I've always really liked Gary Oldman. But his career is a puzzle to me. He is most frequently cast as the "bad guy" in movies, but I think what makes him truly special, apart from the much-touted acting chops, is his sense of humor: Oldman, on True Romance, (1993): "I hadn't read the script, and knew nothing about it. Tony (Scott) and I had tea at the Four Seasons and he said, 'Look, I can't really explain the plot. But Drexl's a pimp who's white but thinks he's black'. That was all I needed to hear. I said, 'Yes, I'll do it'." The guy always brings a funny little twist, not just an accent, to his roles. One of my all-time favorite Oldman performances, and probably the first time I saw him, is as Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy. He is obnoxious and tragic and eerily like the Sex Pistols' doomed bassist. But he is also funny as hell.
Oldman can do anything—biopics (Prick Up Your Ears), period good (Immortal Beloved) and not-so-good (The Scarlet Letter), crime (The Professional). He has used so many different accents in his movies that I'm not really sure what his real voice sounds like. So why is he so often called in to do the same sort of role, over and over—the crazy bad guy? Case in point. I watched The Book of Eli the other day. It's not a great film, but it was definitely absorbing. It's a little bit western, a little bit Thunderdome, a little bit classic Twilight Zone-with-a-twist sci-fi. It's mainly a showcase for Denzel Washington, which is always a good thing. I got a huge kick watching Denzel be the coolest badass post-apocalyptic superhero samurai that ever walked the West.
And The Book of Eli had Gary Oldman as the villain Carnegie. There is a nice scene in the movie where Oldman washes his lover's hair. It's unexpected and adds a nice shade to his character. And then the script and the rest of the movie forgets about it and it's stock villain dialogue for the rest of the film. It's a shame, because the man could have made the character much more interesting, if he'd been given anything to work with.