Gary Oldman


                                                                          “I’ve turned a few things down, but I couldn’t mention them…”

    1. Tim Roth, The Bounty, 1984.     “When I saw  Malcolm McDowelll in Raging Moon (1969), that was it. It was like a moment of clarity. ‘This is it.’  A lightning bolt!”   Yet instead of mutinying with Mel Gibson in the South Seas, Gary  still preferred £130 a week in a small Chesterfield production of Entertaining Mr Sloane, written by Oldman’s later screen persona, Joe Orton. 
    2. Daniel Day-Lewis, My Beautiful Laundrette, 1985.  Oldman was first choice for Johnny, Kenneth Branagah auditioned but Day-Lewis said: Yes!  Written by Hanif Kureishi, the Stephen Frears classic dissected Margaret Thatcher’s Britain via the love affair of a young Pakistani (Gordon Warnecke) and Johnny the street punk.
    3. Will Patton, No Way Out, 1986. For his excellent thriller (labyrinthine and ingenious, said Roger Ebert) the under-praised Aussie director Roger Donaldson looked at his fellow Aussies Bryan Brown and Colin Friels for the villain Gene Hackman’s aide. Plus Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn,  Richard Dreyfuss, Scott Glenn, John Heard, Stephen Lang, Gary Oldman, Ron Perlman, Sam Shepard, James Spader, JT Walsh. Patton got the gig and  was cast as gay again in The Punisher, 2003.
    4. Brad Dourif, Child’s Play,1988.  The role was a double act.  To appear, be shot dead and then voice the serial killer inhabiting young Andy’s doll, Chucky.  Divoff (a veteran, by 2022, of  113 screen credits) was in the mix with  John Lithgow and Oldman.  “No-one else would fit the part,” said screenwriter Don Mancini about Dourif – from director Tom Holland’s previous release, Fatal Beauty. 
    5. Kurt Russell, Tango & Cash, 1989.  Sylvester Stallone was Raymond Tango – without question. But who would he accept as his equally frame cop pardner, Gabriel Cash? After Patrick Swayze ran (to solo billing in Road House), the list was long… Oldman, Michael Biehn, Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Costner,  Richard Gere, Mel Gibson, Don Johnson, Michael Keaton, Ray Liotta, Liam Neeson, Michael Nouri, Robert Patrick, Bill Paxton, Ron Perlman, Dennis Quaid, Gary Sinise.  Plus three future Sly co-stars: Harrison Ford,  Bruce Willis and James Woods. They all lost out on the debatable pleasure of four directors! From the Russian Andrei Konchalovsky to, secretly, Stallone..!
    6. Liam Neeson, Darkman,1989. When young director Sam Raimi saw his dream project – The Shadow, based on Orson Welles’ radio character – go to Robert Zemeckis (finally, badly, to Russel Mulcahy), Sam created his own superhero from a mix of others and called him Darkman. Gary Oldman Bill Paxton were seen but  as casting director Nancy Nayor  said: “Liam was so perfect, such a powerful presence with such emotional range and haunted eyes.” It appealed to the little boy in him, he said, “something I would’ve loved… on a Saturday matinee growing up in Ireland.”  Someone  said he was excited to be  working on a Universal  horror movie. Liam stared him down. ”This is not a horror movie.”
    7. Johnny Depp, Edward Scissorhands, 1990.  The suits were keen on Oldman for Edward. Of course, they were. The Brit was the greatest influence on young US actors since Brando and Dean.  “And I read the script and went: Phew!  This is ridiculous,” he told Larry King. “There’s a castle at the end of the street, an Avon lady comes around selling make-up and this kid has scissor hands….  This is nuts!   I don’t think I even went in for a meeting.  I didn’t get it! Then, I went to see the movie… The camera pans over these multi-coloured houses in a suburban neighbourhood with Dracula’..!s castle on a hill.  And two minutes in, I get it.  I just got it too late!” So Depp was off the Hollywod meat rack and became a real star – due to director Tim Burton.  No wonder, they made seven more.  Says Depp: “My life is my life because of Tim.  Definitely.”
    8. Eric Roberts, Final Analysis, 1992.     Withdrew when his marriage to the higher billed Uma Thurman fell apart.
    9. Tim Curry, The Three Musketeers, 1993.     First choice for Cardinal Richelieu was, according to Colin Firth: “A candidate for the title of Greatest Living Actor.”

    10. John Travolta, Pulp Fiction, 1993.    
    11. Tim Roth, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
    12. Eric Stoltz, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
    13. Quentin Tarantino, Pulp Fiction, 1993.

    14. Colin Friels, A Good Man In Africa, 1994.     When Oldman quit, Australian director Bruce Beresford called up a mate from down-under opposite two of the best bald pates in the business,those of Sean Connery and Lou Gusset Jr.
    15. Jeff  Daniels, Dumb and Dumber, 1994.     The sadsacks Harold and Lloyd (!) were first due to be Oldman and Nicolas Cage.
    16. Wesley Snipes, To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, 1994.     Tested in drag but passed on UK director Beeban Kidron’s offer, having suffered enough with heavy make-up sessions on Coppola’s Dracula.
    17. Dennis Hopper, Waterworld, 1994. The Kevins (Costner and  director Reynolds) tried all the usual baddies: Gary Busey, James Caan, Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L Jackson.  Universal offered Oldman  $2.5m (a big jump from his $750,000 Dracula cheque) but he was given the same for The Scarlet Letter, the year’s other  major flop.. (Actually, Costner wanted to play both hero and villain!). 
    18. Eric Bogosian, Under Seige 2: Dark Territory, 1994.  Two Brits, (Oldman, Julian Sands) and two Yanks (Laurence Fishburne, Jeff Goldblum) refused villainy opposite a hero in, allegedly, a girdle to control his expansive abdomen. Steven Seagal was so fat that his image on the #2 poster came from the #1 poster, circa 1992. 
    19. David Thewlis, The Island Of Dr Moreau, 1995.     Like everyone else, Oldman wanted to work with Marlon Brando… Problem was, Oldman was in rehab. So, Thewlis (and not Oldman, James Spader, Bruce Willis or James Woods) replaced Morrow who quit when the director Richard Stanley was sacked after a few days. (Numbers differ). Then, Val Kilmer and Bruce Willis found themselves in divorce battles. Brando’s daughter, Cheynne, committed suicide. And without new helmer John Frankenheimer knowing it, Stanley had joined the extras… No wonder Brando welcomed Thewlis by saying: “Go home, David. This is not a good film to work on. It is cursed.” Thewlis could say much more about the making of the farce – but feared such honesty would kill his career.
    20. Anthony Hopkins, Nixon, 1995.  Auteur Oliver Stone’s ideas for Tricky Dicky included Warren Beatty, Gene Hackman, Tom Hanks, Tommy Lee Jones, John Malkovich, Jack Nicholson and Robin Williams – and Oldman,  who had been Stone’s Lee Harvey Oswald in  JFK, 1990. Hopkins was taking his time. “What,” Stone asked him, “do you think of Gary Oldman?”  “Fuck it,” said Hopkins, “I’m gonna do it.”  Oldman won his Oscar for Darkest Hour, 2017, when he played… Winston Churchill.

    21. Jeff Bridges, White Squall, 1996.     Anthony also Hopkins passed on being sea-sick upon the oceans of eight countries.
    22. Jim Carrey, The Truman Show, 1997.     Gary agreed to appear in a test to help young Kiwi scenarist Andrew Nicol convince producer Scott Rudin that he should direct  – and not other such interested parties as Tim Burton, Rob Reiner, Steven Spielberg.
    23. David Thornton, Unhook The Stars, France, 1996.     Now it’s Nick Cassavetes directing… This project announced at Cannes, 1994, was to be  the first of eight offerings from the Laura Pels/Peter Bogdanovich Corp.  It wasn’t.  Finally, Gérard Depardieu produced it, instead. For the sheer pleasure of working with the Nick’s mother, John’s widow: Gena Rowlands.
    24. Ewan McGregor,  Star Wars – Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace, 1997.
    25. Laurence Fishburne, The Matrix, 1998.   Everyone passed on Morpheus… Oldman, Yun-Fat Chow, Russell Crowe, Samuel L Jackson. Only Fishburne saw the potential. Far from financial at the time. If Will Smith  had accepted the hero, Neo, he said Val Kilmer would have been Morpheus. “In short, one leading black man is OK – not two!”
    26. Jim Carrey, The Truman Show, 1998.       Writer-director Andrew Niccol’s choice for Truman Burbank, who has no idea that his life is, in fact, a TV show. But Peter Weir finally made the film about a tele-reality series so terrifying that it has not yet been copied in the real world. But… any day now…
    27. Jeroen Krabbé, Jesus, TV, Czech Republic-France-Germany-Netherlands-Spain-UK-US, 1999.  Hey Gary, howdya like to be Satan?  No thanks – got anything else? Yeah, sure, why not Pontius Pilate? Great!   Title role went to Jeremy Sisto, a Buddhist.
    28. Mark Rylance, Intimacy, 2001.     French réalisateur Patrice Chereau’s  first film in English was just too intimate for Oldman – an explicit  three fellatic seconds from New Zealand actress Kerry Fox.   Last Tango In London.
    29. Tim Roth, Planet  of the Apes, 2001.    Daniel Day-Lewis, Johnny Depp (well Tim Burton was directing!) and Oldman were in the frame for General Thade – requiring six weeks in “ape school.”  Gary was ery keen, but “they’re too cheap, won’t pay correct.” Roth (foolishly) gave up Professor Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to play gorilla General Thade  -suffering  trapped nerves and two herniated vertebrae in his back from his ape-suit.  “They” obviously paid better for  the second episode of the new reboot, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, 2013, which Oldman  headlined as Dreyfus, leader of the remaining humans.

    30. James Franco, James Dean, TV, 2001.  
      In the Jimmy mix with Brendan Fraser (!), Edward Furlong, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt.. and Leonardo DiCaprip. I did a screen test,  he told Deadline’s Mike Fleming. I think I was 18. It turned out pretty well. We saw clips of Giant, and then he put me in the back of the car with that cowboy hat. But I was a very young looking kid… He decided to wait a couple of years, but I… looked really young.”    “He” was director Michael Mann, who also spoke  with  Fleming. It was a brilliant screenplay. And then it’s who the hell could play James Dean? And I found a chap who could But he was too young. It was Leo. We did a screentest that’s quite amazing He would turn his face in one direction and we see a vision of James Dean, and then he’d turn his face another direction and it’s no, that’s a young kid. With both guys talking to Fleming, the Hollywood Elsewhere blogger Jeffrey Welles broke a long silence…  about Mann  actually showing him the 1993 test.  “It was filmed footage on a VHS cassette.  Leo was wearing a red Rebel Without A Cause jacket and ‘50s Brylcream pompadour hair. The deal was that I couldn’t mention to anyone (not even my mother) that I’d seen it, and there could certainly be no filing of any kind. I agreed, of course, but I was so knocked out by how well DiCaprio had captured Dean’s expressions during his big scene with Jo Van Fleet in East of Eden . I was so turned around that it broke my heart to have to sit on my impressions forever. But [now], it seems okay to mention my quick peek.” 

    31. Russell Crowe, A Brilliant Mind, 2001.   The choice of the right actor to portray the schizophrenic Noble Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr was vital.  Which had me wondering why Keanu Reeves, Charlie Sheen, John Travolta and Bruce Willis   were on the short-list!  Then again they might have proved as surprising as Crowe. Director Ron Howard’s other candidates included Alec Baldwin, Matthew Broderick, Nicolas Cage, Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise, John Cusack, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr, Ralph Fiennes, Mel Gibson, Jared Leto, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Sean Penn, Brad Pitt. Nash liked the six-Oscar-winner. “But it wasn’t me.”

    32. Jason Isaacs, Peter Pan, 2002.       Rupert Everett and Alan Rickman were also potentials for Captain Hook. Sounds like another of the Harry Potter auditions. Except Oldman and Rickman were already aboard and, soon enough, joined by Isaacs.

    33. John Turturo, Fear X(aka Inside Job), Denmark-Canada-UK-Brazil, 2002. Stanley Kubrick meets David Lynch in a slow-burner from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn about a security guard hunting the sniper who randomly killed his wife in a mall. Room for Antonioni, too, as he spends hours studying close-circuit video footage. Turturro’s best work in years, as if sending a message to his rivals for the gig: Oldman, Ray Liotta, Mark Ruffalo and Tom Sizemore. 
    34. Alan Smithee (Matthew Wood), Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith,  2003.
    35. Andy Garcia, Modigliani, 2004.      US director Phil Joanou planned it with Gary as Amedeo, then Pacino announced he would direct himself in a bio-pic, finally the UK’s Mick Davis pulled it off with the Cuban Garcia… in Romania!
    36. Chris Cooper, Jarhead, 2004.   In many respects, US marine officer,  Lieutenant-Colonel Kranksi was American Beauty’s US marine officer, Colonel  Fitts, before he came home from the war. Sam Mendes  agreed and finally chose the same actor. Instead of Oldman, Michael Keaton or Kurt Russell.
    37. Liam Neeson, Batman Begins,  2004. 
    38. James Cromwell, The Longest Yard, 2004.    Talks about Oldman playing the prison warden fell apart. Or maybe Gary finally undertstood that Adam Sadler was re-hashig Burt Reynolds’ 1973 role. This new take (despite a Burt cameo) made the old one look like, well, let’s say, Ben-Hur.
    39. Denzel Washington, Man on Fire, 2004. 
      Tony Scott backed out of directing the first version in 1986, but helped  Denzel Washington retrieve his lost taste for acting in this re-make.  Sergio Leone chose  Robert De Niro  and Marlon Brando nearly played A J Quinnell’s ex-CIA hero turned mercenary (certainly helped re-write  him) but Scott Glenn won the  role. Tony Scott  had wanted Robert Duvall. The new scriptwriter, Brian Helgeland,  recalled going  into the LA Video Archives store  in the 80s and asking the clerk: “What’s good?” The clerk said:  Man on Fire. The clerk was Quentin Tarantino.  In both films Creasy  is trying to rescue a kidnapped girl, almost a daughter to him, that  he’s bodyguarding.  Yeah, rather like a matrix for Liam Neeson’s Takens. So no surprise to find Liam among some 25 actors up for Creasy. Alec Baldwin, Sean Bean (a nearly 007),  Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, Andy Garcia, Mel Gibson, Ed Harris, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, Viggo Mortensen,  Gary Oldman, Dennis Quaid, Keanu Reeves, Alan Rickman, Kurt Russell,  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis… even our dear old  Bob Hoskins.  Creasy was later  Bollywooded by the inimitable  Amitabh Bachchan (at age  63!). There were three songs, of course.

    40. Brian Cox,  Zodiac, 2006.      Was he in or out?  1: Contrary to reports in both Variety and Hollywood Reporter,  Oldman’s management company, The Douglas Management Group, declared in February 2006 that Mr Oldman is not and never was in the film.  2:  The book’s author, Robert Graysmith, recalled in a Cinematical interview in March 2007: “We had Gary Oldman at one point, to play Melvin Belli. He went to a lot of trouble, they had appliances… Physically it wasn’t going to work, he just didn’t have the girth.”  
    41. Christopher Walken, Go Go Tales, 2006.   For what the exiled  director called his “first intentional comedy,” Abel Ferrera wanted Gary Oldman and Robert Carlyle as the brothers  Ruby – a hairdresser and a tawdry club owner – in a New York made in Cinecitta and overly inspired by John Cassavetes’ Killing of a Chinese Bookie.
    42. Jared Harris, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shows, 2010.     Also in the mix to be Moriarty: Javier Bardem, Daniel Day-Lewis, Gary Oldman, Sean Penn.  Two years earlier, Pitt had been a rumoured Moriarty in the first Guy Ritchie take on Holmes.
    43. Michael Caine, Gnomeo and Juliet, 2010.   Oldman and James Woods (a big hiot voicing Disney toons) were also sugggested for  Lord Redbrick (ie Lord Capulet), leader of the red gnomes v Gnoemo’s bluespalin this garden gnomes’ take on Shakespeare  (voiced by Patrick Stewart) with, of course, producer Elton John’s songbook – Benny and the Jets, Crocodile Rock, Rocketman, Your Song, et al. Bard jokes  included  houses numbered 2B and Not 2B and the As U Like It moving company.
    44. Steve Carell, Foxcatcher, 2012.   Almost the inevitable first choice for the true tale of Jon Du Pont, the paranoid schizophrenic who killed Olympic wrestler David Schultz.
    45. Max von Sydow, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, 2014.
    46. James Cromwell, Big Hero 6, 2014.    Six super heroes. So they naturally require one super-nemesis. Who better than (the masked) Robert Callaghan, head of a robotics at San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. The voicing gig for Disney’s first Marvel subject –  after The Big Buy-Out but before Kevin Feige created the  Marvelverse, and  winning the best animation Oscar – was aimed at Jason Alexander, Alec Baldwin, Jeff Bridges, Jim Carrey, Danny De Vito, John Goodman, Dustin Hoffman, Bob Hoskins, Michael Keaton, John Malkovich, Eddie Murphy, Jack  Nicholson, Gary Oldman, Joe Pesci, JK Simmons, Jeffrey Tambor….plus the great Gilbert Gottfried, putting the rest to shame by scoring 179 screen roles in 41 years!   They all made way for Cromwell. Ten years earlier, he had created the I, Robot called Sonny, played by Alan Tudyk… here playing Cromwell’s enemy.   
    47. Alan Tudyk, Big Hero 6, 2014.    Now it was Oldman, Baldwin, Goodman and Malkovich again, plus  Peter Dinklage, Paul Giamatti, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, Alfred Malina, Mandy Pantinkin,  Hugo Weaving and UK comics John Cleese and Eddie Izzard bowing to Tudyk… as the above Cromwell’s arch enemy, Alistair Krej.   Ten years earlier, Cromwell created the  I, Robot  called Sonny, played by…  Tudyk!
    48. Michael Douglas, Ant-Man, 2014.   The micro-superhero had been rolling around Hollywood ever since New World’s 1988 plan was tossed because Disney was into Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. Well, now Disney was Marvel and, started prepping in 2006, with the great (and great Ant Man fan) Edgar Wright writer-directing. By 2013, the script was done, effects tests made and Douglas (or his Oscar) was chosen over Oldman, Sean Bean (008 in Goldeneye), Pierce Brosnan (007), Steve Buscemi for Hank Pym, the original  Ant-Man, mentoring Paul Rudd as his successor. Then, Marvel maven Kevin Feige shook Hollywood by replacing Wright (for being Edgar Wright!) with an obedient Peyton Reed.
    49. Bryan Cranston, Trumbo, 2014.   In the loop to play Dalton Ttumbo, a giant among Hollywood screenwriters – and victims of the loathsome blacklist. Kirk Douglas literally gave him is name back when booking him to script Sparatcus.  However, Bryan Cranston (once Seinfeld’s dentist) was winning all these Emmies (five) for the amazing Breaking Bad. And up for almost every decent, ie adult, rôle going: LBJ in All The Way, Robert Mazur, aka The Infiltrator, Wakefield, Dubious Battle and the Hollywood re-tread of the French comedy smash, Intouchables. Cranston said Kirk’s only complaint about the film was not being asked to play himself.  He was  98 at the time! Dean O’Gorman was Kirk, just as Christian Berkel was Otto Preminger and Helen Mirren played the dreaded columnist Hedda Hopper.  In 2019, Oldman played another scenarist legend in Mank – Citizen Kane writer Herman J Mankiewicz.,  His “test” has been winning an Oscar for his amazing Churchill in Darkest Hour, 2016.
    50. Jesse Eisenberg, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, 2015.

    51. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Doctor Strange , 2015.     Marvel thinks big! Simon Baker and Mads Mikkelsen, were also talked of for Baron Karl Mordo – Stephen Strange’s fellow student of The Ancient One. A villain?   “A very complex character,” said Ejiofor, “I don’t think [he] can be nailed down either way.” Mikkelsen was compensated with… the real villain! As, finally, the portal opened to the supernatural side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
    52. Kamil Lemieszewski, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, 2015.     On Warner shelves almost as long as Justice League, David Dobkins’ Arthur & Lancelot, churned into Guy Ritchie’s Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur as the first of a possible sextet (but there are no Hobbits!). A dozen actors were up for the king. Just Oldman for Merlin. (Well, yes, there had been rumours about Idris Elba). And as time dragged on, Oldman caught other fish to fry.
    53. Michael Gambon, Churchill’s Secret, TV, 2015.    Although far from anyone’s first thought for enacting Winston, Oldman went on to win the Best Actor Oscar for his Churchill inDarkest Hour, 2017.   As IMDb pointed ouit, this made him the fifth Harry Potterto portyray the great man after Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Robert Hardy (twice) and Timothy Spall.
    54. Kurt Russell ,Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, 2016.    Aged between Christopher Plummer and Max Von Sydow’s 87 and Matthew McConaughey’s 47,  fifteen actors were Marveled about for Ego, father of Chris Pratt’s hero, Peter Quill aka Star Lord.  The others in the  loop were Oldman, Alec Baldwin, Michael Biehn, Robert De Niro, Mel Gibson, Stephen Lang, Viggo Mortensen, Liam Neeson, Ron Perlman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christoph Waltz and Bruce Willis.
    55. Micheal Keaton, Spider-Man: Homecoming, 2016. 
    56. Jonathan Pryce, The Wife, 2017.   “We couldn’t find an American actor who’d be in a movie called The Wife,” reported the titular Glenn Close. “So we came over here (to the UK) where they’re smarter.”  Not all of them. Oldman, for one,  said he was unavailable.
    57. Matthew McConaughey, The Beach Bum, 2018.    Director Harmony Korine’s initial choice was Oldman. He passed. Knowing full well that when the character is a rebel stoner called Moondog  it just hadda Big Mac.


 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  57