Sunday, September 05, 2010
From the Vault: Gary Oldman
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED OCT. 13, 1995
My first encounter with actor Gary Oldman came as I interviewed the Hughes Brothers for their film Dead Presidents. Oldman wandered into the interview to greet the directing team who had planned to cast him as a chaplain in their new film.
Unfortunately, the actor had to enter rehabilitation for alcoholism and had to pass on Dead Presidents. Oldman was in New York that weekend to promote his latest work, The Scarlet Letter. When the time came for interviews with Oldman, the actor was surprisingly candid about his off-screen troubles which came to a head during filming of The Scarlet Letter.
Oldman portrays the Rev. Arthur Dimmesdale, half of one of the most famous adulterous pairs in all of literature, opposite Demi Moore as Hester Prynne. Dimmesdale is a change of pace for Oldman.
"I like (The Scarlet Letter) because Arthur's inherently a good guy and it just makes a change playing someone like that instead of just going in with a big gun and killing a bunch of people. You get a little tired of that and I've done enough of that in my time. It appealed to me. It's not a light, romantic comedy, but it's lighter than a lot of the stuff I play."
As one journalist questioned Oldman and assumed that the role of Dimmesdale came after he cleaned up and got "on the straight and narrow," as he called it, Oldman corrected him.
"When I played Arthur, I was in the thick of it. I didn't go and clean up until after the film."
Oldman gives a great deal of the credit for his release from alcohol's grasp to his co-star Moore.
"Demi was instrumental in saving my life. In a sense, it was the gods or something that put me there in this film with Demi. There are only so many days you can come in with an inner ear infection and a tummy bug; there are only so many mornings you can do that. She just went, 'Oh, yeah. You've got to go away. You've got to stop. You've got to come back.' I think I may have reached a point where I gave up hiding it. That's a really sad point when you get to that because you do a great deal of lying when you drink. I think I got to the point that she was there working with me every day so she was the closest to me. She was seeing it every day."
While Oldman is grateful for Moore's help, he also realizes that change must come from within.
"Alcohol addiction is (an) ... illness that you just have to want it to leave. You must make a decision ... it has to come from you. A relationship won't help it. A good film won't help it. A role won't help it. It's got to be independent of all that, because you ultimately have to stand back and say, 'Do I want to live or do I want to die?'"
Oldman himself was painfully aware of what was happening to him.
"I was 36 years old when I made Scarlet Letter and when you're waking up in the morning and crawling across the floor like an 80-year-old man, when your tongue is discolored and you drink three vodkas and you vomit up the first two to keep the third one down so you just level out and feel normal, I think you have a problem. I think you have to say, 'This is not normal. Normal people do not start their day like this.'"
Oldman admits the subject isn't an easy one, but he felt it was necessary to talk about it once his rehabilitation was made public.
"I talk about it only because ... one person might read (an) article and go, 'That's me' and it might just inspire someone to say, 'Maybe I should do something about it too.'"