Gary Oldman’s Lesson for Actors: Talk About the Movie!

Gary Oldman Lessons From Outburst
Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

In the midst of his inflammatory remarks to Playboy and his subsequent apology tour that included “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Gary Oldman actually stumbled upon an inherent truth, and a helpful lesson to actors. Translated into Bill Clinton campaign terms, it would read as follows: Just talk about the movie, stupid.

“I stepped out of my area of expertise,” Oldman told Kimmel, adding that his detour into politics “derailed what my initial purpose was.”

That purpose, of course, was to promote the upcoming movie “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” in which Oldman co-stars. And lest anyone forget, actors are trotted out to handle those chores not necessarily for their insights, but because the broad TV-watching and movie-going public won’t tune in to see what the producer, writer or director of cinematography has to say.

This is not to suggest that actors have no place discussing politics or expressing opinions beyond their craft. In fact, critics (usually on the right, but also on the left) generally brand themselves hypocrites when they tell actors to shut up and focus on the work (or sing, in the case of the Dixie Chicks), since they invariably have no problem with those who share their ideology holding forth on similar topics. Sean Hannity might bash Alec Baldwin’s liberalism, for example, but treats Ted Nugent like an international scholar.

No, the issue is that there’s a time and place for everything, and that Oldman — despite being such a gifted actor — behaved as if he didn’t grasp the requirements of this current off-screen role. Because while it’s always interesting when someone goes on a rant that strays into political minefields, the task at hand was reminding people they can see chimps firing machine guns in their local multiplex beginning July 11.

If you actually read the Playboy interview, what jumps out is that Oldman was hardly prodded to address these matters. Instead, he sort of veered outside his lane just to bring them up. In baseball terms, it was a classic unforced error.

Again, this was an interview timed to the release of a summer blockbuster. And while Playboy interviews are more wide-ranging than most, for the most part under these circumstances people just want a few anecdotes, a couple of stories, then cut to commercial.

So the next time someone asks Oldman what he thinks about Mel Gibson’s experiences, he could easily answer by saying, “Mel’s a good-looking guy. A lot like Christian Bale. I remember him flubbing a line when we were doing ‘Batman Begins’ together. We both just laughed and laughed.” Or something like that.

For actors, Oldman’s latest variation on unplanned adventures into controversy is a reminder that in these situations, you’re just part of the traveling circus. And whatever his politics, when he told Kimmel he “should know better,” Oldman should at least have been at it long enough to recognize when you deviate from the scripted routine, it’s not hard to wind up slipping on a banana peel.

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  1. Alice Hughes says:

    I believe our right to free speech still exists and , if it does, Mr. Oldman should enjoy its protection–no matter who finds their sensibilities in a twist. Isn’t that why the founders drafted it specically?

    • Shawn Dudley says:

      It seems very few people actually understand what the right to free speech protects. Yes, Oldman has the right to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants, however that does NOT make him free from retribution for those remarks. If you say something bad about your employer that’s your right…though you could get fired for it. Free speech isn’t a “get out of jail free card” that protects people from getting their hands slapped if they say something stupid in public.

  2. Jacques Strappe says:

    I watched the Kimmel interview and actually believe Oldman feels remorseful so I am willing to forgive and forget this time. Don’t let your fans down again, Gary And don’t ever defend Mel Gibson for anything….geez!

  3. Blake says:

    I hope not. Gary Oldman is great. It would be a tragedy for something like this to destroy everything he has done so far. Mixing politics is not a good idea for actors to talk about but certainly judging a great actor solely for politics is still the same. Double standards. It still doesn’t hold a candle to that he is one of the best actors out there.

  4. janwilson515 says:

    Do we not have freedom of speech in this country anymore? Gary can say what he wants to say. Period.

    • Peg says:

      Another one who has no idea what free speech entails. He did say it. No one stopped him. No one arrested him. He has free speech.

      • Jacques Strappe says:

        Thank you, Peg. I couldn’t have stated it better myself. This free speech argument obviously is trotted out when someone is criticized for something they say that one selectively agrees with. Yes, speech is free in this country…but almost everything we all say carries consequences and sometimes even carries a non-monetary price, like job loss and/or lots of unwanted hate mail. Oldman certainly won’t be the last celebrity to use his freedom of speech to say some really, really stupid things that offend far too many people but that is always his free choice. .

  5. Joyce Tyler says:

    The media always tries to get celebrities to express opinions that are best kept out of the public arena. A great but seemingly unsophisticated actor like Oldman let Playboy do it to him and now he’s paying the price. I hope he learned his lesson.

  6. PETER says:

    Right, forget that you are in our USA and have freedom of speech. After all, this is Los Angeles and the entertainment industry, and if you say the wrong thing, the truth, and are not politically correct, you never work in this town again!

    • Jacques Strappe says:

      I don’t know much about the entertainment industry but it is a bottom line driven industry like all for profit ones. If I say disparaging remarks that don’t reflect the values of my employer or outright disparage my employer or fellow employees, I will be fired and would probably be forced to seek employment in a different industry altogether. Unfiltered speech is stupid and reckless speech. We all practice and expect in return some degree of political correctness in our respective lives. It’s generally a trait of intelligent, kind, civil and respectful adults. That shouldn’t be a hard concept to understand.

    • Peg says:

      Is he in jail? Did the government come and fine him for his words? No, so this is not a free speech issue. He said something that offended people, the offended people said something back. Both expressed their right to free speech. End of story.
      Restriction of free speech ONLY applies to government action. His job is to promote a movie, you can’t go to work and start spouting racial epitaphs and expect your co-workers, bosses or customers to not express an opinion back. The same applies here.

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