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Why Gary Oldman deserves that long-overdue Oscar for Darkest Hour


Despite Gary Oldman being widely renowned as one of Hollywood’s most accomplished actors, it may shock you to learn that the man has never won a little golden statue named Oscar.

Frankly, it’s long overdue. The much-revered thespian has a bounty of outstanding performances on his curriculum vitae, with any one of them deserving of top award recognition.

His next assuredly stirring work comes in the form of Darkest Hour, as Oldman dons the jowly latex to play newly-appointed British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.

Set during the early days of World War II, Darkest Hour promises to feature a host of crowd-pleasingly dramatic shouty scenes that only Oldman can deliver, as he tackles the political battlefield.

So before Oldman electrifies as one of Britain's most iconic leaders, let’s take a look at the performances that have led to this point…

Dracula – Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Darkest Hour sees Oldman wearing a whole heap of facial prosthetics and makeup, and he has past form in this area.

Any fears of his performance being hindered by such things will disappear once you see him as the bloodsucking Dracula. Charting the title character's tragic, grisly transition from Vlad the Impaler to the infamous Count, Oldman’s portrayal is another one to add to his terrifying-yet-charming repertoire.

His voice coated in a thick accent, his skin grey and hair absurdly styled and white, it’s hard to believe that Oldman is underneath it all. Yet his talent shines through. Switching once again from a creepy calm to wildly deranged, Oldman takes the legendary monster and makes it his own.

Drexl Spivey – True Romance (1993)

Gary Oldman is a chameleon, and roles like Drexl prove it. You'll no doubt have to double check it’s him underneath the dreadlocks and scars. Another antagonist role, Oldman features in little more than a cameo here, but rest assured he makes an impression.

A white pimp who thinks he’s Jamaican, Oldman’s voice is once again draped in an unusual accent; his intimidating demeanour permeates through his every pore. Drexl is once again testament to Oldman’s ability to make even the most loathsome character likeable, even when playing a character so polar opposite to himself. The man is capable of anything, from diddled-eyed joe to damned if I know.

Norman Stansfield – Leon (1994)

Oldman has become famous for his moments of maniacal shouting, in fact it’s now something of a trademark, and no film better demonstrates this than Luc Besson’s Léon.

Starring alongside Jean Reno as the titular hitman, as well as Natalie Portman as the latter's pre-pubescent protégé, Oldman’s unhinged DEA agent is an absolute show-stealer. Everything about DEA agent Norman Stansfield gives off a sense of unease, from his greasy, unkempt hair to the tatty beige suit and psychotic look in his eyes.

With a cigarette constantly dangling from his lips, Stansfield’s favourite hobbies consist of hysterically shouting at his subordinates and popping nondescript pills, whilst comparing his killings to the music of Beethoven. One of cinema’s greatest antagonists, indeed.

Such a deranged character has the potential to be ruined in the hands of a lesser actor, but in Oldman’s capable clappers he somehow manages to be endearingly charming... whilst scaring the hell out of a little girl, a contract killer, and you.

Commissioner James Gordon – The Dark Knight trilogy (2005 – 2012)

One of Oldman’s forays into big blockbuster filmmaking, the actor manages to take Batman’s confidante Commissioner Gordon and make him equally as intriguing as the caped superhero – perhaps even more so.

Sporting the character’s iconic moustache behaving much more subdued than usual, Oldman manages to elevate Gordon to a fascinating character in his own right.

Only given a few chances to fall back on his tried and tested wildly aggressive shouting, the more reserved role of Gordon allows Oldman to demonstrate something a little different – but no less captivating.

George Smiley – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

This is (arguably) Oldman's greatest and most Oscar-worthy role, playing espionage veteran George Smiley in director Tomas Alfredson’s thriller.

Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, Alfredson’s film is an atmospheric, bleakly grey exploration of the double-crosses and paranoia of the era, with old man Smiley dropped right in the middle.

Surrounded by an enviable cast, Oldman’s performance couldn’t be further from his more overly dramatic back catalogue, with Smiley very much the calm, silent type. Everything interesting about George Smiley is going on behind his eyes, as he attempts to put together the puzzle that falls in his lap.

This meticulous, intellectual nature is beautifully portrayed in Oldman’s nuanced performance; his sage, beady eyes tucked away behind face-consuming spectacles.

Capable of anything, from a bespectacled spy to a rastafarian criminal, Oldman’s take on Winston Churchill is certainly worthy of anticipation. The Oscars beckon. Watch Darkest Hour when it's released on 12th January 2018.

Jon Fuge is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.

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