it‘s perhaps surprising that Nil By Mom/2 is dedicated not to Oldman‘s mother. but his father.
‘We all have issues we have to deal with.’ he says by way of explanation. ‘For whatever reasons. I probably drank for 25 years because of my father. I had a lot of resentment that I couldn‘t let go of. and that becomes anger. and then that becomes misplaced and you‘re walking around with a lot of pain. I needed to resolve some issues with him and forgive him. and that‘s what the dedication is about — it’s a love letter. really.‘
In between rising to fame in the likes of Sirl And Nancy. Prick Up Your Ears. JFK and Bram Stoker's Dram/u. Oldman found plenty of time to achieve tabloid notoriety. Some of that may have been confusion with the unpredictable. often unbalanced characters he played; some of it may be down to a restless personal life that saw him either married or romantically linked to actresses Lesley Manville (with whom he has a son. Alfie). Uma Thurman. Isabella Rossellini and now Donya Fiorentino. who‘s expecting their child in August. For certain. much of it was tied to a well- documented period of alcoholism and recovery.
‘You‘re a public figure. you‘re in the public eye.‘ he acknowledges without bitterness. ‘So I went to treatment for alcoholism and I wasn‘t allowed to do that anonymously. Because it was a good story.
Gary. Rehab. Now. I haven‘t got two years of
my life and $20 million to sue a newspaper. so I read a load of old bollocks about me. “The cocaine. The parties“. It‘s interesting. but
" ' rage/4;,
Straight from the heart: Gary Oldman directs Ray Winston in Nil By Mouth
there‘s not one paparan picture of me coming out of a nightclub or hitting anyone. They don‘t exist — but still I‘m the wild man and all the rest of it.
‘I was not a violent drunk. The only person I was really violent to was me. I don‘t drink anymore. but my alcoholic head is still here. I find a club that doesn‘t like me and Ijoin it. I
do a great job of beating me up. That kind of
insanity. the scene when Raymond pulls the phone plug out — he would have those voices in his head whether that phone was plugged in
or not. That‘s me. I‘ve done that. Bouncing off
the walls. talking to the tnirror.‘
With this level of self—analysis. it‘s clear that making Nil 13y Mouth has been a process of therapy for ()ldman. He doesn‘t act in the film. but he‘s there. he reckons. in each of the
'For whatever reasons, I probably drank for 25 years because of my father. I had a lot of resentment that I couldn't let go of, and that becomes anger.’ Gary Oldman
characters. ‘Anytlting you do. whether it‘s something you write or direct. whether you paint or sculpt. dance or write music. act — it‘s in part autobiographic. I‘m probably closest to the little girl in the film because I was an observer. an audience to it all.‘
He claims that this was a story he had to tell and. although the finished work shows directorial talent well beyond anyone‘s expectations. the completion of the film indicates not just a landmark in his career. but in his personal development as well.
‘What I‘ve tried to do in my own life is break the cycle.‘ he explains. ‘It‘s very much
that the sins of the father are visited on the son. In fact. Raymond the character is actually talking about himself [when he talks of his father] in the third person. and his denial of where he is cannot let him say. "I‘ve become my father. I‘ve become that man who drinks and staggers across to the pub and doesn‘t have any time for his kids“. When he says, “I don‘t remember one kiss. I don‘t remember one cuddle“ . . . My father used to sit in that fucking chair. . . you know . . . ‘
Suddenly ()ldman‘s focus has changed. He blurs the line between describing a scene in the film and remembering his own childhood. His voice shakes. I-Ie‘s close to tears. It’s a completely unaffected moment. as moving as it is frightening to see. And. slowly. the foundation for the anger and hair-trigger cXpIosiveness of all those screen villains becomes apparent.
‘I‘ve been drawing from the well of Nil If)" Mouth for years.’ he admits. ‘channelling it through performances. You have to put your head somewhere to conjure up a feeling and produce the tears and emotion. I‘ve always borrowed from it and I‘ve given my life to other people who sit in an editing room and chop it around. I thought I would like to tap into those feelings. but have it be my voice. my vision. If I‘m Dracula. I’ve got a load of rubber on and a big wig — but Gary‘s crying. it‘s not Dracula crying.‘
(‘inema is make-believe. but for Oldman it has had its roots in reality all along.
Nil By Mouth has its UK premiere at the Scottish Screen Edinburgh International Film Festival on Tue 12 Aug.
2‘) Jul-‘5 Aug I997 THE UST 9