For nearly 30 years Gary Oldman has been unstoppable in front of the camera. Whether playing iconic roles, larger than life villains or smaller supporting parts the British actor can seemingly do anything. Last night the Film Society of Lincoln Center brought Oldman on stage in a career spanning conversation that discussed his process, working with directors like Mike Leigh and Christopher Nolan and even touched on his time behind the camera.
When asked why he never followed up his 1997 directorial debut “Nil By Mouth” Oldman answered, “Well, I tried to funnily enough. I tried to follow it with a film [I wrote] about a sex addict. And he was married and had a mistress and all the machinations of that and it was very, very, very difficult to finance. I couldn’t get the money or at least I couldn’t get the money to do it the way I wanted to do it. He’s a 50 year old Italian New Yorker. And they said, ‘We’ll give you the money if you put Russell Crowe in it.’ And I said, ‘[The character’s] an Italian, I need [an Italian]. You know, [Crowe’s] terrific but not for me in this role.’ [Imitating studio], ‘I don’t see him in something like this.’ And it went around, it bounced around to a few different people and [the script] just sat there on the shelf.”
He didn’t say how long the script has been sitting around, but the sweeping changes of technology saw Oldman tinkering with what he wrote. “But I recently, a year ago, took it out and relooked at it and would you believe, updated it. Because my character’s got a pager. And also now with the internet and the iPhone and pornography is free now. You have all the chat rooms and all that. And you have Viagra. So I’ve, no pun intended, done a polish on it.” Oldman says he has a project lined up for himself as a director that he hopes to get off the ground in 2013 but he was tight lipped about the details. He only said that it wouldn’t be the sex addict project quite yet.
“But that won’t be 2013 but it’s still a very very touchy subject. I ran into [British director] Steve McQueen, of ‘Shame‘ fame, and I said to him after the wonderful thing he did about Bobby Sands, “Hunger,” [which was set in a prison in Northern Ireland]. I said to him ‘Why did you set the movie [‘Shame’] in America? Why did you set it in New York?’ And he said, ‘Because I couldn’t get any money to do it in England. No one wanted to shoot it. No one wanted to do it in London.’ So he transposed it to America. I think it’s still a very, very touchy subject for people.”
He mentioned another reason he hasn’t gotten another effort off the ground as a director is because of the immense time commitment involved. “I had two boys and I became a single dad and I thought, ‘Well I can either be a dad who’s working, away a lot or be a dad at home.’ And I chose to put the career a little bit on the backburner. There’s a real commitment to directing a film that demands a great deal of you. I mean, ‘Tinker Tailor Solider Spy’ is 10 weeks for me. There’s obviously prep work that one does but the shoot was 10 weeks for me. That’s 2 ½ years for [director] Tomas Alfredson. Big commitment,” he explained. But Oldman ended by saying, “But [my boys are] getting older now” hinting his duties as a father shouldn’t take him away from his planned 2013 sophomore effort behind-the-camera. We’ll have much more from this conversation with Oldman coming soon.