Whenever folks talk about right-leaning actors, Gary Oldman's name always comes up on the periphery. He's never been terribly vocal, but there's always been some chatter that he's a libertarian/conservative type. Well, Oldman's sure to come up in any such discussions going forward, as he laid it all on the table for Playboy in a wide ranging interview on his work as an actor, his life, his take on the state of the world, and his opinions of our dreadful culture of grievance and offense.
I have no doubt that the pitchfork brigade is going to come after Oldman, and hard, for some of his comments, particularly those about 12 Years a Slave and his opinion of the whole Mel Gibson kerfuffle. That's what the perpetually aggrieved do. And that's a shame, because if this does stir up a bunch of trouble for Oldman we're less likely to get such fascinating, unscripted thoughts from our great actors.
So, without further ado, here are my five favorite moments from Oldman's interview with Playboy‘s David Hochman.
1. ‘We're up shit creek without a paddle'
PLAYBOY: What’s your view of the future? Are you optimistic about where society is heading? …
OLDMAN: I think we’re up shit creek without a paddle or a compass.
PLAYBOY: How so?
OLDMAN: Culturally, politically, everywhere you look. I look at the world, I look at our leadership and I look at every aspect of our culture and wonder what will make it better. I have no idea. Any night of the week you only need to turn on one of these news channels and watch for half an hour. Read the newspaper. Go online. Our world has gone to hell. I listen to the radio and hear about these lawsuits and about people like this high school volleyball coach who took it upon herself to get two students to go undercover to do a marijuana bust. You’re a fucking volleyball coach! This is not 21 Jump Street.
Or these helicopter parents who overschedule their children. There’s never any unsupervised play to develop skills or learn about hierarchy in a group or how to share. The kids honestly believe they are the center of the fucking universe. But then they get out into the real world and it’s like, "Shit, maybe it’s not all about me," and that leads to narcissism, depression and anxiety.
2. On educating the youth about great cinema
I’m trying to give my sons an education about movies as well. You sit there and watch a comedy, let’s say Meet the Fockers, and it’s Robert De Niro. You tell them this guy was at one time considered the greatest living actor. My boys look at me and say, "Really? This guy? He’s a middle-aged dad." So what I’ve tried to do recently is introduce them one by one to the great movies of the 1970s—The Godfather, Mean Streets, The Deer Hunter, Dog Day Afternoon, the work of Lindsay Anderson, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Gene Hackman, Al Pacino, John Cazale, Peter Sellers. I try to give them a sense of what cinema used to be like rather than just these tentpole movies that come and go on demand within five minutes.
3. Please don't recite famous lines to actors; they hate that
PLAYBOY: If nothing else, you’ve found a profession that lets you channel anger through your characters. The scene in Léon: The Professional of you screaming, "Bring me everyone!" is a classic.
OLDMAN: Again, I could take it or leave it personally. What’s funny is that the line was a joke and now it’s become iconic. I just did it one take to make the director, Luc Besson, laugh. The previous takes, I’d just gone, "Bring me everyone," in a regular voice. But then I cued the sound guy to slip off his headphones, and I shouted as loud as I could. That’s the one they kept in the movie. When people approach me on the street, that’s the line they most often say. It’s either that or something from True Romance.
4. Harrison Ford: American Badass
PLAYBOY: Do people come up and say, "Get off my plane," like Harrison Ford says to you in Air Force One?
OLDMAN: More than a few times. That movie had some enjoyable moments. I remember the flight deck was on a sound stage and there was a big sign that said NO DRINKING, NO SMOKING AND NO EATING ON SET. At one point I looked over and Harrison was in the doorway beneath the sign with a burrito, a cigar and a cup of coffee, which I thought was hilarious. I could never get the image out of my head.
5. This will be trouble
OLDMAN: Well, if I called Nancy Pelosi a cunt—and I’ll go one better, a fucking useless cunt—I can’t really say that. But Bill Maher and Jon Stewart can, and nobody’s going to stop them from working because of it. Bill Maher could call someone a fag and get away with it. He said to Seth MacFarlane this year, "I thought you were going to do the Oscars again. Instead they got a lesbian." He can say something like that. Is that more or less offensive than Alec Baldwin saying to someone in the street, "You fag"? I don’t get it.
PLAYBOY: You see it as a double standard.
OLDMAN: It’s our culture now, absolutely. At the Oscars, if you didn’t vote for 12 Years a Slave you were a racist. You have to be very careful about what you say. I do have particular views and opinions that most of this town doesn’t share, but it’s not like I’m a fascist or a racist. There’s nothing like that in my history.