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Gary Oldman - Biography

The English actor and filmmaker is best known for his performance in the Darkest Hour

Actor Gary Oldman in tuxedo
Phoebe Tatham
Content Writer
Updated: 9 November 2023
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Before his recent incarnation as Harry Potter's godfather Sirius Black, Gary Oldman had another reputation - as the most compelling character actor of his generation and Hollywood's go-to-guy for punks, vampires and psychos.

His acting career

His isn't the kind of memorable face that stops you in the street. On screen it's another matter. Audiences shivered at his performance as Dracula for Francis Ford Coppola. He also stood out playing killer Lee Harvey Oswald in Oliver Stone's JFK, a pimp in True Romance, and transforming himself into Sid Vicious for Sid and Nancy

Born in 1958 to an alcoholic welder who abandoned their family when his son was barely seven years old, Gary was not an obvious fit for the thespian world.

Students at Rose Bruford Drama College in Kent, which he attended on a scholarship between 1976-79 remember him as ambitious, with a talent for accents.

"I can do a rough approximation of virtually any accent. I've always done them; as a kid I used to do the Beatles as a party piece. When I was with the Royal Court Theatre we used to [expletive] around and people would say, "I bet you can't do Zimbabwe," so I did it." Graduation was followed by some solid years at the RSC and Royal Court. 

Then, just as his career was taking off, the East End boy swapped London for Hollywood without a backward glance. "I moved to New York and I said, "I'm home. This is my town." I'm not one of those Brits that goes to the English pub and plays cricket under the Hollywood sign. I really immersed myself in the culture." 

With the top flight Tinseltown career came juicy franchises such as Harry Potter and the Batman series, in which he plays kindly detective Jim Gordon. It also bought him the freedom for more personal projects like Nil By Mouth, a semi-autobiographical tale of alcoholism, drugs, criminality and wife-beating based on his childhood. 

His personal life

And with success came friendships with the A-list – including Brad Pitt and Kiefer Sutherland – and a short-lived marriage to Uma Thurman, his second wife. 

A proud husband after marrying for the fourth time in 2008, Gary has three sons. Alfie was born in 1988 during his first marriage to Lesley Manville, and he is a single father to Gulliver, born in 1997, and Charlie, 1999, by his third wife. His one wish is to be honoured with an Oscar and he was recognised with an Academy nomination in 2012.

There was a stint in rehab too. But since 1995 the bad boy of British film hasn't touched a drop, preferring to focus on his role as a family man.

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