At last night’s BAFTA Film Awards, Gary Oldman took home the Best Actor award for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour (2018).
Visibly shaking as he stood at the podium, Oldman accepted his third award (in what feels like as many weeks) for this career-defining role. The emotion was plain to see on the face of a truly great actor, taking well-deserved and hard-earned praise from his peers for playing a gift of a role. Let’s be honest and admit to ourselves that taking on such a huge iconic personality of the 20th century is no easy gig but, get it right, and the awards are yours for the taking.
I would love to bake a cake for Gary Oldman as a huge fan of his work over the last 30 years; from his tragically sweet and naive Sid Vicious (Sid & Nancy, 1986), to Harry Potter’s sometime mentor Sirius Black (Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2004 et al), Oldman has this innate ‘Oldmanesque’ ability to over-act with such heart and authenticity that his performances become utterly believable.
More examples to back up my assertions; Dracula (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, 1992) weird as fuck and makes Bela Lugosi look wooden, but it makes me cry because Oldman makes me believe the love story; Drexl the white Rastafarian pimp (True Romance, 1993), Stansfield the drug-adled killer of Mathilda’s entire family (Leon the Professional, 1994), Zorg the plastic headgear loving intergalactic cartoon baddie (The Fifth Element, 1997), Oldman is not afraid to commit completely to an outwardly insane character who, for some reason, you completely understand.
Whenever Gary Oldman is on screen, it is impossible to tear your eyes away from him. In researching this post (as much as they are ‘researched’, as opposed to a collection of thoughts gathered over a Diet Coke) I was taken aback by the number of amazing films that Gary Oldman has been in. Largely overlooked in the awards department, it feels very much as if Winston Churchill is the role that Oldman needed to play in order to stand up on that podium where he undoubtedly belongs.
Looking back over the roles that Gary Oldman has played, we have a series of emotionally conflicted (some dangerously psychotic, others just a little damaged) characters who, in order to fully embody their persona, Oldman has drastically altered his rather lovely physical self to play. It is perhaps not obvious to draw comparison between the roles of Churchill and Dracula but both utilised the considerable skills of a make-up team to transform Oldman’s appearance into that of the conflicted character played.
I mean, I’m not pulling this stuff out of thin air…
We now find our hero with 3 out of 4 Best Actor awards to his name – Gary Oldman has taken home the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award, and now the BAFTA for his performance in Darkest Hour with only the OSCAR Academy Award remaining to claim. Here’s the question, will the Academy go with the overwhelming general consensus that this was the best performance by an actor in a leading role or will they snub him? The Academy is not afraid of controversy after all.
Performances deemed as ‘OSCAR worthy’ tend to require transformation or, what is often referred to in female actors as ‘uglying up’. An OSCAR is usually in the bag when an attractive actress hides her usually attractive self under a bushel – see Charlize Theron in Monster (2003) – or plays a real life, less than glamorous character – see Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady (2011) – or puts on a silly accent – see Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love (1998) – Oldman has nailed all of the above as Churchill.
I will be watching eagerly to see Gary Oldman pick up his Best Actor Academy Award at the OSCARS on 4th March. He really deserves it.