Gary Oldman: The Oscar Frontrunner With a Dark Past
The British acting icon is considered a favorite to win the Best Actor Oscar for his turn as Winston Churchill in ‘Darkest Hour,’ but will his controversial past catch up with him?
With powerful Hollywood players like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey jettisoned into the abyss for sexual abuse scandals, extra scrutiny has been placed this awards season on men with prior transgressions—like last year’s Best Actor winner Casey Affleck, who is due to present the Best Actress Oscar this year.
During Affleck’s awards season campaign for Manchester by the Sea last year, it was reported that two women, the producer and cinematographer of his mockumentary I’m Still Here, had accused Affleck of a disturbing pattern of sexual harassment during filming. The suits were settled in 2010, and Affleck managed to avoid directly addressing the controversy until he won his Oscar. (Affleck has denied the allegations.)
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Armie Hammer called out the hypocrisy in Affleck remaining unscathed in Hollywood while Nate Parker, his director on The Birth of a Nation, was essentially blacklisted for being charged and acquitted of rape. “His entire life is affected in the worst possible way. And the other guy won the highest award you can get as an actor. It just doesn’t make sense,” Hammer said. “I’m not saying Nate should not have been in trouble. I’m saying that they got in different levels of trouble. And that’s the disparity. It’s like there are two standards for how to deal with someone who has this kind of issue in their past, you know?”
It’s an interesting question as we head toward another Academy Awards ceremony—one where Hammer’s Call Me By Your Name co-star, Timothée Chamalet, could very likely be nominated alongside Gary Oldman for his performance in Darkest Hour.
Oldman, 59, has garnered rave reviews for his turn as Winston Churchill, and the Best Actor race is shaping up as a battle between him, Chalamet, James Franco for The Disaster Artist, Tom Hanks for The Post, and Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread. The only problem is: if Oldman were to win Best Actor, the Academy would be once again awarding someone with a questionable past.
In 2001, Oldman’s then-wife Donya Fiorentino filed papers in Los Angeles Superior Court claiming that Oldman assaulted her in front of their children with a telephone.
According to the New York Daily News, Fiorentino said, “As I picked up the phone to call the police, Gary put his hand on my neck and squeezed. I backed away, with the phone receiver in my hand. I tried to dial 911. Gary grabbed the phone receiver from my hand, and hit me in the face with the telephone receiver three or four times. Both of the children were crying.”
For his part, Oldman vehemently denied the allegations and claimed, “[the accusations are] replete with lies, innuendoes and half-truths.”
But even if we are to give Oldman the benefit of the doubt in his case, he also has a history of making light of abuse when it pertains to other men.
In a 2014 interview with Playboy, Oldman—who identifies as a libertarian—let out an expletive-laden rant about how men like Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin can’t get away with politically incorrect jokes, while the Jon Stewarts and Bill Mahers of the world can:
“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.”
Ignoring the fact that no one should get away with calling someone a homophobic slur, and straight white men shouldn’t be complaining about not having the opportunity to do so, Oldman continued to defend Gibson—particularly his infamous drunken anti-Semitic rant where he exclaimed, “Fucking Jews…The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” and his racist one wherein he told his then-partner, Oksana Grigorieva, “I hope you get raped by a pack of niggers.”
“Mel Gibson is in a town that’s run by Jews, and he said the wrong thing because he’s actually bitten the hand that I guess has fed him—and doesn’t need to feed him anymore because he’s got enough dough. He’s like an outcast, a leper, you know? I don’t know about Mel. He got drunk and said a few things, but we’ve all said those things,” offered Oldman.
“We’re all fucking hypocrites,” he added. “That’s what I think about it. The policeman who arrested him has never used the word ‘nigger’ or ‘that fucking Jew?’”
No decent person would agree with Oldman that people tell their partners, “I hope you get raped by a pack of niggers,” like Gibson is recorded saying—not to mention how Gibson pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery after allegedly striking Grigorieva in the face, breaking several of her teeth.
It’s not just that Oldman makes excuses for bad behavior in Hollywood; it’s that he’s been accused of engaging in bad behavior himself and called others hypocritical for being offended. But then again, Hollywood welcomed Gibson back at the last Oscars ceremony, where his film Hacksaw Ridge received six Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture and Best Director).
As more and more instances of abuse are brought to light in Hollywood, and its members claim they want to bring about change, what is to be done about Oldman? Ignore it and consider it “the past,” or force him to address the situation in a way that Affleck never had to?
At some point, change will mean addressing all of Hollywood’s ghosts—not just the ones who are cartoonishly monstrous like Weinstein and Spacey.