"I walked the Prada catwalk for a laugh" – Gary Oldman
The British actor (and sometimes model) speaks to Buro 24/7
He has a starring role in Hollywood's new fiction thriller Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, having enjoyed a stellar career in the business. A silver screen veteran, British actor Gary Oldman speaks exclusively with Buro 24/7...
Gary, given the cult status of the 1968 series, was joining the Planet of the Apes film franchise something special for you, or just another film?
Just another film. I mean, you certainly feel the money invested in the title. They gave us plenty of time for pre-production and rehearsal which is a rare thing these days in the industry. When I started working in the film business, movies were filmed over the period of three months or more. Now the industry counts money very well, big projects are made in six weeks, or even three. For example, take Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, where for each scene we had two takes. First, second, then – moving on!
You're known for roles in sci-fi films. I was such fan of your villain Zorg in Fifth Element and especially his immensely cool hair...
Ah, that terrible haircut! (Sighs)
Well you also appeared in The Dark Knight, and earlier this year in RoboCop. Now you're in Planet of the Apes. Is sci-fi this your favourite genre?
No! It is not at all! (Throws his hands up) I do not know why, but I get offered these roles. I am at the mercy of the film industry and what it produces. I also depend on the directors, their imagination and how they do casting. You know what I mean? I always say that if I continued to live in England, I'd never played Dracula in a Francis Ford Coppola's film. I would have been the eccentric Remfield. Chris Nolan, who directed The Dark Knight decided that I would be Commissioner Gordon, who is not the villain, although Brits are often given roles of the baddies. I know it looks like I love sci-fi, as well as make-up and wigs, but I honestly don't!
Starring in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
I know you want to make your own movie, would it not be sci-fi then?
I've got a drama, which I wrote and am trying to produce. Now I've found an investor, but it took me over two years.
Don't people want to invest once they hear you're involved in the project?
Well, all the big studios seem to have a belief that people do not want melodramas. At the same time, I look around and that's all they are watching; Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, True Detective, Fargo... All dramas and they're terribly popular!
"The agent called me about Planet of the apes and I thought, 'Thank God, I've got a gig to do!'"
Is your movie going to be a drama too?
Yes, but mine is set in the 19th century, which is even more difficult to produce. All that we see in the industry today is a lots of actors and big lack of filmmakers – and a lot of money. For women it's even harder. Here's an example: Last year I was sitting around for a few months without a job. I pay a mortgage for the house, send my children to a private school, but had no income. Then the agent called me and said, "Matt Reeves wants to offer you a role in Planet of the Apes..." I thought, "Well, thank God, I've got a gig!" This year too, I haven't worked yet. Will anything turn up by the end of the year? God knows. It's not like I have a pile of two hundred scripts on my desk, and I think every morning: "So... Shall I do another sci-fi this year? And in the Summer could I quickly fit in a little indie film?"
This is a real eye-opener. I thought that famous actors like yourself get showered with offers and ideas.
Nonsense. Maybe Leonardo (DiCaprio) lives like that, and a handful of other people. Why do you think George Clooney has to do those coffee adverts?
Because he loves Italian coffee?
If only! Rather because he has a house on the Italian Lake Como, and wants to continue to keep it, let's be honest with each other! (Laughs)
This melodrama that you long to do, do you do not want to rewrite it for TV where there is more money?
I thought of making it a mini-series in four parts. But now I've found an investor and will try to keep within the existing budget. Today everyone is trying to shoot in different places, to get relief from taxes. My story takes place in California, near San Francisco and the Napa Valley in the 1870s. Most likely, I'll have to shoot in Hungary, Czech Republic and Canada.
Nowadays everyone is doing that...
But I remember a time, as they now say "in the old days" when people were discussing new movies over lunch, now people buy into a series. Television is enjoying the peak that the film industry experienced in the 70s.
"Television is bolder and fresher than film"
Why do you think this has happened? That movies and TV series get placed at the same level?
Television is bolder and fresher. There are interesting new ideas. You write about both, so don't you agree?
Hollywood is indeed recycling itself. They make a lot of comics, prequels, sequels...
Remakes are also everywhere.
So television became a pioneer for both industries?
Take Breaking Bad for instance. Is it possible to imagine in a big Hollywood melodrama and a protagonist like that? No way, but in the series – it is easy to believe and it was incredibly popular. Television used to have that stigma of a primitive genre. In the 80s people used to be sneery about it – we are 'movie' stars, and those are just 'TV' actors. Now we all need to work, it's getting narrower and narrower.
If you would get offered a TV job, would you do it?
Yes, why not?
Given all that you just said, was being a part of that Prada campaign also purely for the money, or do you actually like fashion?
I'd like to think that I have a sense of style and that I dress well. I think that invitation to collaborate with Prada was well deserved. Once she even invited me to do a catwalk show. So I went for it in Milan.
"I'd like to think that I have a sense of style and dress well"
When was this? I somehow missed it ...
Oh, darling, it was years ago, during my successful modelling career. (Laughs)
Did you say yes straight away?
Miuccia Prada personally invited me to participate in the show. I think I only was on the runway for about 48 seconds...
Were there any other actors or just yourself?
Yes, there was also Tim Roth and Willem Dafoe... This is an example of how I don't seek some things, and even say no to them, but I get offered them anyway. At this point, I was not terribly busy, and said, "Okay, I'll go to Milan, and I'll do it for a good laugh!"
You are also going to play a detective in the film Child 44, which takes place in Stalin's Russia. Were you intrigued by the script?
I like that movie's historical value. This is a part of Russian history, which we rarely see on the screen in the West. The action takes place in the early 50s, they have that utopian mood which prevails in the Soviet society and the state pretends that there is no crime. They live in a beautiful country, and all the bad and dark is safely hidden. This clash of utopian facade with real life fascinated me.