SPOILER ALERT: The following contains spoilers for "The Dark Knight."
"My villains are alright, they're okay, but I don't think I've ever been that good," said Gary Oldman of the bigger-than-life nefarious roles he has played in such films as "Leon," "The Fifth Element" and "Hannibal." But in taking the role of James Gordon in "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," Oldman put aside those more eccentric performances to play, simply, one good cop. The actor talked to CBR News about the role as well as his upcoming projects.
While Gordon's role in "Batman Begins" is somewhat small, he becomes a major player in the sequel, "The Dark Knight." Oldman says this was not a condition of him initially taking the part in "Batman Begins." "It was just Chris [Nolan] called and said, 'I'd like you to come back and do the second one and I think the script is really good and you've got more to do and I've really beefed him out,'" Oldman said. "I was just at the mercy of that, really, coming in. He's written me a really nice part."
Oldman thinks his place in the new film is a consequence. "Maybe it's all on the strength of the first one and he felt that I could pull it off. [Chris] said 'Hang on a minute. I've got Gary Oldman playing Lt. Gordon. Why not give him something more to do?'"
Gordon's quiet way plays in contrast with the loud and intense personas of Batman and the Joker. For Oldman, that is part of the appeal. "You have to kind of get out of their way when you're doing something like that and that's the challenge. I kind of like that," he said. Not playing one of the bolder characters also has added benefits. "I've played a lot of weird roles and I look at Heath being thrown around. Those noises, apart from the punches to the face, are the actual Heath hitting the wall and being thrown around in that room by Christian. Those are the real sounds. I watched that and thought 'Oh, rather you than me.'"
To Oldman, the Joker is a rather impressive character. "I would arguably say that it was possibly psychologically one of the most frightening screen villains ever," he said. "I think it's up there with Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth in 'Blue Velvet.' That's pretty scary. We've got the original 'Cape Fear' with Robert Mitchum. That's a villain. Hannibal Lecter. I think he moved the bar." Of the actor that played the Joker, Heath Ledger, Oldman explained, "It's like he's tuned into a frequency. He's found a radio station that none of us can hear. Sometimes it just happens with an actor. I've had a few [parts] where I've worked and I've felt in certain roles that it's like breathing. It's as easy as breathing."
Comparing "The Dark Knight" shoot with his next project, the Robert Zemeckis-helmed, animated "A Christmas Carol," Oldman found them to be quite similar with one major difference. "A lot of people say working in that motion capture with Bob Zemeckis, 'It's like theater, isn't it? It's like doing theatre.' And often the people who've never done theatre say that," he joked. "I don't think it's like theatre but I feel it's like doing a regular movie but without the [frequent] breaks and the costume. You just keep going and there's no lighting so you don't have to wait and go back for two hours while they turn the set around and light the thing. You just actually keep filming."
In "A Christmas Carol," Oldman plays Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim.
Also upcoming for Gary Oldman is "The Unborn," written 'Dark Knight' co-scribe David Goyer. "There's a girl and she discovers that there was a twin and there was a dybbuk -- like a spirit," Oldman explained. "The history behind it is a brother of her mother that died. They were in the Holocaust and then there's a grandmother who's a survivor of that. And this twin that died is now wanting to be born and it's a horror movie."
In the film, Oldman plays a Rabbi, a departure for most horror films of this nature. "Because of this whole Jewish connection, rather than go to the usual priest, this Catholic sort of thing, he's taken this other angle on it," said Oldman of his character. "David's rabbi is very, very progressive. He doesn't have the big beard and the whole ... It's not that look of the guy in black. I do a whole exorcism in Hebrew."
To prepare for the exorcism, the actor worked with a Rabbi to learn the right intonations and sounds of Hebrew. "There's two reams of [dialogue], a whole exorcism of it which is fun. I was only working on it for a couple weeks, but it's a different thing. I liked David [Goyer] from the Batman series, so he called and said would I go do it and I said 'Yeah, sure.' Yeah, you know, sometimes you can contemplate your own navel a bit. Sometimes you just say, 'How long? Chicago? I like Chicago. Yeah. Look, it's nine days work. Okay, I'll come do it.'"
Returning to thoughts of Batman, Oldman says he would relish the chance to explore the new situation for Gordon presented by "The Dark Knight," should a third film happen. "I would like to see where they go [from] where they've left off," he said. "Gordon has a semi-public relationship with Batman. It's a little covert but he does appear on crime scenes and I say to my officers, 'Give us five minutes.' You know they do see him around. They know that I have some kind of relationship with him."
That tolerance is tested and strained to its breaking point in "The Dark Knight." Oldman continued, "But in the next one, that will be interesting because any relationship with him will have to be completely covert because publicly I will have to hunt him as a murderer. So I think if we did a third, that dynamic would be quite fun to play."
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