Gary Oldman: Unsung hero or international star?

Posted by · 1:21 pm · December 16th, 2011

The answer, as most of us would agree, is “both.” Earlier today we reported that Christopher Plummer, a well-established and much-beloved actor, is for the first time in his long and expansive career primed to take home Oscar gold. Gary Oldman, though, who is also considered one of the greatest actors of his generation, has had a similar (befuddling) lack of recognition so far in the precursor season.

As we all know, Oldman has never received recognition from the industry in the form of an Oscar nomination. His work this year was cited by the San Francisco Film Critics Circle but has otherwise been largely left out of the awards conversation. With organizations like the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Screen Actors Guild and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association leaving him out of the their nominations, things are looking worse and worse for his Oscar chances this year.

In a bit of comforting news for both Oldman and his frustrated supporters, the Palm Springs International Film Festival has announced that it will present the actor with the International Star Award, which, recognizes “an actor or actress who has achieved both critical and commercial international recognition throughout their body of work.”

That feels like a perfectly apt description of the trajectory of Oldman”s career. He is an actor that is recognized by the large majority of audience members both for his talent as well as his versatility. From “Sid and Nancy,” “The Professional” and “Harry Potter” to the bizarrely unforgettable Rastafarian drug lord in “True Romance,” Oldman is the kind of performer who seamlessly steps into the skin of his characters, and yet remains fundamentally himself.

“Gary Oldman is an actor whose ability to portray the most extreme of characters is a testament to the enormity of his talent,” said festival chairman Harold Matzner via press release. He called the actor a “consummate talent who consistently challenges audiences to expect the unexpected when he performs,” and nots that “in ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” as the embodiment of John le Carré’s classic spymaster George Smiley, he combines cunning, pathos and cold determination when he is brought out of retirement to ferret out a double agent during the Cold War.”

Some theorize that it is in fact Oldman’s consistent ability to nail supporting roles that has kept him in the critical background. One recent article in The Poutine Wall likened him to NBA player Eric Gordon, while an earlier piece in The Washington Post compared him to political hopeful Jon Huntsman. The comparisons feel apropos as the gentlemen in question are accomplished and have an established ability to “deliver,” but remain in the shadow of more visible “leading men” in their respective fields.

It is interesting to consider the circumstances that have lead to Oldman”s exclusion from both the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor fields over the years. But it’s a story as old as time as far as the Academy is concerned. Sometimes, it seems, things (or in this case great actors) simply slip through the cracks. Or perhaps Oldman”s moment is still yet to come.

The Palm Springs Awards Gala will be held Saturday, January 7 at the Palm Springs Convention Center.  Hosted by Mary Hart, the Gala will also present awards to previously announced honorees George Clooney, Glenn Close, Michel Hazanavicius, Brad Pitt, Octavia Spencer, Michelle Williams, and the film Young Adult.  The Festival runs January 5-16.

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