Thursday, March 17, 2011

My interview with Gary Oldman

Gary Oldman: It's lonely being in fantasy
By Raymond De Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated March 18, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (3) View comments

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Oldman is one of the stars of Red Riding Hood: He has been doing fantasy films for 11 years after playing memorable characters like Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK or the menacing title role in Dracula.| Zoom
LOS ANGELES -   “Ugh! Ask me something else,” award-winning actor Gary Oldman reacted in mock displeasure when the Italian journalist asked him to tell us something about Father Solomon, his character in the Warner Bros.’ romantic thriller Red Riding Hood, during our roundtable interview recently.

“You saw it, so you already know,” he said, still avoiding the question. It was true; we already saw the movie the night before as is customary during every junket where all journalists are herded to a chosen cinema for a private screening of the movie before the interviews take place the day after. If you fail to watch it, your interviews will be canceled. That’s how simple it is.

In Red Riding Hood, which is still showing in the Philippines nationwide, Gary portrays a medieval priest on the hunt for werewolves after he had a close brush with one earlier in his life. He is summoned to the small village of Daggerhorn to capture and kill the wolf that has been terrorizing the town for several decades.

“I think he’s a good guy. He’s not nice but he’s definitely a good guy. I think what is interesting is he becomes sort of obsessed with the capture of this thing that he loses the plot a little and…” he continued and paused before asking the Italian journalist, “what else do you want to know?”

“Nothing,” replied the journalist and everyone in the room, including Gary’s two publicists, broke into laughter. “I just wanted to use your words,” the journalist added.

Oldman finally relented and gave the journalist her quote. He described his role as Dracula-lite “I thought it had that kind of vibe to it  ‘Kill the monster, kill the monster!’  and I thought that would be quite sort of fun.”

Our interview with the British actor was the last for the day. We had the director Catherine Hardwicke and leads Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons before him and the sudden levity in the room was a welcome treat.

Oldman has been around for a while. He began his career on the London stage and made his feature film debut in the cult classic Sid & Nancy in 1985. He has garnered numerous awards from various critic groups from both sides of the Atlantic and was once considered to be one of the best actors of his generation. But despite all the acclaim, he has never won nor ever been nominated for an Oscar.

“I don’t think about it much,” he quietly remarked.

After his very productive decade in the ‘90s, when he portrayed a series of memorable characters like Lee Harvey Oswald in the controversial Oliver Stone movie JFK or the menacing title character in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, Oldman has spent most of the past decade essaying roles in two successful film series, Batman and Harry Potter, a genre that is a far cry from what he was accustomed to at the beginning of his career.

“I spent 11 years in fantasy and it’s very lonely,” he revealed. “I’ve been in my fair share that can be considered in that genre… with Harry Potter and Batman but with a pedigree.”

He wanted to qualify his association with two of the most successful film franchises in Hollywood “because if you look at the Harry Potter movies, they are all well-made and if you look at Christopher Nolan, who is on a different league of his own  I think he’s the only person probably who has taken a comic to a film and made it a totally different, different thing unto itself.”

It wasn’t entirely by choice that he spent the past decade dabbling in more commercial films.

“You got to put kids through college, you got to work,” he said. “You got to work and you got to make money.” He added that as an actor, choice of parts isn’t always that available to him.

And Hollywood has also changed. In his nearly three decades in the business, he couldn’t help but notice how the industry has evolved.

“Culturally, it has changed,” he noted. “I look at what they are making or what they want to make and what’s coming out  it’s the sequel to the sequel to the prequel of this and the comic book of that.”

“And it’s all in 3D!” he remarked.

Does he think 3D has a place in movies?

“No,” he replied. “I think it’s ridiculous. It was ridiculous to begin with. It was a gimmick. It was a cheap, quick gimmick to get people away from the television in the ‘50s  no place at all. It gives me a headache. I don’t even wanna sit there. I saw my own movie in 3D, I walked out of it.

“It’s vaudeville. It’s a ‘PG-13-and-young-girls-wanna-see-this-movie’ and that’s okay… but you know the answer to this: You just look at the movie and you just despair; you turn on the television and you despair. Then you get to see a movie like Biutiful (the Spanish-Mexican film starring Oscar-winner Javier Bardem which was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year) and that reminds why you want to be in movies.”

And then he reads the trade magazines and sees Kim Kardashian and her family. (Kim Kardashian, along with her mother and two sisters, is famous for the hit reality show produced by Ryan Seacrest but is more known for the sex video she made with singer Ray J. in 2007.)

If ever he found himself on an island, he knew what book to bring. “Kim Kardashian’s book of achievements,” he joked.

“I know nothing about this woman, I don’t watch the show and I read somewhere that these people made $65M and I said to a friend of mine, ‘Who are these people that made a lot of money?’ She’s a pretty girl but I said, ‘What did they do?’”

Perhaps, that question will never merit a good, reasonable answer but about the state of Hollywood moviemaking, Oldman has one quick easy answer: “Make good stories  good, original stories.”

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