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Gary Oldman's 12 greatest performances #DarkestHour


Don't be surprised if the bookies stop taking bets on Gary Oldman to win the Academy Award for Best Actor next year, so incredible is his transformation into Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour.

If versatile Oldman does win his first Oscar (he's already been Golden Globe nominated for the role), it's an accolade that's long overdue. Bizarrely, he's only ever been nominated once before, extraordinary when you consider his career has encompassed cartoon villains, corrupt cops, white rastafarians, deaf composers and more. Gary Leonard Oldman really can do them all.

Back in 1994, critic David Thomson put it like this in The New Biographical Dictionary of Film: "He is a suit hanging in a closet, waiting to be possessed, which means that he brings an uncommon, self-effacing service to his roles. Part of that attitude is his complete and easy readiness not to be liked. So he is both vacant and uningratiating: it will be intriguing to see how long such a career can last."

So ahead of Darkest Hour's release on 12th January, we've decided to round up Gary's finest roles...

Sid and Nancy (1986)

Only a very special actor would have the ability to play both Britain's wartime leader and a gobby, self-destructive punk rocker. Oldman immersed himself in the role of Sex Pistol Sid Vicious for director Alex Cox, even acquiring an authentically sallow junkie complexion. And yes, that really is him singing 'My Way' on the soundtrack.

Prick Up Your Ears (1987)

It's all change for Gary as he becomes delightfully sardonic gay playwright Joe Orton, swearing his way through the nasty, repressed early ‘60s. He certainly makes the most of Alan Bennett's witty script, which centres on Orton's destructive and ultimately tragic relationship with Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina).

State of Grace (1990)

Any mob movie released in 1990 was bound to labour in the shadow of Scorsese's Goodfellas. But Phil Joanou's Hell's Kitchen crime drama has been unfairly overlooked. Not only does it pair Sean Penn and Gary Oldman in their prime, but Oldman steals it as a gnarly, volatile Irish-American hood who's an undercover cop and Penn's childhood friend. They drink Guinness. They swap blarney. They swear. They shoot folks.

JFK (1991)

So eerily does Oldman step into the shoes of Presidential shooter Lee Harvey Oswald that you’d swear it was the human chameleon from New Cross who was in that book depository on the fatal day.

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

Francis Ford Coppola's lavish Dracfest is certainly uneven, with a rib-tickling English accent essayed by Keanu Reeves. But as Dracula, Oldman is on peerless, mesmerising form throughout. He’s a wizened old git. He’s a suave young aristo. He’s a pointy toothed monster. He’s a cat. He’s a bat. He’s a wolf. That’s versatility, that is. And he looks dead cool in those shades too.

True Romance (1993)

Oldman is in Tony Scott's Tarantino-scripted romp only slightly longer than Samuel L. Jackson. But everybody remembers his performance as Drexl Spivey, the whitest 'Rasta' in the movies, who pimps and deals drugs. Then, perhaps fed up with being upstaged, Christian Slater shoots him in the private parts.

Leon (1994)

Gary Oldman: a psycho cop so unpleasant he makes professional hitman Jean Reno seem appealing. He eats up the screen as foul-mouthed, chain-smoking, pill-popping DEA agent Norman Stansfield, who thinks nothing of slaughtering an entire family. From any other actor, this could have been an OTT cartoonish turn; from Oldman, it's simply terrifying.

Immortal Beloved (1994)

Oldman dons the wig and period finery to play loopy Ludwig van Beethoven as a borderline-bonkers, obsessive monster in Bernard Rose’s perversely enjoyable, never-mind-the-facts-feel-that-sumptuous-production-design biopic-cum-mystery. He later married co-star Isabella Rossellini, who was subsequently replaced in his affections by – important trivia fact alert! – Andrew Ridgeley’s former squeeze Donya Fiorentino.

Air Force One (1997)

Wolfgang Petersen's guilty pleasure of an absurd action flick sees Oldman back on villain duties. This time he’s a sinisterly bearded Russian terrorist called Egor Kurshonov who engages in hand-to-hand combat with US President Harrison Ford. Guess who wins.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Oldman followed a fallow period by grabbing the scene-stealing role of evil wizard Sirius Black in the Harry Potter series. After escaping from Azkaban prison, he comes after Harry, giving it as much menace as the 12A certificate permits.

Batman Begins (2005)

Oldman scored another recurring role in Christopher Nolan's magnificent Dark Knight trilogy – not as a villain for a change, but as honest, world-weary cop Jim Gordon, who rises through the ranks to become police commissioner as the series progresses. A key ally of the superhero, he's nervous about vigilantism and becomes the trilogy's moral centre.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

In bringing John le Carre's Cold War spy classic to the big screen, director Tomas Alfredson pulled off a masterstroke of casting in recruiting Oldman for the role of George Smiley, who's charged with finding out which of his former MI6 colleagues has been a long-term double agent. Amidst a great ensemble cast, Oldman grabbed an Oscar nomination as the fastidious, emotionally desiccated Smiley, who's betrayed both personally and professionally.

Darkest Hour
is released on 12th January – tweet us your favourite Gary Oldman roles @Cineworld.