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Gary Oldman - Biography

Personal details
Name: Gary Oldman
Born: 21 March 1958 (Age: 53)
Where: London, England
Height: 5'10"
Awards: Won 2 BAFTAs

All about this star

When the producers of The Prisoner Of Azkaban, the third in the massively popular Harry
Potter series, were casting for their main villain, they had a major problem. The man who
would be Sirius Black needed the requisite pedigree to stand alongside the weighty likes of
Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith and Alan Rickman. He needed sufficient charisma to carry
off the movie's final revelation. And, of course, as the titular prisoner, possible killer of
Harry's parents, possibly now after Harry himself, he needed to project a frightening phantom
menace from the shadows. Let's consider this for a moment. British . . . stage actor . . .
impressive CV . . . charismatic . . . terrifying. It simply had to be Gary Oldman.

Having "arrived" in the mid-Eighties as part of a Brit Pack including Tim Roth and Daniel
Day-Lewis, it was Oldman who led the way, mastering American accents and starring in
American films. Like Streep and De Niro, he was known as an actors' actor. He didn't limit
himself to "serious" roles, yet no matter how fantastic the movie's premise, he would always
bring something serious, something real, something intelligent to the party. He was always
watchable. And what performances he delivered - as Sid Vicious, Joe Orton, Beethoven,
Dracula, Lee Harvey Oswald, the vicious Alcatraz warden in Murder In The First, the lunatic
pimp in True Romance, the endlessly corrupt copper in Leon. Once seen, never forgotten.
This is always the way with Gary Oldman.

He was born Leonard Gary Oldman on the 21st of March, 1958, his family living in Hatcham
Park Road, close to New Cross Gate station in one of south London's rougher areas. His
mother was an Irishwoman named Kathleen, his father was Len, a former sailor who'd toiled
in the engine-room (and was later a welder and pipe-fitter), the couple having met in Cardiff
during World War 2.

Gary had two sisters, much older than himself. They would help Kathleen in raising the boy,
and also provide him with a far wider education than is usual. When he was 5, one of them, at
the time a teenage mod, would take him to the Sombrero Club and have him perform for her
friends. "What have cowboys got?", she would ask. He would cry, not wishing to give the
required answer, but the question would be repeated until he blurted out "Big bollocks!" and
the in-crowd fell about laughing.

This could still be described as fun. But the fun did not last for long. When Gary was seven,
Len left Kathleen for a younger woman and it hit the young boy hard. Though he didn't know
it then, therapy years later would reveal that he blamed himself for his father's departure and
missed the man terribly.

Now he'd be raised solely by women and, as both his sisters would marry shady geezers and
move out, he'd spend long hours alone and lonely. Much like Robin Williams, another great
mimic, he was rescued by his imagination, dressing-up, play-acting, inventing characters,
inhabiting worlds far less harsh than New Cross. He recalls making a Batman utility belt from
empty cigarette packets, and also, in a spooky foretelling, entering a Butlins fancy dress
competition as Dracula.

. He did not enjoy school, did not appreciate the attitude or the rules. He remembers being
constantly told "Oldman, you're stupid, you're thick, you'll never amount to anything". It was
no surprise when the place was shut down soon after his departure.

He wasn't thick, just uninspired. When he found an interest, his enthusiasm was unbridled.
Having been taken to see A Hard Day's Night by one of his sisters, he obsessed over the
Beatles and treasured a guitar featuring the Fab Four's faces. At 13, he'd find a Liberace
album in the attic, Liberace playing classics, and he dumped pop music, now obsessing over
Chopin. He took up the piano, teaching himself to play. Then the famous confrontations
between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier led him to take up boxing. There was football, too.
Oldman's take on all this is fascinating. He believes, with hindsight, that he was only
interested in these subjects on an acting level. At the piano, in the gym and on the pitch he
looked great, was utterly convincing in his roles even though he was actually not very good.
Without realising it, he was trying to master the appearance of musicians and sportsmen,
rather than their crafts. He was already acting.

Having left school at 15 with next to no qualifications, Oldman took a job in a sports shop.
Acting as a profession had not crossed his mind. But then came a moment, or rather two
moments of revelation when, on TV, he saw the movies If... and The Raging Moon. Both
starred Malcolm McDowell, the first as a schoolboy defying then machine-gunning the
Establishment, the second as a young man trapped in a wheelchair and screaming against his
lot. And both appealed to Oldman enormously. McDowell was expressing Gary's own
feelings of loss, anger, alienation and imprisonment, and turning the whole mess into
something positive. Here, at last, was something that made sense.

Of course, it wasn't going to be easy to escape. Gary signed on at the Greenwich Young
People's Theatre, but was soon drawn back into his former life. He did not enjoy the social
life of south London, the pub culture, the bragging, the put-downs, the racism and violence.
But his peers pulled him in and he acted his way through, even acting his way into a gang.
For money, throughout these early years, he would work on assembly lines, as a porter in an
operating theatre, selling shoes, beheading pigs in an abbatoir and, naturally, stealing things.

But acting was still in his mind and, encouraged by drama teacher Roger Williams, he
applied to RADA. They advised him to do something else, but he persisted and won a
scholarship to the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama in Kent. One lecturer told him
that, with his tenor voice, he would only ever play Puck, nevertheless he graduated in 1979
with a BA in Theatre Arts. He was on his way.

. Experience was what he needed, and he went into rep, first at York's Theatre Royal, where
he'd make his pro debut as Puss alongside Michael Simkins in Dick Whittington And His
Wonderful Cat, then in Colchester, then with Glasgow's Citizen's Theatre. He'd study mime,
the commedia dell'arte, everything. 1980 alone would see him appear in Massacre At Paris,
Chinchilla, Desperado Corner and A Waste Of Time. And he loved it, loved acting all day,
loved the collaboration, the notion of a group of supportive individuals working towards the
same goal. He could re-route all the anger, tension and confusion of his youth into his parts,
and quickly gained a reputation for intensity. Indeed, he was so wired up that, he later
recalled, a 6-month West End run of Summit Conference in 1982, opposite Glenda Jackson,
"nearly killed me".

With his theatre stock rising, in 1983 he turned down the chance of a screen debut in a film to
be called Mutiny and moved on to Chesterfield to play the lead in Joe Orton's 1964
masterpiece Entertaining Mr Sloane. It was a perfect role for Gary, himself a New Cross
interloper in the comfy world of theatre. He moved on to Westcliffe and Edward Bond's 1965
effort Saved, another well-chosen work as it was an emotionally draining representation of
the effects of cultural deprivation. Indeed, it had once been banned by the Lord Chamberlain
due to a scene where a gang of bored kids stone a baby.

Saved actually proved a landmark performance for Gary. He'd written to Max Stafford-Clark,
artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre, and asked that he come see the show. Stafford-
Clark received many letters from young actors, but Oldman's had something different - most
notably a set of good reasons why he should be taken on at the Royal Court. So he went, and
was impressed, both by Oldman's efforts and the fact that 30 members of the audience
walked out. This was the kind of confrontational work for which the Royal Court had long
been famous. Indeed, it was the Royal Court that had first performed Edward Bond's plays.
And, as they were about to revive Bond's debut, The Pope's Wedding, Oldman seemed an
ideal choice for the main role of the frustrated Scopey.

This would be a major breakthrough for Gary. For one thing it would lead to a run of work
with the Royal Court and Royal Shakespeare Company, performing Rat In the Skull, , The
Desert Air, Abel And Cain, The Danton Affair and all three of Bond's War Plays. In 1986
would come Women Beware Women and Real Dreams, the next year The Country Wife and
Serious Money.

The Pope's Wedding also saw him accepted as British theatre's latest enfant terrible, sharing
the British Theatre Association's Drama magazine award for Best Actor with Anthony
Hopkins. Perhaps even more importantly, his performance was seen by director Alex Cox
and producer Eric Fellner, then in the process of casting for an upcoming project, Sid And

. Due to his concentration on theatre, Oldman's film career had been slow to take off. 1982
had seen him take a small part alongside Timothy Spall and John Altman (later EastEnders'
Nasty Nick Cotton) in Remembrance, directed by Colin Gregg and written by Hugh Stoddart.
This had followed the drunken, violent and hugely emotional last night of a gang of Royal
Navy recruits about to leave on a 6-month NATO exercise. It was 1984, the same year as The
Pope's Wedding, that we really had a taste of what was to come. This came with Mike Leigh's
Meantime, which took Gary back into London's council estates, made ever more hopeless by
the heavy hand of Margaret Thatcher. This would see Tim Roth as the shy and simple Colin,
brother to a wide but lazy Phil Daniels, as they underwent family battles and a daily round of
frustration and humiliation. Oldman would make a striking appearance as Coxy, a racist
skinhead, a bully, a coward and incredibly dumb. He had clearly seen all this before.

1984 would also see him in an episode of Dramarama, a series of imaginative TV plays for
kids, and the miniseries Morgan's Boy, the hugely depressing but critically acclaimed tale of
a Welsh hill farmer (played by Gareth Thomas - Blake in Blake's 7) struggling against
modernisation and spiralling towards suicide. The next year would see a solitary screen
appearance, in Honest, Decent And True, where he'd work alongside Adrian Edmonson and
Derrick O'Connor in a London ad agency where the proto-yuppie staff are trying to launch a
new brand of lager. The film would also mark the debut of Richard E Grant, later to pop up in
two of Gary's projects - Henry And June and Dracula.

Now, Gary's stage work would give him a mighty boost. After The Pope's Wedding, Alex
Cox, then on a high after Repo Man, cast him in the lead role of Sid Vicious in Sid and
Nancy. This would follow Sid's path into The Sex Pistols and on to worldwide infamy as the
face and spirit of punk, concentrating on his relationship with girlfriend Nancy Spungen - a
love affair that ended in drug overdoses and bloody death. Once again, Oldman was superb as
Vicious - stoned and confused, lost and self-loathing, but furious with the world and fighting
madly to live up to his reputation. For research, Gary would interview Sid's mother and she
would lend him Sid's own chain necklace. It would serve Gary well. In order to achieve the
requisite skinniness, he also dieted, so drastically that he wound up in hospital.

Gary's next screen outing would be equally prestigious and successful, earning him a BAFTA
nomination. In Prick Up Your Ears, directed by Stephen Frears and written by Alan Bennett,
he returned to Joe Orton, this time playing the playwright himself. It was another excellent
role, Oldman bringing to life the cocky, precocious, careless young writer as he set alight the
theatre world with Loot and What The Butler Saw and revelled in his illegal search for rough
trade on the streets of London and the beaches of Morocco, before being beaten to death by
his ignored lover, played by Gary's former Meantime co-star Alfred Molina.

Molina would also appear onstage with Gary that same year, 1987. This would be in Caryl
Churchill's Serious Money, another attack on British values staged at the Royal Court. It
would be more invaluable experience for Gary, and would also introduce him to his first
wife, co-star Lesley Manville. Manville, two years Oldman's senior, had appeared in
Emmerdale Farm between 1974 and 1976 then gone on to a successful stage career. 1985 had
seen her onscreen in Dance With A Stranger and 1988 would see her in High Hopes,
beginning a four-film run with Mike Leigh. She and Gary would quickly marry and she'd
bear him a son, Alfred (known as Alfie) in 1988. Sadly, with film stardom beckoning and
Gary's workload and notorious intensity increasing, they would find their marriage untenable.
By 1990 it would all be over, Manville gaining custody of Alfie and enjoying a long
relationship with actor Bernard Hill.

There was something else, aside from his workload, stage success and the cult stardom he'd
found in the US that was making Gary hard to live with. Since the age of 7 he'd had no real
contact with his father, but finally they had begun to exchange letters, and were close to
arranging a meeting. Gary had even prepared his monologue. Unfortunately, during the
filming of Sid And Nancy, Len, a long-time alcoholic, died at the age of 62. Gary was to find
no closure in reconciliation, his anger would remain with him, bubbling away.

In the meantime, Gary's profile was rising fast. Nicolas Roeg's Track 29, written by Dennis
Potter, saw Theresa Russell in an unhappy marriage with obsessive, unfaithful Christopher
Lloyd. Stuck at home, she drinks hard and dreams of sex and the past, drifting through her
life until - bang - Gary arrives. He may be her child from a rape years before, back for his
birthright. He looks like the rapist in her dreams. Whatever, he proceeds to insinuate his way
into her life, teasing, taunting, flirting and manipulating, smirking at her pain and confusion,
a frighteningly knowing and malevolent Oedipus. Another killer role.

After Track 29, Dennis Potter, as usual, had something interesting to say: "Gary's a
formidable actor, but he's a delinquent actor as well. He's very much on the edge of things; he
makes you feel nervous watching him. He's the stranger outside who's also inside your head.
He's part of your mind when you're worried and not quite going to sleep, but not sure whether
you're awake or not". Stephen Frears, though, was unsure of Gary's rebellious image. He
claimed that Oldman was actually very mild but, as the best British drama of the time was
angry and anti-Thatcher, he had aligned himself with that. The main thing about Gary, said
Frears, was that he hated to be bored.

Gary followed Track 29 with his first foray into US cinema - Criminal Law. Many British
actors have tried to make it in mainstream American films, but their failure to deliver a
convincing accent has been their downfall. Oldman, a quite superb mimic, has never had that
problem. Criminal Law saw him as a hotshot Boston lawyer who successfully defends rich
kid Kevin Bacon from a murder charge. This, naturally, makes him even smugger. But then
Bacon turns out to have been guilty. In fact, he's still hacking up and burning women who've
had an abortion. And he wants to be Gary's friend. And so Oldman's smug grin turns to panic
as he recognises his own part in this judicial debacle and tries to get Bacon to incriminate

Criminal Law would take some time to make it to cinemas. Meanwhile, Gary was very, very
busy. When The Face magazine covered the new Brit Pack of upcoming actors - including
Gary, Tim Roth, Daniel Day-Lewis, Colin Firth, Bruce Payne and Spencer Leigh - Gary was
the only one too tied up to attend the interviews. Next, We Think The World Of You reunited
him with Colin Gregg and Hugh Stoddart, Gary playing a restless and confused sailor (he
wore the same badges as his father had in the Navy) who's married to Frances Barber but
engaged in an affair with Alan Bates. With Oldman in jail, Bates tries to help Barber but then
transfers his best intentions to Gary's dog, all the while aware that discovery of the affair will
destroy his civil service career - the movie concerning British society's need and desire to
cover up any unpalatable truths.

He now moved on to an even tougher social drama with Alan Clarke's The Firm. This saw
him as Bex, leader of an East London football hooligan crew. During the week they all hold
down good jobs, they have wives and kids, but for fun they like to engage in vicious
confrontations with rival crews - local enemies being the Crystal Palace mob run by Phil
Davis's Yeti. Bex knows he shouldn't do this but insists he needs the buzz ("So buy a bloody
bee 'ive!" complains long-suffering wife Sue, played by Lesley Manville) so the
unpleasantness continues through painful initiations and horrible accidents (Bex's young kid
trying to eat his Stanley blades). But Bex is no ordinary thug

He dreams of a truce with Yeti's crew and Oboe's Birmingham mob and a combined firm of
marauders to take to the European Championships. And, of course, it all ends in rivers of
blood and lager.

. Showing the terrible peer pressure, the loyalties, the vendettas, the buzz itself, The Firm was
an anthropological triumph. It was an indictment, sure, but Oldman was so charismatic, so
witty, so clear in his understanding of his divided life that the movie became a must-see for
football hooligans everywhere.

Returning to America, Gary completed the Eighties with Chattahoochee where he played yet
another of his "socially imprisoned" heroes. Here he was Emmett Foley, a Korean War vet
from backwoods Florida now unemployed and so depressed he starts a shoot-out with the
cops, hoping they'll kill him so wife Frances McDormand can collect the insurance. But he's
not killed, he's caught and sent to a prison for the mentally ill, a prison characterised by filth,
cockroaches, illness and beatings. Aided by fellow maverick Dennis Hopper, Foley begins
writing to the outside authorities, first officially then in secret - like Geoffrey Rush in Quills,
but without the depraved intent. Can he survive to change the system?

Continuing to switch between US movies and lower-key Brit efforts, Gary now starred in
Tom Stoppard's film adaptation of his hit 1966 play Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are
Dead. He and Tim Roth would play the anti-heroes of the title, two minor characters in
Hamlet who wander around, not knowing quite who they are, occasionally stumbling onto the
play's main action but never guesing that they are not the main protagonists in the drama.
Many critics felt the play did not translate too well to screen, but both leads scored points for
their comic performances.

Though his star was rising fast, Gary's home life was now very messy. With his marriage to
Manville in trouble, he took off for New York with Sean Penn and director Phil Joanou to
scout locations for their next picture, State Of Grace. A good time was had, with Penn and
Oldman, America and England's finest young actors, testing each other out, a process ending
with Oldman singing Like A Virgin directly into Penn's face. As the famously volatile Penn
had just endured a painful split from Madonna, this was perhaps not the wisest of moves, but
Penn laughed it off and the pair would form a scorching working patrnership. More
importantly, Joanou would introduce Oldman to his young girlfriend, Uma Thurman, 12
years Oldman's junior, and the couple hit it off immediately, so well in fact that Joanou
gallantly stepped aside. This was the summer of 1989. By 1990 they would be married.

State Of Grace turned out to be one of Gary's finest. Here he was Jackie Flannery, younger
brother of Ed Harris's Irish-American gang boss in Hell's Kitchen. Sean Penn is an old mate,
back in town and rekindling his friendship with Jackie and his romance with Jackie's sister,
played by Robin Wright (later to be Penn's real-life wife). But, now working for the cops,
Penn is secretly trying to bring them all down. Naturally, huge conflicts arise.

As Jackie, a drug dealer, arsonist, thug and borderline psycho, Oldman was superb, dealing
brilliantly with his character's drunkenness, loyalty and powerful belief that his crimes were
maintaining the neighbourhood by keeping the yuppies out. Like Gary, Jackie was hugely
restless, seeking the craic. When burning a building he liked to pour the petrol between
himself and the door. Shambling but street-lyrical, Gary found himself compared to Robert
De Niro.

He next popped up in a cameo in Thurman's latest, Henry And June, a tale of the affair
between writers Henry Miller and Anais Nin, Thurman playing Miller's bewitching wife. He
then took the courageous step of playing one of America's most hated criminals, Lee Harvey
Oswald, in Oliver Stone's sprawling, fascinating JFK, where Kevin Costner's Jim Garrison
dug deep and dangerously to discover the real assassins of the president. It was another
brilliant showing, and an awfully difficult job. Who or what Oswald really was remains
unanswered but, after questioning Oswald's widow Marina and talking to many a conspiracy
theorist, Gary came as close as you can. And it was painful for him. Stone insisted he stay in
character at all times, so he had no real contact with others. He missed Thurman (the pair
were always working) and was very, very lonely.

But still the work kept coming. Oldman slipped back to Blighty to appear in David Hare's
Heading Home, set in post-WW2 London, where he played a crooked property developer
caught in a love triangle with Joely Richardson and poet Stephen Dillane. But, despite his
love of classy British drama, he was being pulled into Hollywood, and now stepped up for his
first major lead, in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Though far from ably supported by much of the
cast, Oldman here produced a real tour de force, playing Dracula as a young lover and
warrior, a 400-year-old creep, a sophisticated man about town and various horrible monsters.
True to his nature, he took the role wholly seriously. He was in anguish when his lover
Elizabeta died, in tortured stasis for centuries, vibrant and undeniable when she returns, then
finally torn when realising that to possess her he must make her suffer the endless torments of
the undead. And you think you've got problems.

These problems stretched into Oldman's real life, too. Not only had he endured screaming
rows with Francis Ford Coppola over his approach to rehearsals, the separations from
Thurman had taken their toll. The couple had tried to get together on a biopic of Dylan
Thomas but, due to Oldman's "nervous exhaustion", the shoot had fallen through. Soon they
would be estranged and, by 1992, divorced. None of it was made easier by false rumours that
Gary had had an affair with Winona Ryder on the set of Dracula.

Gary resorted to partying and hard work. Out roistering with his friend Kiefer Sutherland, he
was caught drink-driving and given a 6-month ban and 89 hours house arrest, complete with a
new-fangled alarm bracelet. On the work front, he stormed into a quite extraordinary run of
roles. First came a cameo in Tony Scott's True Romance, Gary getting right into the
Tarantino spirit as Drexl Spivey, the psychotic, drug-dealing pimp who won't let Patricia
Arquette leave with Christian Slater. Despite excellent work by Christopher Walken, Dennis
Hopper and Brad Pitt, this was the stand-out performance, Oldman getting the make-up guy
from Dracula to create him a milky eye, then providing his own scar, gold teeth and
dreadlocks. The bizarre jargon of the white man keen to be black he knew very well from his
London days.

Next came the superior oddity, Romeo Is Bleeding, where Oldman played a crooked cop
selling witness protection secrets to the Mob. He's cheating on wife Annabella Sciorra with a
pervy Juliette Lewis but then becomes obsessed with assassin Lena Olin who soon becomes a
target of the Mob, leaving Oldman to - increasingly desperately - play the police, Mob and
women all off against one another. He made a fine anti-hero - weak, greedy and far less smart
than he thought he was.

Following this came another cult success with Luc Besson's Leon, where Gary took his
psycho characterisations to the very limit. As Norman Stansfield, he was a bent DEA agent
who takes it upon himself to wipe out a drug dealer's entire family. Young daughter Natalie
Portman, though, escapes into the apartment of simple assassin Jean Reno and begins to plot
revenge, beginning both a very disturbing relationship and a cycle of frenetic violence. She
wanted Stansfield's head and, by God, did he want hers.

So crazed and obsessive was Gary as Stansfield that his next role, as Beethoven, seemed a
lighter option. As it was, Immortal Beloved was a brilliant piece of cinema - intriguing,
beautiful to look at and emotionally challenging. The story began with Beethoven's death and
the discovery of a note addressed to his "Immortal Beloved". Through a series of flashbacks,
we go seeking the identity of this mysterious love. And now we see Gary at full force,
obsessed with women (Valeria Golina, Isabella Rossellini etc), his own compositions and the
future of a nephew he hopes to turn into a musical prodigy.

He's powerful and relentless, then touchingly broken as deafness encroaches and his plans
fall apart. Unfortunately, tradition dictates that only one historical drama can be honoured at
the Oscars and that year it was The Madness Of King George. It was a terrible shame. Nigel
Hawthorne and his movie were good, but Oldman and Immortal Beloved were better.

. After the Thurman fiasco, Gary now settled into a more settled relationship with Isabella
Rossellini, six years his senior. They would reportedly become engaged in July, 1994, but
would then separate two years later. There was talk of much drinking on Gary's part and he
later recalled having an exceptionally high tolerance, sometimes downing two bottles of
vodka and still being able to hold a conversation. A lot of his drinking would be at home, as
he wasn't the most social of beasts. Having thought long and hard about his father's problems
and his own, he would come to agree with the description of alcoholics as "egomaniacs with
low self-esteem". Oddly, the drinking would also bring him a new love when, in October
1996 at a Beverly Hills AA meeting, he encountered model and photographer Donya
Fiorentino, ex-wife of director David Fincher. They'd marry in February the next year, but
sadly their initial happiness would lead to the most appalling strife.

Gary moved on to another cracker, reuniting for another series of confrontations with Kevin
Bacon and Christian Slater in Murder In The First, playing an intolerably severe prison
warden on Alcatraz, who's brought to book by young lawyer Slater for crushing simple
inmate Bacon both mentally and physically. He followed this with Roland Joffe's The Scarlet
Letter, where he was unfortunately hamstrung by a violent rewrite of Nathaniel Hawthorne's
novel. He would have been brilliant as the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, the colonial New
England cleric who impregnates young wife Hester Prynne then leads the townsfolk in
condemning her as a loose woman. But this was a Demi Moore star vehicle, so there was
nudity and passion on a heap of dried beans, Indian attacks and an absurd happy ending that
portrayed Prynne and Dimmesdale as sexual pioneers and freedom fighters. Oldman certainly
deserved better, but his lifestyle and increasing family (he would have sons Gulliver Flynn
and Charlie John with Fiorentino) were now causing him to take blockbuster roles for the
Always an art fan, Gary had begun a collection that included works by Toulouse-Lautrec,
Rembrandt and Renoir. He'd also struck up a friendship with artist Julian Schnabel, and now
played Schnabel himself (though named Albert Milo) in Schnabel's own biopic of doomed
graffiti artist and Andy Warhol protege Basquiat. It would be the last low-budget picture he'd
appear in for some time. Aside from the family, he now had another major expense that
needed covering by big-budget roles.

This was Nil By Mouth, his directorial debut and a fraught drama that took him back to the
estates of London and a terrible world of drugs, drink and familial abuse. Here Ray Winstone
played the drunken beater of wife Kathy Burke, who nevertheless loves him, all of it
overseen by her mother Janet, a woman hardened by life's cruelties, and her mother too.
Despite the brutality Oldman ensured that love and loyalty reared their heads, to fully explore
the complex problems. The film, inspired by the work of John Cassavetes, was in a direct line
from Ken Loach and Mike Leigh - but it was still REALLY heavy.

. Gary had written the script after his first shot at rehab, indeed it was the reason why his
marriage to Isabella Rossellini was postponed. He'd been about to begin the humiliating
round of meetings to seek finance when, during a lunch with his Leon director Luc Besson,
Besson had volunteered to finance it. Even so, costing $4.5 million, Nil By Mouth still
required $1.4 million of Gary's own money. Still, it was worth it. The film would win
BAFTAs for Best Film and Screenplay and would be nominated for the Golden Palm at
Cannes. Perhaps better still, it would allow Oldman to confront his own past and find some
degree of resolution. It would end with the dedication "For my father..."

There was also another family connection here. In casting for Janet, Oldman had seen some
fine auditions, but no one could quite give him what he wanted - the character and spirit of
his own sister. So he asked his sister, a non-actress, to do it, giving her the pseudonym Laila
Morse, an anagram of "mia sorella" - Italian for "my sister". And, with much help from
Oldman and the other actors, she was a raging success, so good that she decided to take up
acting full time and won a longstanding role as Mo Harris, Kat Slater's tough-loving grandma
in EastEnders.

As Oldman says, one good turn deserves another, and he now appeared in Luc Besson's
incredibly gaudy, fantastically inventive sci-fi epic The Fifth Element, at $100 million the
most expensive film ever made outside Hollywood. Here a giant, flaming ball of Evil is
racing towards Earth and can only be stopped by a combination of the five elements - earth,
fire, water, air and Milla Jovovich (playing the essence of life itself). Bruce Willis would star
as a cab driver drawn into this interstellar conflict, Chris Tucker would be preternaturally
annoying as a camp TV host and Gary would play Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, an
intergalactic arms dealer who wants to harness Milla's power, even if it means the destruction
of Earth. Nice guy, and all the more dislikeable for his half-bald head, foppish behaviour and
whiny Southern accent (Oldman claimed to have based his performance on US presidential
candidate Ross Perot).

The Fifth Element was flawed but fun. Yet Gary was in trouble professionally. Perhaps due
to the catharsis of Nil By Mouth, perhaps because of too many intense roles down the years,
he felt burned out. The fire, he said, was gone. But still he had to work.
He'd filmed The Fifth Element during the editing of Nil By Mouth then, during the mixing,
he'd had to leave to shoot another blockbuster - Air Force One. Here the Americans and
Russians have got together to jail a Khazakstani military dictator, Jurgen Prochnow, and, in
order to set him free, Gary hijacks president Harrison Ford's jet and threatens to kill a hostage
every 30 minutes till his demands are met. Luckily, the president is a Vietnam vet who's
hidden onboard and goes into action to end this terrorist nonsense. Directed by Wolfgang
Petersen, it was thrilling stuff, and Oldman did manage to add a touch of intellectual interest
with a speech about who the real terrorists are ("Murder? You took 100,000 lives to save a
nickel on the price of a gallon of gas"). All was not lost.

. Such a claim could not easily be made for Gary's next venture, a big screen adaptation of the
TV series Lost In Space. Here the Earth has 20 years left to exist, so the family Robinson
must be shot into hyper-space to set up a station on the one planet that will support human
life, plus a hyper-gate to enable easy commuting. It's a good plan, but foiled when Gary's Dr
Zachary Smith sabotages the mission, firing the family out into nowhere, along with meat-
head pilot Matt Le Blanc. Having foolishly got himself stuck onboard, Gary realises the
ship's sailing into the sun and must wake the crew from their suspended animation. Cue
adventures with defiant robots, mechanical spiders and explosing planets.

Lost In Space wasn't good. The leads were uninspired and the plot weak. But, as usual, Gary
lifted proceedings above the norm. He took all the charisma and comic wickedness of
Jonathan Harris's original Smith and added a little malevolence and sexual menace of his
own. Yet he'd had enough. He hadn't liked Lost In Space or Air Force One and even felt that
Nil By Mouth was flawed. His fire was out, and he did not act for a year.

After a quiet return as a politically sharp and manipulative Pontius Pilate in the TV movie
Jesus (for which he was paid $1 million), he hit the mainstream again with The Contender.
Here Jeff Bridges played a liberal president who wants to make Joan Allen his VP but is
disturbed by the appearance of photos that seem to show her involved in a college gang-bang.
Enter Gary as Sheldon Runyon, a sly and unprincipled political power-broker who takes an
unseemly interest in the pictures and goes at the government like a hound.

It was yet another great role, with Gary seedy, sexist and gross behind owlish spectacles and
under a bald pate hilariously semi-covered with scraped-over wisps. He'd also be
unrecognisable in his next big picture, Hannibal. Here he would play Mason Verger, a child
molester who, under the caring hand of therapist Hannibal Lecter, has been convinced to cut
off his own face and feed it to dogs. Now, using Julianne Moore's Clarice Starling as bait, he
hopes to lure Lecter back from Florence and serve him up as dinner for his giant Sardinian
hogs. He had no lips, no eyelids, another milky eye, he was a monster - and yet Oldman
somehow made him human.

Oldman has often bemoaned the fact that his reputation seemed to disqualify him from
comedies. So, in 2001, he took the matter into his own hands and played Richard Crosby, an
alcoholic actor in Friends. Here he's in a play with Matt Le Blanc's Joey and turns up drunk,
spitting all over the hapless Joey and, with constant demands for re-takes, making him late
for Monica and Chandler's wedding. Gary was spoofing himself and his reputation
mercilessly and quite rightly received an Emmy nomination.

As if deliberately shying away from the blockbuster fare that had made him so unhappy,
Oldman now embarked on a run of lower-budget work. He began with Nobody's Baby, a
Raising Arizona-style comedy that saw him and Skeet Ulrich as as a pair who've spent their
lives in orphanages and jails. Finally breaking out, they're separated and Ulrich manages to
acquire a baby before Oldman, playing it up as a line-dancing, head-scratching buffoon,
returns and tries to profit from the child.

The movie would show at the Sundance festival, but would never win a theatre release. Much
the same would happen to Interstate 60, where a high school graduate gets hit on the head
with a pot of paint and begins to see things others can't. Enter Gary as OW Grant, a
mysterious character descended from a leprechaun, who gives the kid a magic 8-ball that'll
give him a yes or no answer to any question asked. He then sends him off down a mythical
Interstate 60 to deliver a peculiar package.

The film was a real oddity and featured cameos from Michael J. Fox and Gary's former Track
29 co-star Christopher Lloyd (not co-incidentally it was written and directed by Bob Gale,
who'd earlier written the Back To The Future trilogy). However, it went straight to video.
Gary would reach a wider public when reuniting with Tony Scott and playing the Devil,
seeking the soul of James Brown in an episode of the BMW adverts starring Clive Owen as
an enigmatic chauffeur.

2003 saw more strangeness with Tiptoes where Gary played a dwarf from a dwarf family
thrown into uproar when Matthew McConaughey, his normal-sized brother, makes Kate
Beckinsale pregnant and must tell her what to expect. It could have been great but the movie,
in trying to both entertain and inform us about the realities of dwarfism, fell between two
stools. More direct was Sin, a kind of cross between Death Wish and 8mm, which saw Gary
as a vicious porn producer who gang-rapes the little sister of former cop Ving Rhames and
begins a cycle of brutal violence. Again, it was never released to cinemas.

Though the work was interesting, it was not as taxing as his off-screen life. His marriage to
Donya Fiorentino had gone haywire and, after a 2001 divorce, wound up in court, with
Fiorentino, seeking custody of the kids and more money, accusing him of beating her, hitting
her in the face with a phone receiver in front of the kids, and blowing thousands on drink,
drugs and prostitutes. He'd also hit Charlie, she said, and burned him with a cigarette.
Horrible accusations, which Gary utterly denied and countered by saying she'd quickly
returned to drinking after their marriage, and to cocaine use, and she'd suffered an overdose
in front of her daughter Phelix, Oldman finding her purple on the floor. The judge would find
in favour of Oldman, who had custody, and would half Fiorentino's visits to the children. For
three years from 2002, Oldman would date actress Ailsa Marshall.

Not only was the custody case extremely painful, it also brought up the scale of Oldman's
financial problems. He claimed to be $2.7 million in debt and his situation was not made
easier when, in 2004, he was hit with a tax bill for $288,000. It seemed the blockbusters
would have to continue for now. But only if they kept to Oldman's high standards. Despite
his financial needs, he'd still pull out of playing a prison warden in Adam Sandler's The
Longest Yard, and refuse to lend his voice to General Grievous in Star Wars III because the
production did not involve the Screen Actors' Guild.

Fortunately, there were other decent blockbusters on the horizon. First came The Prisoner Of
Azkaban, the third in the Harry Potter series, where Oldman played Sirius Black, reportedly a
paragon of wickedness, who's broken out of jail and come to Hogwarts to kill Harry. It was
thankfully darker than the first two instalments, which of course suited Gary well. He's not
really a Disney kind of guy.

Following this, Oldman returned to London for Dead Fish, a farcical gangster tale with
Robert Carlyle, Terence Stamp and Billy Zane. Oldman would play a cold-eyed hit-man who
accidentally exchanges mobiles with an artist, sending them both stumbling into a chaos of
mistaken identity, double-crosses and unrequited love. There'd then be the short Who's Kyle?
where he'd be a loan shark whose girlfriend is ripped off by the titular anti-hero.

But quickly it was back to the big time with Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, based on
Frank Miller's classic comic book Batman: Year One. This would follow Bruce Wayne
(Christian Bale) from the murder of his parents, through the psychosis that led to the creation
of his crime-fighting alter-ego. Gary would play Lieutenant James Gordon (of course the
young Commissioner Gordon), an up and coming cop who helps Batman out against The
Scarecrow and the other super-villains persecuting Gotham City.

. After a second episode in the Potter series, Oldman would return to serious business with
Backwoods, a half English, half Spanish production with a flavour of both Straw Dogs and
Deliverance. Here Oldman and friend Paddy Considine, along with their respective wives,
would find a feral child in the Basque outback and attempt to carry her to safety while being
pursued by mysterious and extremely dangerous locals. Following this, there'd be more
Potter, with Oldman this time taking on Ralph Fiennes' Voldemort and Helena Bonham
Carter's Death Eater, and losing. He'd then stick with the big franchises with The Dark
Knight, a follow-up to Batman Begins, this time helping Batman and DA Harvey Dent to
chase Heath Ledger's Joker.

Outside of these, Oldman had his own project on the go. When making Nil By Mouth, he'd
formed a production company, SE8, with friend Douglas Ubanski, and SE8 was now heavily
involved with Chang And Eng. Based on the novel by Darin Strauss, this again saw Oldman
dealing with the traumas and joys of a close family - only this time the family in question was
really, really close, Chang and Eng being the original Siamese twins, who'd worked in a
circus, gone to the States and both become husbands and fathers. There'd be humour, sadness,
longing, loyalty and immense humanity - all big draws for Oldman throughout his career.

Whether we ever again see Gary Oldman engage with the kind of traumatic roles that made
his name is open to question. For a long time he thought such acting had to be cathartic, had
to ease the ongoing pain of that difficult childhood. But then he realised that it was really like
a snow-shaker. All those emotions go up into the air but never escape, never fly away. They
just hurt you and settle back down, waiting for the next disruption. Why would you want to
go throught that?

The answer is that you do it for art, you do it to create, to share, you do it because that's what
you do. And Gary Oldman, of all the actors of his generation, is an artist and a born actor. He
will surely continue to blow us away. And hopefully, one day, the industry will see fit to right
one of cinema's most enduring and ridiculous wrongs - that Gary Oldman has never won a
major award for his acting. Seriously, how can that be?

Dominc Wills
Alan Rickman - Biography

Personal details
Name: Alan Rickman
Born: 21 February 1946 (Age: 65)
Where: London, England
Height: 6'1"
Awards: Won 1 BAFTA, 1 Emmy, 1 Golden Globe

All about this star

People in the UK often complain that the finest British thespians seldom get opportunities to
succeed in Hollywood pictures. Often the reason is simple - most great British actors are just SO
damned British they're considered only for the occasional role. A butler, perhaps, or a dastardly
villain, more often Queen Elizabeth I. And, in the case of Alan Rickman, there is a further problem. To
most top-line stars, the man is a positive menace. Absolutely explosive in his work, he's not only
ideally suited to cinema but he's a scene-stealer of the highest and most dangerous order. Take his
Sheriff Of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves. Kevin Costner famously cut many of his
scenes, and STILL the movie's remembered for Rickman's hilarious outbursts.

His path to prominence has been long and hard. He was born Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman, on a
council estate in Acton, West London, on the 21st of February, 1946, to a Welsh mother and Irish
father. He had one older brother, then a younger brother and sister. Sadly, his father, a factory
worker, died when he was just 8, leaving him to be raised by his mum who, he's said, instilled in him
both a sense of decency and a respect for women. As a child, he was bright, and artistic, capable of
excellent calligraphy and watercolour painting. Eventually, he won a scholarship to Latymer School
(later alumni including Hugh Grant and Mel Smith), and quickly became involved in drama. Latymer
was fairly radical in this department. Both pupils and teachers acted alongside each other, an
approach that demanded the boys mature rapidly.

Rickman loved acting, but his other artistic talents led him towards graphic design - certainly a safer
occupation. "Drama school," he says "wasn't considered the sensible thing to do at 18". So he
enrolled at the Chelsea College Of Art And Design, later spending a year at the Royal College Of Art.
It was at Chelsea that he met Rima Horton, still his partner today. Both keen to continue acting in
some shape or form, they founded an amateur troupe, the Brook Green Players. Rima, sharing Alan's
liberal beliefs, would eventually become a politician, serving for many years on the council of
Kensington and Chelsea.
Alan continued at the day job, on graduation forming a design company, Graphiti, with some friends.
He'd continue taking design work till well into the Seventies. But closer and closer he came to
professional acting. He played with another amateur troupe, the Court Drama Group, performing in
the likes of Romeo And Juliet and View From A Bridge. Then, at the relatively late age of 26, wrote to
RADA, hoping for an in. He got one.

Delivering a speech from Richard III at his audition, he was accepted, spending the next three
years studying and performing Shakespeare and facing such emotional and technical
challenges as Uncle Vanya and Ghosts. For his efforts, he was awarded the Emile Litter
Prize, the Forbes Robertson Prize and the Bancroft Gold Medal.

. After leaving RADA, Rickman threw himself into any acting jobs going. Though he is, of
course, renowned as an extremely serious actor, he played all manner of roles over the next
four years, as he gained experience in weekly repertory theatre. With the Library Theatre
Company in Manchester he took on farce and light comedy, performing in the likes of Babes
In The Wood, Lock Up Your Daughters and There's A Girl In My Soup. He did Romeo And
Juliet in Leicester, he was King Rat in Dick Whittington in Bristol, Sherlock Holmes in
Birmingham where he also appeared in The Devil Is An Ass, he played the lead in Nijinsky,
Laertes in Hamlet. There were musicals too, Rickman touring with both Guys And Dolls and
Joseph And His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. There were serious plays, naturally, like
St Joan, but Rickman was grounding himself in every stage discipline - he could be still and
desperately intense, magnetic and sexy, outlandish and larger than life.

From 1976, his cohort in all this - and this will seem monstrously peculiar to most of the
British public - was Ruby Wax. They met at the Sheffield Crucible, where Rickman was a
visiting player and Wax a member of the local troupe, and they became firm friends and
something of a comedy double act, Rickman playing the straight man. Together, they gigged
around the country, playing in Man Is Man and Ubu Rex at Bristol's Old Vic (both directed
by Adrian Noble), then moved back to Sheffield in 1977 for As You Like It.

A year later, inevitably really, Rickman would join the Royal Shakespeare Company. Not so
inevitably, Wax would join him there, as would a young actress with whom he'd later twang
violently on the heart-strings of the nation - Juliet Stevenson. In this single season with the
RSC he'd appear in The Tempest (starring Michael Hordern and Ian Charleson), Love's
Labour's Lost (Michael Pennington and Jane Lapotaire), Antony And Cleopatra (Glenda
Jackson, Jonathan Pryce, Patrick Stewart) and, in Stratford studio theatre The Other Place,
he'd star in Captain Swing alongside Zoe Wanamaker.

Unfortunately, it wasn't really working out. Given his age and his rootsy experience, he found
the RSC elitist, their traditionalist structures too limiting. He stuck it for only a year, before
returning to rep. Wax, too, encouraged by Rickman, was now branching out, particularly into
writing , and would put on two shows with her RSC colleagues. The Johnson Wax Floorshow
would star Rickman, Lapotaire, Charleson, Wanamaker, Pryce and David Suchet, while Juliet
Stevenson, directed by Rickman, would perform in Desperately Yours

After leaving the RSC, Rickman would continue a working relationship with Wax, in 1986
directing her Live Wax show at the Edinburgh Festival, then overseeing 1992's Wax Acts on
tour and in the West End.
Back in rep, in 1979 he'd play the title role in Antonio at Nottingham, then in Glasgow he'd
play seven roles in Brecht's Fears And Miseries Of The Third Reich The same year, he
debuted on TV in a BBC production of the savage and haunting Therese Raquin (well, his
debut if you don't count a televised production of Romeo And Juliet). In 1980, he'd take on
The Summer Party at Sheffield, The Devil Himself at Hammersmith and Commitments at the
Bush. 1981 would bring The Seagull at the Royal Court, The Last Elephant at the Bush and
The Brothers Karamazov at the Edinburgh Festival and on tour in Russia.

Now came his rise to prominence. In 1982, Rickman raised his stock with his performance as
Brownlow, opposite Alec Guinness in John Le Carre's spy series Smiley's People. He also
caused a stir in a TV adaptation of Anthony Trollope's The Barchester Chronicles. As the
Reverend Obadiah Slope, a slimy, ladykilling politico, he'd provoked a near-unheard-of
stream of fan mail, much of it from women. And it was this sex appeal, combined with his
fierce intelligence, that now made him a stage star too. Having in 1983 played in Bad
Language at Hampstead, then moved on to the Royal Court for Grass Widow and The Lucky
Chance, 1985 saw him return to the RSC, where he was reunited with Juliet Steveson and
director Adrian Noble. This time his parts were more substantial. He was Jaques in As You
Like It, Achilles in Troilus And Cressida and Hofgen in Mephisto. More importantly, he
created the role of the Vicomte de Valmont in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, playing the arch
seducer warring with Lindsay Duncan's Marquise de Merteuil and ruining both Stevenson's
Madame de Tourvel and Lesley Manville's sweet young virgin. Between 1985 and 1987, the
show was taken to London and then on to Broadway, where Rickman found himself Tony-
nominated. Unfortunately, not only did James Earl Jones take that prize, but Rickman was
also denied the film role, given instead to John Malkovich.

But Hollywood soon beckoned anyway. Producer Joel Silver had noted Rickman as Valmont,
and asked him to play super-terrorist Hans Gruber, leader of a gang who take a bunch of
hostages in an LA office block in Die Hard. Rickman recognised that the producers had spent
so much on Bruce Willis they needed actors who'd work for next to nothing, but he went for
it anyway, and was magnificent - casually vicious, hilariously merciless and masterfully
irritated as Bruce foiled his best-laid plans. So effective was his performance that Hollywood
would now habitually cast Brits as major villains.

The next couple of years continued his rise.

He was notable as Kevin Kline's oddball sidekick in serial killer flick The January Man, and
excellent as mean-spirited ranch owner Elliott Marston in Quigley Down Under, hiring
gunfighter Tom Selleck to shoot aborigines then going after his reluctant employee. Now two
killer roles. First, Anthony Minghella's Truly, Madly, Deeply, where Rickman was Jamie, the
dead cello-playing lover of Juliet Stevenson (she'd move the entire nation with her deeply
upsetting breakdown scene). Then came Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, with Kevin
Costner. Here Rickman was incredible - smarmy, callous, cowardly and flamboyant,
storming through every scene with captivating ebullience This was not simple scene-stealing,
it was grand larceny, with so many memorable moments. Swearing he's going to cut
someone's heart out with a spoon, he's asked by a minion why a spoon. "Because it HURTS!"
he screams. In the final sequence, where he's trying to marry Maid Marian before the Merrie
Men take over the castle, it was Rickman himself who came up with the notion of prizing
open Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio's legs, as if he were hoping to consummate the marriage
with the priest still present. All those years in rep were coming in useful - Rickman won a
hugely deserved BAFTA.

Next came the controversial Close My Eyes, where Rickman played the tortured husband of
Saskia Reeves as she conducts an incestuous affair with her brother, played by Clive Owen.
Then there was the extraordinary, and hard-to-find Closet Land, a movie with a cast of only
two. In it, Rickman played a Secret Police interrogator, grilling children's writer Madeleine
Stowe on the subversive messages supposedly hidden in her stories. Perhaps even better, now
Rickman once again brought his experience in comedy to bear, as the magnificently
manipulative spin doctor Lukas Hart III, in Tim Robbins' political spoof Bob Roberts. In one
memorable scene, Rickman disengages himself from one sticky situation with a fabulously
insincere "Excuse me, I have to go pray". In the same year, Rickman would provide narration
for Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells 2.

Rickman's next major role was brilliantly cast. In Mesmer, he played the title role as the 18th
Century Viennese physician who touted some thoroughly controversial healing practices,
based on his concept of "animal magnetism". The film should have launched him as a leading
man, but there were problems. Rickman and director Roger Spotiswoode (Air America,
Tomorrow Never Dies) made changes to Dennis Potter's script, with the financiers feeling the
completed movie was not the one they'd paid for. Litigation reared its ugly head and Mesmer,
pulled from theatrical release, was not aired till 1999, and then on the Romance Channel. A
terrible shame for allconcerned.

But Rickman persisted and 1995 brought rewards. Onscreen, he was sexy and terribly
devious in Mike Newell's theatrical romp An Awfully Big Adventure, set in Liverpool in

Then he was the brave and tortured Colonel Brandon, loving Kate Winslet from afar in Ang
Lee's surprise hit Sense And Sensibility. Rickman also directed his co-star from that movie,
Emma Thompson, in The Winter Guest at London's Almeida Theatre. The next year,
Rickman would make a big screen version of the play - a deep tale of youthful hopes and
intergenerational struggles - again starring Thompson, with her mother played by her real-life
mum Phyllida Law. Though not a big money-spinner, The Winter Guest would win
prestigious prizes at the Venice and Chicago film festivals.

. In the meantime, Rickman had made up for disappearance of his hypnotic Mesmer by taking
on the equally transfixing role of Rasputin. Of course, Christopher Lee had been superb in
Hammer's earlier version of the mad monk's rise to power in the court of the last Tsar of
Russia, but Rickman, matching Lee for intensity and outdoing him for intelligence, was
magnificent, taking both an Emmy and a Golden Globe. Then, having played such a
ferocious libertine and open-hearted zealot, he took on the demanding role of the quiet,
complicated and mercilessly pragmatic Eamon De Valera in Neil Jordan's Irish revolutionary
epic, Michael Collins. By now, Rickman was confident in his abilities, yet this confidence
was tested to its limit when he discovered his first scene involved making a speech to 5,000
Dubliners - with no rehearsal.

Now the offers were rolling in. He played alongside Thompson again, in the New Orleans-set
kidnapping drama Judas Kiss. He was suitably angelic as the seraph Metatron in Kevin
Smith's hilarious Dogma. And, perhaps best of all, he was side-splitting as Dr Lazarus in the
excellent Galaxy Quest, taking the rise out of himself as an arrogant thespian who despises
the undying fame he's found as a Spock-like character in a trashy TV show. Oh, and he
provided some much-needed class to the video for Texas's In Demand though, unfortunately
for the band, he made singer Sharleen Spiteri seem very small and uncharismatic by

Like many great stage actors, Rickman stays true to his roots. Though he failed in a bid to
buy the Riverside Theatre in Hammersmith, he remains committed to the British stage. 1992
saw him in Hamlet at the Riverside, then he reunited with Anthony Minghella and Juliet
Stevenson for Samuel Beckett's Play. In 1998 he was Antony to Helen Mirren's voracious
Cleopatra, then from October 2001 to January 2002, he'd play Elyot in a revival of Noel
Coward's Private Lives at the West End's Albery Theatre, opposite his former RSC co-star
Lindsay Duncan, then went with the production to Broadway, where he'd earn a Tony
nomination to add to the Olivier nomaination he'd received in London. In 2003, in
recognition of his class, his efforts and his motivational power, he was made Vice-Chairman
of RADA.

He stays true to his principles too. A keen supporter of the Labour party, he makes many
appearances for charity, notably appearing onstage at the Royal Court with Glenda Jackson,
at a public birthday party for Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese freedom fighter who's spent so
many years under house arrest. In 2005 he'd be back at the Royal Court, directing the
provocative My Name Is Rachel Corrie, a work he and Katharine Viner had adapted from the
personal diaries of a 23-year-old American protestor killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza.

Onscreen, he played the hurt and abandoned hairdresser husband of Natasha Richardson in
the Brit comedy Blow Dry. After this came the contemporary comedy The Search For John
Gissing, once more featuring Stevenson, where he played a crusty jobsworth attempting to
foil corporate do-gooder Mike Binder. For Richard Curtis's Love, Actually, he joined a
terrific ensemble cast to tell various tales of affection. passion and tolerance. His story-line
saw him as a magazine editor who's hit upon at work by a lusty young co-worker, an affair
that sends his comfy marriage to Emma Thompson into freefall. There'd also be the critically
acclaimed American TV movie Something The Lord Made, involving the true story of Dr
Alfred Blalock (Rickman) and his black, self-taught assistant (Mos Def) as they struggle
against the prejudices of post-Depression society and, with handmade tools, discover a way
to cure a congenital heart defect that causes babies to turn blue and die. Rickman would be
Emmy nominated for his efforts.

Aside for these, of course, he was to find a worldwide fame way beyond the reach of most
when he was chosen (after Tim Roth had pulled out) to camp it up as the sly and sickly
Professor Severus Snape, head of Slytherin house in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
and its follow-ups, The Chamber Of Secrets, The Prisoner Of Azkaban (directed by Alfonso
Cuaron, who a decade before had worked with Alan on an episode of Fallen Angels) and The
Goblet Of Fire. How brilliant he was there, undermining Potter's confidence with a glance of
profound disdain or a viciously barbed question then, with a swish of black cape, suddenly

And still there was more. When The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy finally made it to the
Silver Screen in 2005 he was a natural choice to voice Marvin the Paranoid Android. Next he
would reunite with his Galaxy Quest co-star Sigourney Weaver for the infinitely more hard-
hitting Snow Cake, wherein Rickman played a man traumatised by a fatal car crash, forming
a relationship with Weaver's high-achieving autistic. 2006 would bring more glory. First
there'd be Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer, set in 18th Century France, where Ben
Whishaw played a fellow with an amazing sense of smell, who becomes a famous perfumer,
endlessly trying to recreate the scent of brass door-knobs, fresh-cut wood etc
But then, seeking the scent of a beautiful young virgin he turns sociopath and collides with
Rickman, playing the merchant father of the young perfumer's obsession. It was elegant,
erotic, decadent stuff, unlike the black comedy Nobel Son where Rickman, the head of a
dysfunctional family, wins the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, making life even more difficult for
his forensic scientist wife Mary Steenburgen and a son struggling to finish his own thesis.
When the son's kidnapped, everyone seems to have their own devious plot, with Rickman
hilariously arch and flamboyant throughout.

. These productions would allow Rickman freedom in his theatrical life, and he'd use it to
continue pushing his production of My Name Is Rachel Corrie, in 2006 taking it to London's
Playhouse Theatre, as well as the Edinburgh and Galway festivals. Of course, more freedom,
and more prestige, would be obtained through Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix,
with franchise newcomers Imelda Staunton and Helena Bonham Carter. Rickman would stay
with Carter for his next production, Sweeney Todd, directed by her husband Tim Burton.
Based on Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical, this would see Johnny Depp as the titular
barber, back in London after being transported to Australia and seeking revenge on
Rickman's Judge Turpin, the dreadful cad who framed him, raped his wife and stole his
daughter. With murder and mincers, Deep versus Rickman, it could only be delightful
carnage all the way.

Judge Turpin was another substantial role, but Rickman does not really need a substantial
role to make things happen. He can change a scene, even your perception of an entire movie,
with a single look. We should be so grateful that the original plan to cast Rickman and Alfred
Molina as the leads in the limp comedy series Red Dwarf was not carried through. For now, it
would be wonderful to see him tear the screen up as a Roman Emperor in Gladiator 2 or
maybe take on Depp again as the ghost of Blackbeard in Pirates Of The Caribbean 4. He's the
best we've got - arguably, the best ANYONE's got.
Johnny Depp - Biography

Personal details
Name: Johnny Depp
Born: 9 June 1963 (Age: 48)
Where: Owensboro, Kentucky, USA
Height: 5' 10"
Awards: Won 1 Golden Globe, 3 Oscar and 2 BAFTA nominations

All about this star



It's been a bizarre and bumpy road for Johnny Depp. He tried to be a rock star, only to see his
band split. He moved into serious acting, only to have his credibility destroyed by
accidentally becoming a teen pin-up. Then, defying his idol-status, he threw himself into the
cinematic underground and slowly, slowly proved himself to be one of the most adventurous
and genuinely bohemian actors of his generation, both a serial Oscar nominee and the
headliner of some of the biggest moneyspinners in cinema history.

He was born John Christopher Depp II on June 9th, 1963, in Owensboro, Kentucky - the self-
styled "barbecue capital of the world". His father, John Christopher senior, was a city
engineer, and his mother, Elizabeth Sue Wells, a waitress. He was always very close to his
mother, but perhaps even closer to his grandfather, who he knew as Pawpaw (Depp himself
was known as Dipp or Deppity Dawg). He'd visit Pawpaw often, and happily recalls sunny
days picking tobacco together. It was a terrible shock to the seven-year-old boy when
Pawpaw died.

Also traumatic was the family's move to Florida soon afterwards. John Senior did eventually
find secure work as director of public works at Miramar, but the family spent a long time
living in motels and were constantly shifting from place to place - well over a dozen in total.
It was bad for the older kids - daughters Debbie and Christie (now Johnny's personal
manager), and brother Danny (known as DP, now a screenwriter) - but Johnny took it
especially hard. Though an inquisitive child - at 8 he was hugely interested in Evel Knievel
and World War 2 - he did not take to school and went off the rails, once being suspended for
mooning the gym teacher. By 12, he was smoking, very soon came drinking, and drugs.
There was petty theft and vandalism, he lost his virginity at 13. Small wonder he got into
rock and roll.

Johnny first discovered a love of music back in Owensboro, when attending the church of his
uncle, a fundamentalist minister. His uncle would preach, the people would clutch his feet
and be redeemed, but Johnny was more taken by the gospel music. In Florida, as this troubled
adolescent became a surly teenager, he received a guitar from his mother, a $25 Decca
electric with a little blue amp. Having stolen a chord book from a local music shop, he, like
millions before him, retired to his room and taught himself to play - Smoke On The Water
and Led Zeppelin being his first ports of call.

On emerging, he was a competent garage rocker. Getting together with a bunch of

neighbourhood lads - one had a bass, another a PA system, they made their own lights - his
band began to play backyard parties, playing songs by The Beatles, Cheap Trick and Chuck

Johnny Depp - Biography

By the time he was 16, with the band now called Bad Boys, he was making $25 a night at Florida's
nightclubs. There were drawbacks. Still underage, he had to enter clubs through the back-door and
leave after the first set. But it was good, and got better. Convinced they were on to something, Depp
dropped out of school at 16. Not so sure, his parents (who'd divorced the year before) told him that,
if he was capable enough to do without education then he'd also be able to support himself without
their help. Thrown into a quandary, Depp considered returning to school and even met with the
Dean. The Dean, though, told to stick with music as it was the only thing to which he'd ever applied

Influenced by The Clash, Elvis Costello, early Motown and the fledgling U2, Bad Boys changed their
name to The Kids and started to take off, supporting such luminaries as Talking Heads, Ramones, The
Pretenders, B-52's and Iggy Pop (Depp remembers his first self-consciously punky words to Iggy
being "F*** you! F*** you! F*** you!". Iggy called him "a little turd" and ignored him). Aiming for
the big time, they packed their gear into trailers and relocated to Los Angeles, hoping for the big
record deal. It would never come.

By the age of 20, Depp was married, to make-up artist Lori Anne Allison, five years his senior. As The
Kids were struggling, having to get day jobs to support themselves (Depp was at one point selling
ballpoint pens over the phone), she suggested her husband try acting, and introduced him to her
friend Nicolas Cage. Cage persuaded a reluctant Depp to meet his agent, Ilene Feldman and she got
him an audition for an upcoming movie by Wes Craven, already notorious for The Hills Have Eyes.
After the tests, Craven turned to his young daughter for casting advice - she liked Depp. And so
Johnny made his feature-film debut as a hunky boyfriend devoured by a killer bed in A Nightmare On
Elm Street. The money, he figured, $1200 a week for eight weeks, would come in handy.

Music coming first, Depp had hoped this would be a one-off but, unable to see any future, The Kids
split up. So he continued acting. After starring in the wretched teen sex comedy, Private Resort (and
despite having been divorced from the supportive Allison), he decided to get serious and enrolled at
The Loft, a Los Angeles acting school. Dividends were near-immediate as he won the part of Private
Lerner in Oliver Stone's Oscar-winning 'Nam drama Platoon. Unfortunately, it was his last good part
in years. He appeared in episodes of Hotel and Lady Blue, and the TV movie Slow Burn, with Eric
Roberts and Beverly D'Angelo, but that was it. He'd found another band, Rock City Angels, but the
work wasn't coming.

Johnny Depp - Biography

When it did come, he turned it down. The producers of a new Fox TV series came knocking. Called
21, Jump Street, this was to involve a crack squad of young policemen, working undercover in
schools to stamp out youth crime. Now a budding Orson Welles, Depp thought it beneath him, or at
least wrong for a serious artiste. But no one else was right for the part, so the producers asked Depp
again. This time he took it. Not only did he need the work but, he reasoned, no way would the show
last more than one season. It couldn't hurt him.

And, of course, the show took off, with Depp - Officer Tom Hanson - its most popular character. Very
rapidly, he became a teenie idol, worshipped for his looks (nightmare!), and was receiving 10,000
letters a month. The $45,000 per episode was nice, but Depp was trapped and, possibly, ruined. Help
came from strange quarters. Director John Waters, infamous for having Divine eat dog-muck in Pink
Flamingos, was looking for a real heartbreaker to star in his latest happily disgraceful enterprise, Cry-
Baby. He cannot possibly have imagined that Johnny Depp, one of the hottest young stars on TV,
would have been so keen to lampoon himself. But, desperate to escape his new pretty-boy image,
he was, and signed on to star alongside Ricki Lake and porn queen Traci Lords.

With his run at 21, Jump Street coming to an end, Depp took another swipe at his image by starring
in Tim Burton's lower-budget Batman-follow-up Edward Scissorhands. Spikey-haired, pasty-faced
and horribly scarred, with terrifying blades for fingers, he tried to bury Tom Hanson for good. And,
expressing himself only with his eyes and clumsy movements, he was brilliant, easily outshining his
co-star Winona Ryder to whom he was then engaged. He'd earlier been engaged to Twin Peaks siren
Sherilyn Fenn, between 1985 and '88, and then to Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Gray, but Ryder, he
said, was the one. Their eyes had met at the premiere of her Great Balls Of Fire movie, they'd later
been introduced at the Chateau Marmont hotel (where John Belushi OD-ed) and had their first date
at a party thrown by psychedelic guru Dr Timothy Leary, Ryder's godfather. Depp famously had
Winona Forever tattooed on his arm (he already had a Betty Sue one, for his mum), later changing it
to Wino Forever when they split.

That split came soon, in 1993, as Depp entered an extraordinary run of movies. There was the
superb What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, where he played a small-town boy torn between Juliette Lewis
and Mary Steenburgen, wishing to escape but tied to his dysfunctional family (Leonardo DiCaprio
was fantastic as his retarded brother). There was the sweet Benny And Joon, where he drew on the
characters and routines of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. Then there was another strange family
and two more women in Arizona Dreaming. Depp's reputation as a class act was growing but
personally he was off the rails again, drinking heavily, with rumours of hard drug-taking rife
Johnny Depp - Biography
He was dreadfully unhappy, all the more so when River Phoenix died of an OD outside The Viper
Rooms, the LA club Depp co-ran (in 1999, he'd open the Man Ray restaurant/bar in Paris, along with
Mick Hucknall and Sean Penn).

. In 1994, Depp began a tempestuous on-off relationship with supermodel Kate Moss. He was
arrested for trashing a New York hotel room (he'd been arrested in 1989, in Vancouver, for fighting
with hotel security, and would be again, in 1999, for scrapping with the paparazzi). But his work got
better and better. First, he returned to Tim Burton with Ed Wood, a loving portrayal of the hopeless
transvestite director, for which Martin Landau won an Oscar as the ageing Bela Lugosi (Depp would
later buy a Hollywood mansion formerly owned by Lugosi himself). Then there was the excellent Don
Juan DeMarco where psychiatrist Marlon Brando attempts to convince a hilarious Depp that he's not
the great lover of legend - only to discover that sometimes madness is better than sanity. Nick Of
Time was a taut thriller, running in real-time, while Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man was one of the most
beautiful films of the last 20 years. Here Depp is Bill Blake, a young truth-seeker in the old West who,
aided by a Native American convinced Depp's the poet William Blake, finds murder and mayhem,
only to discover serenity and wonder in dying.

His reputation now solid, he was thoroughly convincing as undercover cop Donnie Brasco, falling
under the spell of mobster Al Pacino - for this role Depp spent much time with real-life Brasco, Joe
Pistone. Then he directed for the first time with The Brave, a screenplay he co-wrote with his
brother DP. Here Depp also starred as a Native American (Depp is actually part-Cherokee) who,
alcoholic and just out of jail, decides to die in a snuff movie in order to feed his family. The movie,
featuring Depp's buddy Brando, was nominated for the Palm D'Or at Cannes, but never received a
proper cinema release.

Finally splitting with Kate Moss in 1998, Depp would soon meet French singer/actress Vanessa
Paradis and relocate to the south of France, then Paris, where he could live a "normal" life. They'd
marry in 1998 and have two children, daughter, Lily-Rose Melody and son Jack. Depp would
continue to battle with the paparazzi, but now he was protecting his children's privacy. Possibly Nick
Of Time, where he played the father of a kidnapped kid, made him all the more sensitive.

But though he sought normality in the day-to-day, his roles were now far from normal. He played
Hunter S. Thompson in Terry Gilliam's freaky Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, having researched his
part by living in the man's house, drinking and shooting with him (Depp has a huge collection of
guns, a habit he got from his father), and setting off 75-foot explosions. Next he was Jack Kerouac in
The Source, with Dennis Hopper as William Burroughs and John Turturro as Allen Ginsberg.

Johnny Depp - Biography

He was a rare-book dealer in Roman Polanski's odd satanic thriller The 9th Gate (Depp also collects
rare books himself, as well as insects). This was shot in France, Depp meeting Paradis while there,
then shelved for some time. Next came the equally strange sci-fi weird-out The Astronaut's Wife,
and then it was back to Tim Burton yet again with Sleepy Hollow, with Depp as young detective
Ichabod Crane, on the trail of Christopher Walken's superlatively horrible Headless Horseman. Some
criticised Depp's insistence on bringing comedy to the role but he delivered some delightful
moments of surprised innocence that worked well with Burton's grim backdrops and a heavy-duty
thespian cast. He was rewarded with a Number One hit.

. After this, there was Sally Potter's The Man Who Cried with his Sleepy Hollow co-star Christina
Ricci, and Before Night Falls, the tale of Reinaldo Arenas (brilliantly played by Javier Bardem), a gay
Cuban poet persecuted by Castro's post-revolutionary regime. In the latter, Depp would appear
twice, in violently different roles. First he'd pop up as a pouting drag queen who smuggles Arenas'
manuscripts out of prison in his anus (the handover scene, involving four rolls of paper, is hilarious),
then as a sadistic interrogator with an unfeasibly large member, taking erotic pleasure in sliding his
revolver into a terrified Bardem's mouth. Then came the Oscar-nominated Chocolat, wherein Depp
based his accent on that of his friend, The Pogues' Shane MacGowan. Depp has continued his
musical connections throughout, appearing in the video for MacGowan's That Woman's Got Me
Drinking, as well as The Lemonheads' It's A Shame About Ray, Concrete Blonde's Joey and Tom
Petty's In The Great Wide Open. He's also in an occasional band called P, who released an LP in 1995,
played slide on Oasis's Fade In-Out on the Be Here Now album, and appeared with Brad Pitt and
Keanu Reeves on the Hollywood Goes Wild LP, in aid of an animal rescue charity. Beyond this, 2001
would see him direct several videos for his wife.

Depp's refusal to pander to the mainstream continued with Blow, where he played George Jung, the
man credited with helping Pablo Escobar gain entry into the US cocaine market. Depp, naturally,
visited Jung in prison to get his part right. Onset, he was not always so serious, indulging in an
ongoing fart-joke with co-star Penelope Cruz. His humour is as idiosyncratic as his choice of roles. He
calls himself "Mr Stench", and it was telling that he chose to send himself up so mercilessly on the
last ever Fast Show

Johnny Depp - Biography

Next came From Hell, where Depp appeared as Inspector Frederick Abberline, a psychic and opium-
addled cop aided by a disapproving Robbie Coltrane and tart-with-a-heart Heather Graham while on
the trail of Jack The Ripper. It wasn't a big hit, but that has never mattered to a man so keen to avoid
trading on his looks that he turned down the lead in Speed (which made Keanu Reeves a star), the
Brad Pitt part in Legends Of The Fall, and the rather tasty role of Lestat in Interview With The
Vampire (taken by Tom Cruise).

After From Hell, Johnny disappeared for a while. This was due mostly to the spectacular collapse of
Terry Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, a farrago masterfully captured in the documentary
Lost In La Mancha. 2003 brought rumours that Gilliam had managed to re-finance the project,
seemingly an advancement on The Fisher King, and that Depp would return to the fray. It's to be
hoped that it works out. Though many disliked the pair's collaboration on Fear And Loathing, Don
Quixote would see Gilliam back on familiar mediaeval ground and surely back on form. And Depp's
sense of adventure and fun could only serve him well, just as it has done for Tim Burton, Gilliam's
only modern rival in the (serious) fantasy genre.

When Depp DID return, it was with an unexpected smash hit. Based on a Disney theme park ride,
Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl looked doomed to go the way of Renny
Harlin's Cutthroat Island. However, with inspired casting that saw Geoffrey Rush ham it up wildly as
the ferocious (and undead) pirate Barbossa and Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley shine as life-
threatened lovers, word of mouth turned it into a huge smash that passed $200 million at the US
box office in only four weeks. And Depp was the undisputed star. As Barbossa's nemesis Jack
Sparrow, he could easily have taken the Errol Flynn route to action heroism. Instead, just as he had
based his Chocolat character on Shane MacGowan, so he conjured Sparrow from the crumbling but
still caustic remains of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. It was brilliantly weird, so weird that
director Gore Verbinski actually had the other characters in the movie comment on its strangeness.
And, given the performance resided in such a massive success, millions now recognised Depp's
versatility and comic ability, even the critics agreed. No one was surprised when he was Oscar
nominated. After Sleepy Hollow, this was the second time Depp had chosen an unpredictably comic
path to Number One.

Another reason for Depp's absence from the world's screen's during 2002 was the delayed release of
Robert Rodriguez's Once Upon A Time In Mexico. A follow-up to the director's El Mariachi and
Desperado, this saw Antonio Banderas return as the guitar-player-turned-assassin in a higher-budget
cross-double-cross scenario.

Johnny Depp - Biography

Now on a major roll, Depp once more stole the show as the manipulative, corrupt and black-hearted
CIA agent Sands, even writing his character's musical theme. Another held-up production would be
JM Barrie's Neverland, charting the author's path towards writing Peter Pan by examining his
relationship with dying mother Kate Winslet and the inspiration he receives from her young children.
Depp would star as Barrie, alongside Julie Christie, Dustin Hoffman (who'd earlier appeared in
Spielberg's Hook) and Johnny's Fast Show buddy Paul Whitehouse, and put in a performance of huge
charm, flitting between childlike scamp and serious adult artist. Quite rightly, he'd be Oscar-
nominated for the second time. Filmed before Pirates, Neverland had been briefly shelved to avoid
competition with an excellent live-action adaptation of Peter Pan.

. Before Neverland's release had come a brief cameo in Yvan Attal's Ils Se Marierent Et Eurent
Beacoup D'Enfants, a comedy drama where three friends enjoyed/endured relationships of varying
stabilities. Two are jealous of the third's seemingly steady marriage to Charlotte Gainsbourg, but in
fact he's getting some on the side and she's thrilled by a chance encounter with Depp's handsome
stranger. Very different would be Secret Window, based on a Stephen King story, where Johnny
played a writer attempting to escape the pain of his wife's infidelities by throwing himself into his
work in a cabin in the woods. Then spooky John Turturro appears, accusing Depp of plagiarising his
work and then stalking him with severely malicious intent. Once again undermining his glamorous
image, Depp would play the persecuted Mort Rainey as morose and painfully self-contained,
innocent and hopelessly dishevelled, adding to the tension as his world is violently invaded. It was an
above-average thriller with some thoroughly neat twists.

Once Neverland had seen him hit the box-office heights once again, Johnny finished 2004 in The
Libertine, another period drama, this time set in the 17th Century. Here he played John Wilmot, the
Earl of Rochester, one of the most dashing personalities of the Restoration - a war hero, poet, drunk
and womaniser, who kidnapped a wealthy heiress he then married, indulged in many affairs and,
though a favourite of Charles II, managed to get himself banished from court on several occasions.
Quite a character, as he was also a fine poetical satirist and prime influence on Alexander Pope. It
was a shame he died of drink and syphilis when only 32, but what a part for Johnny Depp, the
sensitive hell-raiser, the pretty-boy with hidden depths, romancing Samantha Morton and
Rosamund Pike and making impassioned speeches to Parliament. Having used Shane MacGowna's
accent for Chocolat, he also now brought him onboard in a bit part as a scruffy bard

Johnny Depp - Biography

Come 2005 and it was time for a reunion with Tim Burton and oddly, after the weak Planet Of The
Apes and half-baked Big Fish, on this occasion Burton needed Depp more than Depp needed Burton
(Depp once said of Burton that the director had saved him from being "a loser, an outcast, just
another piece of expendable Hollywood meat". Charlie And The Chocolate Factory was to be a non-
musical take on Roald Dahl's classic, far darker than Gene Wilder's extraordinary Willy Wonka effort.
Many were considered for the Wonka part - comedians like Steve Martin and Robin Williams, and
Burton's favourite screwballs Christopher Walken and Michael Keaton. But thankfully Depp won it,
and brought along his own Charlie - Freddie Highmore, one of Kate Winslet's kids in Neverland,
who'd impressed Depp with his otherworldly talents. Johnny's Sleepy Hollow co-star Christopher Lee
would join in the fun, as would Burton's now-wife Helena Bonham Carter, with Depp's outstanding
turn as a psycho child-man earning him another Golden Globe nomination. Lee and Bonham Carter
would also join Depp in the director's next piece, provided voices for the animation The Corpse
Bride, based on a Russian folk tale. Here Depp's character would be led into the underworld by a
spooky Bonham Carter (she is surely the best spook in the business) whom he's accidentally married
while his live fiancee Emily Watson waits at home.

The second and third parts of the Pirates Of The Caribbean saga would be filmed back-to-back. The
second would see Depp escaping cannibals, swordfighting on giant rolling mill-wheels and
attempting to save his soul from Bill Nighy's monstrous Davy Jones. The third, where at one point
he'd play multiple versions of Jack Sparrow, would have him fleeing both Jones and Tom Hollander's
ruthless East India Company official. So popular had the first Pirates movie been that its sequels
became cinematic events, massive money-spinners, with the third installment becoming the third
biggest box office hit of all time.

Never one to waste such freedom, Depp now offered to work alongside Benicio Del Toro in The Rum
Diary, based on the work of Hunter Thompson, Depp and Del Toro having earlier enjoyed their
working relationship on Thompson's Fear And Loathing. The movie would also serve as a tribute to
Thompson. When he committed suicide in 2005, it was Depp who financed a lavish party and
fireworks display that peaked with Thompson's remains being fired from a cannon. The project,
though, would prove complicated, Del Toro dropping out and Bruce Robinson taking over as writer
and director. There'd also be Shantaram, based on Gregory David Roberts' novel, which would see
Depp star as a junkie robber who escapes jail and flees to India, where he works as a doctor in the
slums before turning gun-runner and counterfeiter and fighting Russian troops in Afghanistan. Pre-
production would again be a troubled affair, with intended director Peter Weir walking after
disagreements with Depp.

Johnny Depp - Biography

In late 2007, Warner Brothers would postpone the production due to spiralling costs and script
problems that could not be fixed due to the writers' strike.

. By then, Depp already had another hit on his hands. Seeking a new challenge he'd reunited with
Tim Burton for Sweeney Todd, a filmed version of Stephen Sondheim's hit musical. Burton had
actually been attached to the project some six years before and approached Depp to play the lead.
Depp, though, had been unsure of his singing voice. Now, his curiosity piqued, Depp would repair to
a recording studio with his old friend Bruce Witkin, formerly his bandmate in The Kids, and try out
the songs. He was, he felt, good enough to pull it off. In one way it would be a troubled shoot,
production having to be shut down briefly when Depp's daughter suffered a mystery illness and
spent time in Great Ormond Street hospital. In gratitude for the hospital's successful efforts, Depp
would donate $1 million to its upkeep, thus mirroring the actions of JM Barrie, who he'd played in
Finding Neverland, Great Ormond Street having long been financed by the proceeds from Barrie's
Peter Pan.

In Sweeney Todd, Depp would play a young barber who's framed and transported to Australia by
Alan Rickman, an evil judge who ravisheses and ruins Depp's wife and steals his daughter. On his
return to England, Depp would seek bloody revenge, reopening his business and, with the help of an
adoring Helena Bonham Carter, turning his foes into pies. It was dark and gory and great fun with
Depp receiving his third Oscar nomination and, at last, after years of courageous and quite brilliant
performances, actually winning something, being awarded a Golden Globe. With Shantaram and The
Rum Diary both held up, he would move on to Public Enemies, to be directed by Michael Mann,
where he'd slip back to the 1930s to play uber-crook John Dillinger, pursued by the nascent FBI.

Forever testing himself and his audience, Johnny Depp is still on the run from 21, Jump Street. In the
process, he's become one of the very, very few film stars whose movies are unmissable. Indeed, he's
arguably the most fascinating actor at work today
Anthony Hopkins - Biography

Personal details
Name: Anthony Hopkins
Born: 31 December 1937 (Age: 73)
Where: Port Talbot, Wales
Height: 5' 7"
Awards: Won 1 Oscar, 3 BAFTAs, 2 Emmys, 1 Golden Globe

All about this star



Most actors are pleased to have just one role acclaimed worldwide. But with Anthony
Hopkins, over the last 40 years, there've been so many memorable moments, so many
extraordinary performances. Remember him as the schizophrenic ventriloquist, losing his
mind in Magic? As kindly Dr Frederick Treves, befriending the hideously deformed John
Hurt in The Elephant Man? As a fusty old CS Lewis, weeping before the wardrobe in
Shadowlands, knowing there's no magic to bring Debra Winger back? Then there were the
Oscar-nominated roles, as US presidents in both Amistad and Nixon, and as a destructively
repressed butler in The Remains Of The Day. And there were the heavyweight stage
appearances as Macbeth and Lear, and the tortured Dr Dysart in Equus. And more, so many

There can be no doubt that Hopkins is one of the finest screen actors ever, with an incredible
emotional range. Sod's Law dictates, then, that he should be best-known as the quiet,
watchful, ultra-controlled Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter from Thomas Harris's notorious
trilogy, eating people's liver with a fine Chianti. Incredibly, it was soon after he played this
calculating and manipulative beast that he was knighted by the Queen. Strange world, indeed.

Philip Anthony Hopkins was born on New Year's Eve, 1937, at 77, Wern Road, Margam,
near Port Talbot, South Wales. His mother was Muriel (nee Phillips, a relative of the poet
William Butler Yeats) and his father Richard Arthur, a man of immense, sometimes violent
energy, whose eyes would change colour when he was excited and who, Hopkins believes,
eventually died from being wound too tight. Richard's father was a self-educated man who,
having trained at a bakery in Piccadilly, built a bakery business after his own father had
drunk away what fortune the family had. Strong-willed and free-thinking, he was a vegetarian
and a militant trades unionist. He was also very close to young Anthony, nicknaming him
George (oddly, father Richard would know him as Charlie).

Richard continued the family bakery, eventually moving Muriel and only child Anthony into
Port Talbot to live above the shop. Young Anthony was a sensitive kid, happier drawing,
painting and playing the piano (he's now a virtuoso) than hanging with the other kids. A
dyslexic, he was poor academically, once saying of himself "I was lousy in school. Real
screwed-up. A moron. I was anti-social and didn't bother with the other kids. A really bad
student. I didn't have any brains. I didn't know what I was doing there. That's why I became
an actor". To separate him from the many other Hopkins at school, he became known as Mad

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