Gary Oldman reveals the famous role that almost gave him a 'bloody nervous breakdown'
Gary Oldman has been one of the best actors working in the movie industry for a number of years now, but it was only this year that he achieved the shiny gold recognition for it, after winning the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role in March. He had been nominated before, but it was only for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour that he got his hands on the statue.
With this year's Cannes Film Festival wrapping up last weekend, audiences attending were treated to a masterclass Q&A session with the actor, where he went over his previous performances with often brutal honesty. For Sid & Nancy, his breakthrough role, he actually said "I don't think I'm good in it," adding that he "lost a ton of weight and made myself very ill".
Speaking about his starring role as the infamous vampire in Bram Stoker's Dracula, he explained how he worked with an opera singer just to lower his voice by an octave.
"He’d been a hero of mine, I thought Coppola [the director] might be able to do something very interesting with it," he said of the film. And ‘I’ve crossed oceans of time to find you’ – I thought, 'It’s worth doing the movie just to say that line.'" In a typically humble fashion, he only called his performance "pretty good".
"You can’t always sit around and wait for that great role to come along," he explained to the audience. "You’ve got to work and you’re not always going to be hitting home runs." It's a good piece advice for people working in any industry, really, but one that Oldman has clearly learned the hard way. In terms of working hard, some roles have put him through the ringer more than others.
The role that the actor said pushed him to the brink of mental collapse wasn't the role he won an Oscar for, but the one that he was nominated for in 2012: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Following in the footsteps of Sir Alec Guinness, who had played the character in the past, he put himself under a lot of pressure to play George Smiley.
He explained to the crowd:
"I had let it get to a point where it was going to crush me. It almost gave me a bloody nervous breakdown, I was so caught up in the fear of this.
"I did the first scene, and once I had opened my mouth and started doing it, I realised, ‘I know where I am. I’m on a set and I’m acting.'
"I think it will be a sad day to be able to watch yourself and say, ‘I think I’m fantastic in this'. Having doubt and insecurity is a good thing, but you can’t let it paralyse you."
For Oldman, it seems like having a little self-doubt only drives him to act better. If that means we still get some great movies out of him, it works for me.