Who in the World is Gary Oldman?

When theatergoers leave screenings of “Red Riding Hood” this weekend, a great number of them will be saying, “The best thing about that movie was Gary Oldman.” This isn’t necessarily the greatest compliment that Oldman’s ever been paid – trust us, we’ve seen the movie – but it’s one that he’s heard plenty of times, and rightfully so.

On the occasion of this latest film, we thought we’d take a look back at 20 of his most notable roles, most of which are found in films far better than “Red Riding Hood.” That’s most, though, and not all. (See #10 and #13.) Still, as track records go, you’ll soon see that Oldman’s is pretty damned enviable.

1. Sid Vicious (Sid and Nancy, 1986): Most would agree that it was Oldman’s performance as the late Sex Pistols bassist which really put him on the radar. Even those who criticized the accuracy of the film generally had glowing words for Gary, and that goes all the way up to Johnny Rotten himself. “The chap who played Sid, Gary Oldman, I thought was quite good,” wrote John Lydon in his autobiography, Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs. “Even he only played the stage persona as opposed to the real person, (but) I don’t consider that Gary Oldman’s fault because he’s a bloody good actor.” This was echoed by the Evening Standard British Film Awards, who named Oldman the year’s Most Promising Newcomer.

2. Joe Orton (Prick Up Your Ears, 1987): Only 34 years passed between the life and death of English playwright Joe Orton, and one might be able to successfully argue that more people know him for his connection to the Fab Four (he wrote a screenplay, “Up Against It,” which was rejected as the Beatles’ cinematic follow-up to “Help!”) than for his plays, let alone this movie, but if you’ve managed to see “Prick Up Your Ears,” then you’re already aware of the phenomenal work Oldman does alongside Alfred Molina, who plays Kenneth Halliwell, Orton’s boyfriend and – eventually – his murderer. Indeed, Oldman’s performance earned him a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Actor.

3. Rosencrantz (Rosencrantz & Gildenstern are Dead, 1990): Fans of the Bard with a sense of humor have long praised the way Tom Stoppard took two relatively insignificant characters from “Hamlet” and turned their actions – or, rather, their lack thereof – into a full-length play, but there’s not quite as much unanimity about the way the production transitioned onto the big screen. Still, the only real complaint tended to be that it probably played better when performed on a stage, which stands to reason. (After all, the play’s the thing, innit?) Granted, the humor’s a bit highbrow for the mainstream, but if you like Shakespeare, you’ll love seeing Oldman and Roth pondering their characters’ existence.

4. Jackie Flannery (State of Grace, 1990): Although Phil Joanou’s Irish-American crime drama didn’t break any box office records, possibly because the Italian-American criminal contingent had the higher profile at the time (this was right around the same time as “Goodfellas”), it sure had a hell of a cast: Oldman is teamed with Sean Penn, Ed Harris, Robin Wright, John Turturro, John C. Reilly, and Burgess Meredith. Throw in an Ennio Morricone score, and you’ve got the kind of picture that critics drool over…and rightfully so.

5. Lee Harvey Oswald (JFK, 1991): When you make a film about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, if there’s one role that you absolutely, positively must cast perfectly, it’s that of the man who (ostensibly) assassinated him. In an interview with Empire, Oldman revealed that director Oliver Stone gave him a couple of plane tickets, a list of contacts, and told him to go research the part himself. You’d think it would’ve been easier on the budget if Stone had just paid for Oldman’s cab fare to the library, but, then, the library wouldn’t have provided Oldman with a tenth of the information about the man he was portraying that he ended up getting from his meeting with Oswald’s widow, Marina.

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A Chat with Stuart Paul, creator of DC / WildStorm’s “Ides of Blood”

Fact: real men read comics.

I’m sure some would still try to argue this point, but in a world where it seems like just about every comic-inspired movie finds itself atop the box office on its week of release, it’s hard to pretend that comics are strictly the domain of the geeks and the nerds. (Would that this transition could’ve occurred when I was still in high school.)

As such, Bullz-Eye is going to try to tackle more stories from the medium…and when I was sent a copy of “Ides of Blood,” a new series from DC / WildStorm which is – at least according to the press release – not entirely unlike a blend of “True Blood” and “Rome,” it certainly seemed like something that our readership might be interested in learning more about.

God bless DC’s publicity department: they quickly put me in touch with series creator Stuart Paul, who gladly answered a few questions for us about his own introduction to comic books, the origins of “Ides of Blood,” his semi-controversial decision to have characters in ancient Rome use modern colloquialisms, which of DC’s stable of superheroes he’d like to take a shot at writing, and much much more.

Since I’ve seen the phrase “new to comic books” used in conjunction with your history of writing for the medium, what’s your personal background with comics? And don’t be shy: if your memory stretches back that far, feel free to offer up the very first comic you remember buying.

My childhood experience with comics was pretty limited. Other than reading the occasional issue of Moon Knight or X-Men at my friend’s house, the only comics I personally bought were “Star Trek” comics—mostly “Next Generation” and some of the original crew that took place in the post-”Wrath of Khan” time period. It wasn’t until college that my girlfriend reintroduced me to comics through Sandman. Once I realized there were comics for adults out there, I started reading them more and more. Initially, I stuck with the superstars—Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Brian K. Vaughan, Garth Ennis. I was kind of a Vertigo whore at first. I guess I still kind of am, but not as much. I have to hear a lot of good buzz about something before I’ll invest in a whole series like Walking Dead, but I’ve definitely branched out. Once I discovered Urasawa’s Pluto, I started getting into manga more. Right now, I’ve got 20th Century Boys, Basilisk and Lone Wolf and Cub to read. I also went through a period of reading a lot of DC superheroes. Jeph Loeb’s Batman stuff is my favorite. Sometimes I’ll still read X-Men, but it’s pretty rare for me to read superheroes these days. My favorite series right now is probably Okko. I think Archaia is doing some of the most creative and well-made comics today. Also, Chew is the only series I read on a monthly basis. Everything else is TPB’s, although the iPad is kind of changing that.

There’s been much talk about how fans of both “True Blood” and “Rome” will find much to enjoy in Ides of Blood. Is that combination what led to the concept for this series? If not, what were its origins, and how do you feel about those points of comparison?

No, neither show existed when I originally came up with the idea and wrote the first draft. I mean, I don’t have a problem with people using those as points of reference. It’s an effective shorthand, but it’s the type of thing you’d bring up in a Hollywood pitch meeting. The problem is that you don’t necessarily know what connotations those shows have for the reader and also, they’re such current references that it makes the comic sound like it’s just trying to exploit the zeitgeist. I mean, if you said it’s “Gladiator” meets… well, actually, “Dracula” might have too much baggage attached to the name, so I guess “True Blood” probably is a good descriptor. The point is, I don’t mind the comparison, but I do think it has as much potential to put-off readers as it does to draw them in. Anyway, the concept for the series came out of boredom. I don’t really like vampires, so it started as a challenge to myself to figure out what I’d have to do to make vampires interesting to me. Julius Caesar just popped into my head.

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