view of the future? Are you optimistic about where society is heading?

OLDMAN: [Pauses] You’re asking Gary?

PLAYBOY: Yes.

OLDMAN: I think we’re up shit creek without a paddle or a compass.

PLAYBOY: How so?

OLDMAN: Culturally, politically, everywhere you look. I look at the world, I look at our leadership and I look at every aspect of our culture and wonder what will make it better. I have no idea. Any night of the week you only need to turn on one of these news channels and watch for half an hour. Read the newspaper. Go online. Our world has gone to hell. I listen to the radio and hear about these lawsuits and about people like this high school volleyball coach who took it upon herself to get two students to go undercover to do a marijuana bust. You’re a fucking volleyball coach! This is not 21 Jump Street.

Or these helicopter parents who overschedule their children. There’s never any unsupervised play to develop skills or learn about hierarchy in a group or how to share. The kids honestly believe they are the center of the fucking universe. But then they get out into the real world and it’s like, “Shit, maybe it’s not all about me,” and that leads to narcissism, depression and anxiety. These are just tiny examples, grains of sand in a vast desert of what’s fucked-up in our world right now. As for the people who pass for heroes in entertainment today, don’t even get me started.

PLAYBOY: Well, since you started.

OLDMAN: It’s like the old saying about mediocrity: The mediocre are always at their best. They never let you down. Reality TV to me is the museum of social decay. And what passes for music—it’s all on that plateau. Who’s the hero for young people today? Some idiot who can’t fucking sing or write or who’s shaking her ass and twerking in front of 11-year-olds.

I have two teenage sons and they occasionally turn me on to stuff—Arcade Fire, hip-hop or whatever. I go, “Wow, that’s interesting.” And I do watch television. I’m a huge fan of long-form TV. Mad Men. I loved True Detective; Matthew McConaughey gets better and better. Boardwalk Empire, The Americans, House of Cards—oh God, I loved it. It makes me want to create a show and sit back and get all that mailbox money.

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, 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, Mean Streets, The Deer Hunter, Dog Day Afternoon, 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 tentpole 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. I felt that way with Alfonso Cuarón on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. You could just tell being around him that he’s a master, partly because he isn’t afraid to say, “I fucked myself up over here.” I remember a scene where he was scratching his head for two days, figuring out eye lines on 11 characters. “So we’ve got Harry and Hermione looking that way, and now we’ve got Snape, we’ve got Ron, we’ve got Sirius.” Plus he had to match the movements to the mechanical set, which had walls that were moving and breathing. He was never embarrassed to say, “Christ, I’ve really got myself in a pickle here.” And he worked it out. I love it when a director says, “I really don’t know the answer to that.” The thing you don’t want a director to say is “Oh, it’s exactly how I imagined it.”

The best directors are geniuses. I looked up the Playboy Interview with Stanley Kubrick, and it’s remarkable how much knowledge that man had at his fingertips. You need a Ph.D. to understand it. His access to the memory of names—not only could he talk about a theory, but he could talk about what institute the person who devised the theory was from. It’s a great read for a student of cinema like me.

PLAYBOY: Which movie first grabbed your attention?

OLDMAN: To me it was about the actors. It was Malcolm McDowell, Richard Harris, Albert Finney, Alan Bates, Peter Sellers. And Tom Courtenay in films like The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. But probably the first movie to inspire me was a film directed by Bryan Forbes called The Raging Moon. Malcolm McDowell plays a sort of Cock o’ the North character, a sporting guy, a bit of a lad with the ladies. And he comes down with a paralyzing disease; it may have been polio. He loses the use of his legs and is confined to a wheelchair and gets shunted off to one of those homes where they look after the disabled. I had never been in a school play, but watching that performance was a sort of moment of spiritual awakening when I thought, I want to do that.

PLAYBOY: How did you get into acting?

OLDMAN: We didn’t have any money, but I would generate things. I wanted to learn the piano, so I saved my pocket money and bought a cheap secondhand piano and took lessons. I wanted a guitar, so I saved my pocket money and bought a guitar. I sometimes wish my boys were more like that. Maybe it’s a generational thing. I was interested in performing, so I inquired at school. My math teacher told me about a local youth theater, and I went and met the artistic director. I told him I had this sort of ambition to be an actor, and he said, “Well, you would have to go to drama school, and you would have to have some pieces to audition.” So that would have been the first time I ever really thought about a character. Oddly, it was a Joe Orton character. I didn’t know a thing about him, but I found a speech from Entertaining Mr. Sloane. I was very good at just getting out there. Nothing was handed to me, that’s for sure. My mother did everything she could for me, but I knew I had to do it on my own. I had to escape.

PLAYBOY: What about your father?

OLDMAN: I mean, just google it; it says, “Gary Oldman, son of welder.” When I first arrived in America to promote Sid & Nancy I made the mistake of being overly forthcoming in interviews. I had no rule book. I was so naive. I was very happy where I was in the theater and thought doing a movie would be just a one-off thing. I should have just said, “I don’t talk about family. Next question.” Now, because of the internet and all that, people just go to the fucking morgue, open the drawer and write, “Son of welder, once married to Uma Thurman.” I’m so tired of it. I sometimes fantasize about sitting down in a situation like this and actually saying, “You know, it was all made up. You will never know who my real father was. He wasn’t a fucking welder. I was just having a lark with you all.”

PLAYBOY: Is there something wrong with being the son of a welder?

OLDMAN: It’s not so much that. It’s that your life story is out of your control. [in a nasal voice] “We read many stories after you directed your first film, Nil by Mouth, that said it was autobiographical and that your father used to beat your mother.”

PLAYBOY: And that’s not true?

OLDMAN: No, it’s not true! You’re hearing it from the horse’s mouth. That character is not my dad. My mother never got beat up. That character was a composite—partly fiction and partly a kid I knew at school. It’s not my personal story, but that’s what the media wanted. Sorry, I get a little angry about these things.

PLAYBOY: Your characters are always screaming their heads off. Is rage an issue for you in real life? Are you the guy shouting at the waiter when the food doesn’t come fast enough?

OLDMAN: I know what it means to do a job. I was a sales assistant in several places. I was a stockroom boy and did a lot of sweeping up. I worked in a factory. I respect people in the service industry. What irritates me more is when people aren’t respectful. There’s a lot of nonsense behavior, especially in a place like Hollywood. The money, the power, they create little monsters.

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read more: entertainment, Celebrities, interview, playboy interview, issue july 2014

62 comments

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I love him even more now.
  • Walter
    Walter
    Gary Oldman is an amazing actor. It's nice to get a chance to see this side of him, too. Amazing interview, one of the best I've read.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Gary, please stop apologizing for having a strong, clear POV.
  • Peter
    Peter
    A wonderful interview. Right up there with the Playboy Classics.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    excellent interview...very excellent actor!
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    One of the most brutally honest interviews I've ever read.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    What a fantastic interview.
  • Michael
    Michael
    Nobody is born being shocked at nudity, certain words, or certain lifestyles. We are trained to be shocked at these as a means of control. Once you are brainwashed into doing your little dance of shock and horror at words, or nudity, or certain lifestyles, politicians can campaign on a promise of passing laws against bad words in the media, nudity in public or the media, or banning certain lifestyles. Gary Oldman sees these chains on us all and he does not care for them.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I really enjoyed this interview. Certainly not because of the questions which were asked, but because I actually believed the answers given were genuine. Unfortunately, the vilification which follows voicing your true opinion about "certain matters" is a large reason why we really don't know anyone all that well. Especially a celebrity.
  • James
    James
    I always liked Gary Oldman's work, and now I like and respect him even more. It takes real balls to call out political correctness, Bill Maher, and Jon Stewart when you make your living in Hollywood. The only ones who can get away with it are the ones who have real "fuck-you" money like Clint or Harrison. Oldman says he isn't in that category, but he has to be close?
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Bravo, David Hochman--for letting Gary Oldman shine.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Bill Maher is not a libertarian. He's a liberal which is about 1/5 a libertarian.Libertarians believe there should be very little or no govt at all. Maher believes in strong civil rights (legalize marijuana), which libertarians support, but he still supports big govt with massive taxes that fund huge entitlements like Obamacare and SS which libertarians vehemently oppose.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Thanks for saying what a lot of people are afraid to say - guys like Bill Maher get away with saying insulting and despicable things about
  • Swami
    Swami
    There is no one that could have portrayed Beethoven better. If there was any fault with the movie, it was in the storyline and dialogue.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    The questions were unintelligent, however, oldman is brilliant, perceptive, insightful, and speaks truth to power.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Did they edit out the shocking parts!?
  • Eric
    Eric
    "Any night of the week you only need to turn on one of these news channels and watch for half an hour. Read the newspaper. Go online. Our world has gone to hell." Poor Gary has fallen victim to the media's ploy of advertising those terrible things which are statistically rare. He's got it right on the money when it comes to reality television being the "museum of social decay", however. Pop music has been damned since 1990.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    You're killin it Gary Oldman. Good for you!
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    In England/UK people would read this and think average guy with average views. Agree with most of what he said. Why in USA when someone gives an honest opinion is it a scandal. You Americans are to sensative to truthful people and blow this **** out of all proportions. More people should be truthful like this, then the world would be a far better place.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Kudos to David Hochman--so rare to read someone smart, talented, perceptive, self-aware and unafraid to speak their minds like Gary Oldman, even when you don't necessarily agree with everything they have to say.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    So if you tell the truth you have to apologize for it... Gary Oldman is a hero and it is a shame that the elites of Hollyweird hippocrates made him grovel. I would have been more proud of him if he stood up to the elites and said
  • Charlie
    Charlie
    I have always liked Gary Oldman, and Im sorry he felt he had to apologize on Jimmy Kimball the other night. Gary Is refreshing, Im the same age and I was beginning to wonder and I wont any more. Your Ok Gary don,t Change.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Gary is the ****ing man. Always had a deep respect for him as an actor, and now as an individual.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    For real... A great interview from a great talent. Your POV is refreshing to say the least.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I'm not sure I agree witht he guy on all counts, but it's always fantastic seeing somebody being this honest and open about their views. And what he says about a lot of our culture being hypocritical is very true. People are still racist, and they're still homophobic. They just hide it better.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Great interview. Stop apologizing.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    It really is a shame that he has to go around apologizing for his opinion.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Bravo, David Hochman.
  • James
    James
    im with oldman **** the people ,,, and everyone is a bigot ,a ***, hypocrite , ans a liar , why should any man / woman have dominion over any other? i say lets go back to our start when you carried your self as honestly as you knew how and if some one challenged your belief you stand your ground as best your can and the strong survive , that way all the lazy ( people ) that want to ride coattails of those who work! **** equality it do"es not exist never has and never will , i believe in helping my fellow man
  • Eric
    Eric
    "Let?s begin with an impressive factoid." Unfortunately, dear interviewer, a factoid is not a tidbit of fact, but rather a falsity that is perpetuated as fact.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I've loved him since he played Beethoven. I've watched that movie 3 times now, and I'm not one to watch a movie more than once. He was just amazing in that role. He must have studied piano to look so authentic.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    very intelligent and insightful comments...hollywood is a brainwashing, control machine, people should start boycotting these mediocore films and directors,
  • Adrienn
    Adrienn
    Millennials lack passion because they were raised with insta this insta that, porn and fast food, #of likes and followers
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    If you don't understand why legalizing drugs is important you really don't understand
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Interesting man. Only politically incorrect men are.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    So why is he apologizing...?
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Gary, pal, read Enough! please. It's great russian novell, and u can play amazing character in that.
  • Adrian
    Adrian
    Fantastic article I just lightly skimmed through it and hope to get back to it.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I can't believe he says he's against drug legalization, and then calls himself a libertarian. That's boneheaded. However, he's right about Bill Maher failing the basic test of libertarianism, and he does at least indicate some depth of character here.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I'd love it if Playboy asked him about how his libertarianism compares to David Mamet's deeper conversion to libertarianism, or "classical liberalism" after his having researched it for his book "The Secret Knowledge." Mamet actually did his homework and read F. A. Hayek's "The Constitution of Liberty" where he even drilled down enough to discuss the essay in that book "Why I am Not a Conservative." If only Oldman (and the rest of the megastars in Hollywood) had that depth of knowledge! At least Oldman is capable of using terms like "hierarchy" correctly -something beyond the grasp of most hollywood "elites."
  • Robert
    Robert
    Drudge has linked a story quoting this interview.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    What a whiny, sexist, racist *****. Stop using this interview as an excuse to be a piece of ****, people.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Not bigoted? Yeah right. Epic interview playboy. You have done well to expose the "honest" Gary Oldman.
  • Joe
    Joe
    So, refraining from calling someone a word that has been historically laced with hatred, persecution, and intimidation, is just the politically correct thing to do? Sorry, but that's bullshit. Nor do I buy the argument that "we all" use such demeaning epithets behind closed doors. That's a bigot trying to rationalize away his bigotry. Sad.
  • John
    John
    My respect for Gary Oldman is now less than when I started this interview.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Aw, poor wittle baby can't get away with being an asshole anymore without being called out for his s*it! How sad. No one's taking away your freedom of speech, dumbf*ck: they're merely stating that they don't agree with your s*itty opinion, and are showing you the door. Don't let the little boys on this thread fool you. The world's not going to hell, there's just a bunch of extreme right-wing a*sholes who can't take the heat of being held accountable for the s*it they say.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    I really liked Gary Oldman, but now... He really looks like an OLDMAN, with his crabby attitude and tired old arguments that racists have been trying to hide behind for the past 15-20 years. "I'm not racist, I just say ****** or kike behind closed doors from time to time, everyone does it!" Nonetheless, I'm glad he spoke his mind, I too wish everyone WOULD stop being PC, because if you're a racist, I want to know that I shouldn't support you.
  • Joe
    Joe
    So, refraining from calling someone a word that has been historically laced with hatred, persecution, and intimidation, is just the politically correct thing to do? And if it does slip out, it's just a joke? Sorry, but that's horseshit. Nor do I buy the argument that "we all" use such demeaning epithets behind closed doors. This line of "reasoning" sounds more like someone trying to rationalize his bigotry. Sad.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    is it just me or did anyone else read the entire interview w/ his accent in your head? haha
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