Gary Oldman Discusses His Role as Jim Gordon in ‘The Dark Knight’

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Jim Gordon gives the bat signal a workout
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

Gary Oldman is back for his second turn as Lt. Jim Gordon in The Dark Knight and this time his character is given a lot more to do and when asked, Gary isn’t afraid to admit he loved the expanded role. He also talks about how great it is working with director Chris Nolan, he gives heartfelt comments regarding Heath Ledger and lets us in a little bit on his future projects.

Enjoy!

How was it stepping back into character, especially considering you were given so much more to do in this one?

Gary Oldman (GO): Yeah, it was very nice of Chris Nolan to write me such a good part. It was great to come back because I really enjoyed working on the first one. I was just actually saying that [Chris] doesn’t shout, he doesn’t scream, I’ve never seen him be rude to anyone. He’s really sort of a nice guy to be around, and you finish and you get home for dinner. You can put the kids to bed. He doesn’t want to work for 17 hours… He’s not a lunatic that wants to work, you know what I mean? [No] shouting and screaming at people.

So it was a nice atmosphere.

GO: I loved that. It’s great… When they say come back and do a second Batman… He called me and said, ‘Look, there’s more to do. The arc of the character emotionally is bigger, and you’re more involved.’ And it’s nice to work with Christian. All those things. Great, it’s like a little family. You go back and revisit and see the same people – the same cameraman – all of that is very nice. But you also think, I got to spend 10-12 hours in the company of someone, And if you’re going to do that, then I can think of worst people than Chris Nolan. those things become more important to you when you get older.

You don’t want to sweat the small stuff.

GO: No, when I was 19-20, I’d work a 25-hour day, you know?

When Aaron Eckhart was here and he said when he sat there and went, ‘Oh my God, there’s a lot to this character.’ Do you feel the same way as you went through the script that it is sort of exciting?

GO: Yeah, yeah, and there’s a lot to focus on. I think what Chris has done… in the hands of a less talented director, I think, you might watch this and think there’s too much going on. It’s overloaded. Lots of plot. Two bad guys. There’s the Chechnyans, the mob, the Lao, the money, The Joker – who doesn’t want the money – there’s all of that going on. When I read the script, I thought where do I focus? I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way, there’s a lot going on. But you know exactly where to focus, where to look and there is a lot to do. It is a big film.

If you were asked to comeback for a third film in a smaller role would you come back again?

GO: Yeah, yeah! My returning to it is not dependent on whether the role was bigger than the one before. I had quite a bit to do in the first one.

Would you do it again? Was this experience good enough to say, “I’m going to do this as many times as they ask me”?

GO: I think there might be… there’s every possibility that there will be a third one. I think Chris will do a third. If there is a third, he’ll do it. It’s his baby. He’s not going to give this up. I don’t think Warner Bros… I think what they’re learning now, is, with the franchise that just the name Batman isn’t enough. You got to have someone at the helm. You really need a vision for it, and Chris has got that. So I think they will tempt him with all sorts of things… hmm!

Heath Ledger as The Joker
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

About a year ago, you said something like, ‘This kid, this kid is going to blow you away,’ in reference to Heath Ledger.

GO: Yeah, I did say that. I was right, wasn’t I? I was right. I got a sense of it the first morning I worked with him, and I thought fuck, this kid’s a bit good! I called L.A. and I spoke to a friend of mine who asked, ‘What’s Heath like?’ and I said, ‘He is sort of tuned in, it’s like a frequency – he’s found a radio station that we can’t hear.’

He found something. That happens to actors sometimes… You know, I think over the years when I think of performances – Nicholson in Cuckoo’s Nest. Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon. That sort of work where you look and go, ‘Wow, that’s going beyond… that’s special. I think he’s sort of done that. I think there are times when an actor would just like… go through the sound barrier.

What was he like as a person?

GO: Oh, great. The saddest thing is really, it’s a shame he’s not here to talk about it. I don’t mean this in a disrespectful way – it’s just Christian [Bale] is very private, it’s quite intense, and it’s very private, the way he works on Batman, you know? That’s not to say he doesn’t have a sense of humor. But it was more fun to hang out with Heath! Because people want – because he died – people want a dark story. [EXPRESSIVE SARCASM] He was so obsessed with the character, and he was contaminated with the Joker, and he couldn’t sleep, and all of that stuff. No, in-between takes he would sit on the curbside and smoke a cigarette, and laugh, and talk about his daughter Matilda. I thought he was a beautiful kid. He was wonderful. I had a real affection for him. Charismatic… is not… you need a whole new word for charismatic. Um, but it’s pretty special work, huh?

He’s probably going to get an Oscar nomination. They don’t always acknowledge this kind of genre. They don’t see this work – I don’t know why – it’s just, it’s just action, it’s just an action movie, and We’re the Academy! But they probably will [nominate] with this.

Heath – I think it’s one of arguably the most psychologically, disturbing villains I’ve ever seen in a movie.

I was thinking earlier if I didn’t know in advance it was Heath Ledger, I wouldn’t have guessed it was him. Was it like ever that? You said he “was on a different frequency,” was it like that on-set, thinking he’s tapped into something completely out there?

GO: Yes, there are just certain choices an actor makes – and it’s not like you lose yourself and you lose a sense of who you are – but you know that, it’s like a band in a group. Sometimes the band just plays a song and they find a groove. And uh, and you can tell with Heath that he just found that thing. It’s what musicians call, you know… in the crack. He was right in the crack.

Have you ever found that in one of your own roles… Where you look back and you found that sort of frequency?

GO: There are roles that you play. I’ve played roles that it happens easier than others, it doesn’t feel like you’re working, it’s as easy as breathing. And there are other ones that you really have to work hard for. It’s often because of the writing.

There’s a couple of movies coming of yours – Unborn, Planet 51, Rain Fall, A Christmas Carol – are they real, is it happening?

GO: Yeah, it’s real man! [LAUGHS] No, uh, Planet 51 is a voice-over for an animation feature. The Unborn is a horror movie – I play a rabbi. A Christmas Carol, I’ve done it, it’s in the can. I am Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchett and Tiny Tim.


You can also read our interview with Maggie Gyllenhaal here, with producers Emma Thomas and Charles Roven here, with Christian Bale here, with writers David Goyer and Jonathan Nolan here and with Aaron Eckhart here.

We also have a Dark Knight giveaway you can sign up for right here.

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