Scottish Daily Mail
Five wives. Four-day booze binges. So how did Gary Oldman beat his dark past to be Hollywood’s new darling?
TO DATE, Gary Oldman’s life has been one peppered by squandered opportunities. No less than four marriages have bitten t he dust. One to Hollywood glamazon Uma Thurman ended in bitterness and recrimination. Another with allegations of violence and a vicious court battle.
Away from the altar, passionate relationships with beauties such as actress Isabella Rossellini ended in similar unhappy style.
Years — and with them, many professional opportunities — were lost to the severe alcohol addiction that led to him celebrating Sunday night’s Golden Globes Best Actor win for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour with a wimpy PG Tips.
Oldman, now 59, was so hooked on booze that, in the early nineties, he would check into the plush Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan for fourday benders as a regular ‘treat’ to himself, spending lost long weekends repeatedly draining the mini-bar on his own. He would even pour dregs into numerous glasses to make it look as if he had company — then drink and drink and drink.
‘I’d go through the fridge three, four, five, six times,’ he told an interviewer in 2009. As he recalls, a single stay would cost up to £16,000.
Seemingly driven by the horrible collapse of his brief second marriage to Thurman in 1990 — his much younger bride dumped him, allegedly via a ‘Dear Gary’ letter, complaining he was impossible to live with, while it was whispered that Thurman had become entranced by none other than Robert de Niro — Oldman set out on a mission of self-destruction.
He spent a night in the cells after drinkdriving with actor Kiefer Sutherland as a passenger, had two stints in rehab and a spectacular fall-out with legendary director Francis Ford Coppola on the set of Dracula. And so, despite his prodigious talent, Oldman has always been the ‘nearly’ man when it’s come to awards — with just one Oscar nomination and two measly BAFTAs to his name.
Until now, that is. At last, just as he’s settled into what looks to be a happy, albeit fifth marriage, the south Londoner looks set to achieve his crowning glory — an Oscar for Best Actor, a career pinnacle worlds away from the chaos caused by his past boozing.
All latex jowls and fight, critics are hailing the subtle yet flamboyant performance as Churchill as the greatest accomplishment of his career. One called it ‘ an Oscar-bound performance delivered on a silver platter’.
Undoubtedly, Oldman’s vast capacity for selfdestructive behaviour held his career back for years, as well as casting the death knell on relationships with women other men would have killed to date, never mind marry.
Thankfully, though, his dark days are now long gone. He admits he would be dead if he had not, with the aid of Alcoholics Anoymous and those stints in rehab, kicked his addiction. ‘I can remember it, but it almost seems like another life. A whole other person. I was honestly and truly delivered from it. I am very, very lucky,’ he said. Such luck extends to him being happily settled with his fifth wife, art curator Gisele Schmidt.
The pair wed quietly at his manager’s house in August last year after meeting via Oldman’s interest in art photography. She is, for a Hollywood wife, terribly unstarry, even suffering the indignity of being asked on one red carpet in the early days of the romance i f she was his mother Kathleen’s nursemaid.
Oldman is clearly smitten, saying: ‘I’ve gone through my thing and we’re like peas in a pod. I’m nearly 60 and at last I think I’ve come home.’
‘Home’ today is a large plantationstyle house with swimming pool in the fancy Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, a well-heeled domestic harmony that greatly contrasts with his upbringing in New Cross, South London, when his family, as he puts it, ‘didn’t have two half-pennies to rub together’. His house even had an outside toilet until he was 12.
His father, Leonard, a welder and alcoholic, moved out when he was seven and died young of liver failure in 1986. Kathleen worked two jobs to support Oldman and his two siblings. He left school at 16 to work in a sports shop, but his heart became set on acting. When he failed his RADA audition, he clawed his way into the London theatre scene.
While working at the Royal Court Theatre he met actress Lesley Manville, his first wife. They married in 1987, the year after he made his breakthrough as Sid Vicious in the film Sid and Nancy, losing so much weight to play junkie Vicious that he collapsed i n his car and was warned he was in danger of having a heart attack.
HELEFT for Hollywood in 1989 to try his luck — leaving behind Manville and their son Alfie, who was just three months old. While Oldman says he has a ‘wonderful’ relationship with Alfie, and more recently secured him a role as a PA on the Harry Potter films, Manville has previously been less complimentary.
Five years after their split, she commented on Oldman’s involvement with his son, saying bitterly: ‘ He plays a small part, with the accent on the small, however much you might have read in the Press about how wonderful a father he is.’
In Hollywood, though, Oldman rapidly became leader of a pack of talented young British actors and grabbed attention by romancing starlet Thurman, 20 to his 32.
In early 1990 they moved in together and were married in the October of that year. But within just 11 months, their impulsive union was over.
Thurman later observed: ‘It was immature and rebellious. It is infantile to marry your first boyfriend, which Gary was in my case.’
She said in another interview: ‘It takes a special kind of woman to put up with him.’
Her friendship with De Niro, her co- star in the film Mad Dog And Glory, was an apparent bone of contention.
A report suggested at the time: ‘Oldman met De Niro, threatened him and warned him to leave Uma alone. Gary’s not only a brilliant actor, he’s also a South London boy who knows how to look after himself. There certainly was a bitter altercation with a bit of pushing and shoving in the heat of the moment.’
Thurman, for her part, has always insisted there was no romance between her and De Niro.
REGARDLESS,t here were signs that Oldman’s drinking was becoming a s eri ous issue. In 1991 he closed down a planned biopic of the poet Dylan Thomas because he was suffering from ‘nervous exhaustion’.
But there were still moments of brilliance — soon after, he put in a stellar performance as Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who assassinated President Kennedy, in JFK.
Then came his 1992 role as Dracula for Coppola. In his entertaining memoirs, actor Richard E Grant recalls numerous run-ins between Oldman and the director, as well as the actor drinking beer and tequila after rehearsals until he ‘blacked out’ and being ‘ convulsed and sobbing’ with regret the following morning.
Unsurprisingly f or the twicedivorced Oldman, romance was never far away — and he jumped into an i ntense affair with Isabella Rossellini in 1994 after meeting on a film set. Within weeks he declared they were going to marry.
However, Rossellini eventually told him he had to go to rehab or she would leave him — an ultimatum apparently issued because he had come to the end of a 70-day bender and was so permanently intoxicated his tongue was black.
Oldman later observed: ‘ Looking back at the stuff I did, it was like I was walking in my father’s shoes. Here’s someone who hadn’t really influenced me — we spoke on the phone a couple of times when I was a teenager — yet it was like I had a blueprint that I was following.’
Rehab came in 1997. While there, he fell for model and party girl Donya Fiorentino, a pillow-lipped brunette who was formerly an item with Wham’s Andrew Ridgeley, and ended his two-year long relationship with Rossellini for her.
Within five months of meeting Fiorentino, Oldman had married her. On his third trip down the aisle she was pregnant with his son, Gulliver. Two years later a second son, Charlie, was born.
However, by 2001, this third marriage was also explosively over. Fiorentino accused him of beating her and spending a small fortune on booze, drugs and prostitutes. In turn, Oldman said she was an addict, an adulteress and a liar.
The split became a horribly public
court battle for custody of their children.
In legal papers, Fiorentino alleged that Ol d man assaulted her with a phone in front of their sons. ‘I tried to dial 911. Gary grabbed the receiver from my hand and hit me in the face with it three or four times,’ she said.
She also said: ‘Gary told me that there had been times when he spent over 18,000 dollars in a weekend at hotels in New York, drinking several bottles of vodka, whisky and wine per day, paying f or prostitutes, his hotel room and drugs.’
Oldman countered: ‘Donya represented to me that she was sober. I had been sober for years and committed to being sober.’ Despite her claims of being drink and drug free, Old man alleged she’d had an overdose. His manager said her claims of assault were investigated by police, but no charges filed. Unusually, Oldman gained custody of their two boys. Fiorentino had to be restrained as the judge handed down the decision. She was only allowed to see the children under strict supervision and, on occasional holidays with them, was accompanied by a nanny paid for by Oldman. Today, she lives alone on a boat in Florida with just her dog Gatsby for company. Within this personal drama lies the other reason Oldman’s career has, some argue, been stymied. For despite having by now kicked the booze, Oldman was unable to fully capitalise on being sober as he effectively took a career break to be a single dad. His repeat roles as Commissioner Gordon in Batman and Sirius Black in Harry Potter allowed him to take almost a decade off from the relentless auditions and promotions required by Hollywood. He told one interviewer: ‘ Sirius and Gordon came at a good time. They all owed me, certainly financially, to really be at home with the kids. ‘ You make a Harry Potter movie for six weeks — and some of the time they would travel with me — then you have maybe seven months at home. It’s been wonderful. They are my greatest accomplishment, terrific boys.’ However, despite this period of stability, not everything had changed in his life. There was yet another brief marriage in 2008, Oldman’s fourth, to Somerset-born singer Alexandra Edenborough. There was even talk they might have a child. Oldman said: ‘ I’m not proud that this is my fourth marriage. But this is a good one. Hopefully my last one.’ In 2015, however, Alex and ra filed for divorce citing ‘irreconcilable differences’. The split was ultimately amicable with Oldman blaming their 20-year age gap. He agreed to give her £2.4million, properties they had owned jointly and several cars. With the booze kicked and his boys grown — today Gulliver, 20, is a photographer, while Charlie, 18, is carving out a modelling career — Oldman’s career began to rise again. He came close to his first Oscar in 2012 — almost three decades after he launched his Hollywood career — when he was nominated for his role in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but lost out. He complains his inability — or unwillingness — to ‘play the fame game’ may be partly responsible for his lack of recognition. Certainly, recent comments of his which suggested that Hollywood was ‘ a town run by Jews’ were greeted with horror and he had to apologise. He also ranted at the Golden Globes during a recent Press conference, observing that he had not been nominated. He said: ‘ There may be certain doors that are closed to me because I don’t play that game. Sometimes it frustrates me...but I haven’t done myself any favours.’ He adds, of his acting career: ‘You know, it’s like a marriage. I go in and out of love for it.’ One can only presume this longawaited recognition will have stoked his passion once more.