Gary Oldman Charlie Rose 1995-01-06

Friday 01/06/1995Gary Oldman on his starring role as Ludwig van Beethoven in the film, “Immortal Beloved.”

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT

00:00

Charlie Rose: You know him from a number of movies, including Sid and Nancy. He was in J.F.K., playing Lee Harvey Oswald; inDracula; Prick up Your Ears; Romeo is Bleeding; a new film called The Professional. He is also starring in a film about Beethoven, called Immortal Beloved, and I am pleased to havehim here. Welcome. I got it right, did I?

00:17

Gary Oldman: Yes, you did. Yes.

00:20

Charlie Rose: Listen to this. This is the letter that this film is about, I think. ”My Angel, my all, my other self, my thoughtsturn to you, my immortal beloved, now and then joyfully, sometimes happily, sometimes sadly, waiting to learn whether or not fate will hear us. I can live only completely with you or not at all. Be calm, love me today, yesterday, what– with what longing, with tears for you, you– my life, my everything.Farewell, then, go on loving me, even yours, even mine forever.L.” But the movie is about– we don’t know who the letter was addressed to.

00:53

Gary Oldman: No. No one knows.

00:56

Charlie Rose: Do you, do you think you know?

00:58

Gary Oldman: No. I don’t, I don’t pretend to, really. I, I mean, I don’t profess to be a walking encyclopedia on the subject. I can’t find two academics to–

01:10

Charlie Rose: Who agree.

01:12

Gary Oldman: No.

01:13

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

01:15

Gary Oldman: No.

01:17

Charlie Rose: In the beginning, when they came to you, you turned the role down.

01:20

Gary Oldman: Yes, I did.

01:23

Charlie Rose: Why?

01:25

Gary Oldman: Well, because I– it, it just seemed a silly idea to come to me to play this part, and I’ve played all these famous people–

01:32

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

01:35

Gary Oldman: –and I said, ”Why don’t you get Tony Hopkins because he looks like him?” And, and I’d played Oswald and Sid Vicious, and, and I thought I was– I was becoming the, the bio king.

01:46

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

01:48

Gary Oldman: You know, if someone–

01:50

Charlie Rose: Yeah. You got a bio pic? Call Gary.

01:54

Gary Oldman: Yeah. Anyone famous, and they– you know, they may have been– you know, did something, and then they died.Call Gary. And it was also wigs–

02:03

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

02:04

Gary Oldman: Makeup and costumes. And I wanted a rest from– I wanted to do T-shirt acting.

02:08

Charlie Rose: Yeah. But you love music. I mean, you’d rather be a musician–

02:12

Gary Oldman: Rather be a musician.

02:13

Charlie Rose: –than an actor.

02:14

Gary Oldman: Yes. Yeah, and in fact–

02:17

Charlie Rose: And here is one of the great musicians–

02:18

Gary Oldman: I know. I know.

02:21

Charlie Rose: –ever, ever.

02:22

Gary Oldman: Yes. It came back.

02:24

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

02:26

Gary Oldman: And it was always a good script, and of course, the music. I mean, that’s the star of the film.

02:30

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

02:32

Gary Oldman: As beautiful as it looks, and the cinematography is gorgeous and the costumes are gorgeous and–

02:37

Charlie Rose: Not to speak of the acting.

02:39

Gary Oldman: –and the acting is beautiful, too, but really, the star is the music. And, and it came back my way, and I reread it with a different, with a different eye, you know. Sometimes these projects come in, and you’re in a place in your life and, and you can’t– I just couldn’t entertain the idea of doing this film, and my manager, Douglas, rea– he said, ”I’ve got a gut feeling about this one.”

03:02

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

03:05

Gary Oldman: ”I beg you, beg you, read it again. Reconsider.” And I did, and they paid me less money, and I did it.

03:12

Charlie Rose: Yeah. And now do you thank your gods because you did it, because it was a role that you could get into andresonated with and, and connected to?

03:23

Gary Oldman: Yeah. I didn’t realize what, what, you know, what kind of locomotive I was stepping onto. It, it gave me a new appreciation of music because I play the piano. I’m not–

03:37

Charlie Rose: You were a young classical pianist?

03:39

Gary Oldman: Yup. No. I started when I was 15, and I found an old record, all dust covered, in the attic, and it was LiberacePlays the Classics, some record that my mother had got. And I fell in love with, with Chopin. And I’d, I’d grown up around the Beatles because I have two older sisters–

04:00

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

04:01

Gary Oldman: And that’s all they played, which is not a bad pedigree.

04:04

Charlie Rose: No.

04:07

Gary Oldman: But I discovered classical music, and it, it was just– changed my life and I was–

04:14

Charlie Rose: Why did you give it up to act?

04:16

Gary Oldman: I didn’t have a, I didn’t have a gift. I had a facility and some tiny talent for, for piano.

04:23

Charlie Rose: But you also fell in love with acting, didn’t you?With, with–

04:27

Gary Oldman: I discovered acting much the same way Idiscovered Liberace–

04:31

Charlie Rose: Classical music, yeah.

04:32

Gary Oldman: –and the– you know.

04:34

Charlie Rose: You went into a film, and, and a movie said something to you?

04:37

Gary Oldman: Yeah. And a character. It was an old Bryan Forbes movies with Nanette Newman and Malcolm McDowell, called The Raging Moon. And it was on

04:48

Tv: Yeah.

04:50

Gary Oldman: –and I connected, and I said to myself, ”I want to do that.”

04:54

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

04:56

Gary Oldman: And having never acted or read a play, this was my new–

04:59

Charlie Rose: And, and is it–

05:01

Gary Oldman: –my new job.

05:03

Charlie Rose: Is it true that you applied to the Royal Academyof Dramatic Arts–

05:06

Gary Oldman: Yes, I did.

05:08

Charlie Rose: –and, and they turned–

05:09

Gary Oldman: And they turned me down.

05:11

Charlie Rose: –you down.

05:12

Gary Oldman: Yes, the Royal, Royal, the Royal Academy turnedme down. They said that–

05:16

Charlie Rose: Have you reminded them of this?

05:18

Gary Oldman: Well, the work speaks for itself, doesn’t it? No.

05:22

Charlie Rose: Yes, it does.

05:23

Gary Oldman: You know. I–

05:25

Charlie Rose: So much for your–

05:26

Gary Oldman: It– Yeah, it– well, I– it was a school Idesperately wanted–

05:28

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

05:29

Gary Oldman: –to get into because all my heroes had gone there.

05:31

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

05:32

Gary Oldman: You know, Alan Bates, Peter O’Toole–

05:35

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

05:36

Gary Oldman: –you know, I think Tony, Tony Hopkins.

05:37

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

05:38

Gary Oldman: It– Richard Burton, I think, maybe went there. It was, it was a place that I wanted to go because of all the, all the people that had gone there — Tom Courtney — I mean, the list is endless. And it– I was desperate. And they said to me, ”Think about something else to do for a living.”

05:52

Charlie Rose: ”You don’t have it.”

05:54

Gary Oldman: ”You don’t have it.”

05:55

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

05:57

Gary Oldman: And, and–

05:59

Charlie Rose: Did you give any credence to it for a second?

06:00

Gary Oldman: Oh, yeah. I was devastated. They said, ”Come back next year. Try again.” And then I didn’t want to wait a year.I wanted to do it. So I went to a, a– I got into a college–

06:11

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

06:13

Gary Oldman: –on a scholarship, to a place called Rose Bruford College, and I did my three years>>ÿ20training for the stage and then I– and then I left and spent eight years in the theater. CHARLIE ROSE: Yeah. And somebody saw you in the theater and then signed you up for Sid– Yeah, that was–

06:27

Charlie Rose: –and Nancy.

06:29

Gary Oldman: –really–

06:30

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

06:32

Gary Oldman: I’d done a few small television roles. In fact, in the, the, the, the infancy of Channel 4, I, I did a few things for, for the BBC.

06:37

Charlie Rose: Yeah. Is Channel 4 the second channel on the BBC–

06:42

Gary Oldman: Yeah.

06:44

Charlie Rose: –or is it–

06:46

Gary Oldman: It was, it was, well, it was the fourth.

06:49

Charlie Rose: Right.

06:51

Gary Oldman: We had

06:52

Bbc 1: Right. One, right, two, three–

06:54

Gary Oldman: –and I–

06:55

Charlie Rose: –four, right.

06:57

Gary Oldman: –and, you know, and 11 o’clock, you know, thelittle dot in the telly, and that was it, you know, and you go to bed. The pubs come out, and you go to bed.

07:03

Charlie Rose: Yeah, right.

07:05

Gary Oldman: That’s it. And you keep flicking, and there’s nothing happening.

07:09

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

07:10

Gary Oldman: I mean, when I came here–

07:12

Charlie Rose: Yeah, it’s all–

07:14

Gary Oldman: –I couldn’t believe it.

07:15

Charlie Rose: It’s all over the place, isn’t it?

07:16

Gary Oldman: It’s– oh.

07:18

Charlie Rose: Yeah. Now, let me, let me just come– I want tocome to, back to Immortal Beloved in a second, but there–you– a series of films there. You say interesting things, to know a little bit about you. You look at a script–

07:28

Gary Oldman: Mm-hm.

07:30

Charlie Rose: –and a line will speak to you.

07:31

Gary Oldman: Yeah.

07:33

Charlie Rose: I mean, and you, you– what’s going on? I mean, you see a line that says what?

07:36

Gary Oldman: Oh, I don’t know.

07:37

Charlie Rose: Give me an example of–

07:38

Gary Oldman: All right. Dracula.

07:41

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

07:43

Gary Oldman: That was another one I thought was, ”Wow, come on.” It was like saying to me, ”Play Superman”–

07:48

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

07:49

Gary Oldman: –or, you know — no disrespect to ChristopherReeves or that series, but it was like, Dracula, what do I need to play Dra– Why do they want to make another film about Dracula? Then I discovered that it was Francis Ford Coppola,and I thought, well, one of my–

08:00

Charlie Rose: ”I could learn something here.”

08:01

Gary Oldman: Yeah. This is– he must have a new vision, a new take on this.

08:06

Charlie Rose: Right.

08:08

Gary Oldman: And then I read the script, and there was a line that went, ”I have crossed oceans of time to find you.” And I, I’ve never said that to anyone, but–

08:15

Charlie Rose: But?

08:17

Gary Oldman: –you know, it–

08:18

Charlie Rose: Yeah. It speaks to you.

08:20

Gary Oldman: Yeah. The, just the chance to actually speak that.And I heard the voice and everything. That, that– I pretty much got to rehearsal with the sound of, of the character from, fromreading the script.

08:29

Charlie Rose: You have a reputation for immersing yourself in the character.

08:31

Gary Oldman: Mm-hm.

08:33

Charlie Rose: Yeah. Becoming the character.

08:36

Gary Oldman: It, it, it may appear that I become the character, and I think that’s–

08:39

Charlie Rose: That’s acting.

08:40

Gary Oldman: –that’s half the skill.

08:42

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

08:43

Gary Oldman: You, you, you should make it look seamless. It should look effort– effortless.

08:48

Charlie Rose: But in your head, are you becoming the character?

08:52

Gary Oldman: No, I don’t think you can. I think it, it’s out– it’s physically– it’s biochemically impossible. You would, you would be a schizophrenic. I mean, you would, you would end up in Bellevue if, if you really believed that you were the people–

09:04

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

09:06

Gary Oldman: –that I’ve played.

09:08

Charlie Rose: But you also–

09:10

Gary Oldman: I, I’d be–

09:12

Charlie Rose: Go ahead.

09:13

Gary Oldman: I’d–

09:15

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

09:16

Gary Oldman: I’d be a, a mental case by now, and some peoplemight think I am, but–

09:19

Charlie Rose: Well, you said that.

09:20

Gary Oldman: I said it. They’ve said it before me, though.

09:22

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

09:24

Gary Oldman: I’m quoting.

09:25

Charlie Rose: When you approached it, was there a line in this that made you want to do this? Was there a line in this script, or was it just the music that–

09:32

Gary Oldman: The music.

09:33

Charlie Rose: Music, yeah.

09:35

Gary Oldman: And, and– can I think of a line? This scene, Imean, you have–

09:38

Charlie Rose: The first scene we’ve–

09:40

Gary Oldman: –a clip.

09:41

Charlie Rose: –got — I’ll take a clip — okay–

09:43

Gary Oldman: Yeah.

09:44

Charlie Rose: –is ”What is Music?’ ‘

09:46

Gary Oldman: Yeah. I say some nice things in this scene.

09:47

Charlie Rose: All right. Roll the tape. Here it is. (Clip from”Immortal Beloved”)

09:54

Gary Oldman: (portraying Beethoven) Do you like it? 2nd

09:56

Actor: Shhh!

09:57

Gary Oldman: I cannot hear them, but I know they are making ahash of it. What do you think? Music is a, a dreadful thing.What is it? I don’t understand it. What does it do? 2nd

10:14

Actor: It ex– It exalts the soul.

10:16

Gary Oldman: Utter nonsense. If you hear a marching band, isyour soul exalted? No, you march. If you hear a waltz, you dance. If you hear a mass, you take communion. It is the power of music to carry one directly into the mental state of the composer. The listener has no choice. It is like hypnotism.

10:43

Charlie Rose: Hmm. Interesting. What– how did you see what you had to do, I mean, with Beethoven? What did you have to capture about this composer?

10:57

Gary Oldman: Oh, dear. That’s a hard one. Well, let me say this: M job was made easier because Bernard, the writer–

11:08

Charlie Rose: Bernard Rose.

11:10

Gary Oldman: –the director-writer–

11:12

Charlie Rose: Right.

11:14

Gary Oldman: –had captured a lot of it before I came along.You know, I– you, you can go– you know, you can play the piano, or you can listen to the music, and you can read books on the subject, and you can go outside the, the framework of the script, but ultimately, on the day, I have to say those wordsthat Bernard wrote. And in a sense, when you’re playing a character like this, I am interpreting an interpretation–

11:45

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

11:47

Gary Oldman: –of Beethoven. It’s Bernard’s interpretation. It might not be my idea of really what, you know, Beethoven was like. I mean, I, I, I, Gary, could maybe write a different story. So a lot of it– it’s the script is your map of the world.

12:07

Charlie Rose: Mm-hm.

12:09

Gary Oldman: And that– and it was, it was a good, it was a good piece of material. It was an, it was a very well thought out, very well-planned journey through this map.

12:19

Charlie Rose: But then are you saying you didn’t have a Beethoven. You really were just taking. You didn’t have– Gary didn’t come here saying, ”This is how I see this man. This, this is what I understand about this man.” What you said is, ”I see your vision. I see what you–”

12:36

Gary Oldman: Yeah.

12:38

Charlie Rose: ”–want–”

12:39

Gary Oldman: Yeah.

12:41

Charlie Rose: ”–and I can give it to you because I can identify with it.”

12:43

Gary Oldman: Yes. Whatever that something is that you, that you identify with, like the line from Dracula, you know. I, I– it’s, it’s a thing, it’s not tangible. It’s just–

12:53

Charlie Rose: Right.

12:55

Gary Oldman: –a sensation and a sense that you get, and thenof course, when you hear that music– I mean, that’s a big clue to who the man is. I know– you, you, you know as much aboutBeethoven as I do. I’m no more knowledgeable about him than you are because he’s whatever you want him to be when youhear that music.

13:11

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

13:13

Gary Oldman: That, that’s, that’s the wonderful legacy that we’re left with.

13:17

Charlie Rose: Yeah, but you– nevertheless, you’ve got Georg–

13:22

Gary Oldman: Yes.

13:23

Charlie Rose: –Solti–

13:25

Gary Oldman: Yes!

13:27

Charlie Rose: –and Emanuel Ax, and–

13:28

Gary Oldman: Murray Perahia–

13:30

Charlie Rose: –Yo-Yo Ma, was it?

13:32

Gary Oldman: Yup, yup. Yo-Yo Ma.

13:33

Charlie Rose: And you– but you spent five hours–

13:34

Gary Oldman: Yes.

13:36

Charlie Rose: –practicing, practicing, practicing, not because your music is going to be heard on the sound track–

13:38

Gary Oldman: No. Yes.

13:40

Charlie Rose: –but because you wanted to do what?

13:44

Gary Oldman: I wanted to be Beethoven. Yeah.

13:48

Charlie Rose: And you wanted to get inside and see and feel and– what it meant to be–

13:51

Gary Oldman: Well, that’s–

13:53

Charlie Rose: –connected to that.

13:55

Gary Oldman: Yeah. That’s the great thing. You know, I’m, I’m tracing over, you know–

13:58

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

13:59

Gary Oldman: –what– I’m playing what he played, what he wrote.

14:02

Charlie Rose: I want to see one quick clip. This is another–

14:05

Gary Oldman: Okay.

14:06

Charlie Rose: –clip. Where you– about teaching music, whereyou taught music.

14:10

Gary Oldman: Oh, with Ka– with young Karl, my nephew.

14:14

Charlie Rose: Yeah. This is the nephew that he’s obsessed–

14:17

Gary Oldman: Yeah.

14:19

Charlie Rose: –and later ends up in a custody battle–

14:21

Gary Oldman: Uh-huh.

14:22

Charlie Rose: –with, in fact–

14:24

Gary Oldman: Right.

14:25

Charlie Rose: –the wife of his brother.

14:27

Gary Oldman: Yes.

14:29

Charlie Rose: Roll the tape. (Clip from”Immortal Beloved”)

14:31

Gary Oldman: (portraying Beethoven) Were you taught music? 2nd

14:35

Actor: (portraying Karl) Yes.

14:39

Gary Oldman: I have a gift for you. Come. Can you read? 2nd

14:59

Actor: Yes.

15:06

Gary Oldman: Here, let me show you. You shall be a musician. 2nd

15:17

Actor: I want to be a soldier.

15:22

Gary Oldman: A composer? 2nd

15:28

Actor: No. A soldier.

15:33

Gary Oldman: Oh.

15:36

Charlie Rose: I asked you while I was watching that–

15:42

Gary Oldman: Mm.

15:44

Charlie Rose: –was he deaf then. You said–

15:46

Gary Oldman: Yes.

15:49

Charlie Rose: –totally.

15:51

Gary Oldman: To– yes, yeah. He– there’s a, a letter that hewrote to– in, in secret he wrote to a doctor, a friend.

15:57

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

16:00

Gary Oldman: And he was 28, and already he was going– He could only hear– he could hear some high pitch sounds, and he could hear some bass notes, and of course, people would shout at him, and it would hurt. And I believe he had a sort of nerve disorder, and there’s theories that he was beaten when he was a child. And as we show in the film, he’s beaten by hisfather, and some scholars say that because of being smacked around–

16:26

Charlie Rose: Damaged his–

16:29

Gary Oldman: –or whatever. I, I, I’m not sure which one to gowith, but all those real– the great works, I mean, he could just hear buzzing in his ears like a tinnitus, just whistling and buzzing in his ears, and he couldn’t hear, he couldn’t hear a thing. Well, one time– and there were some opera singers that put one over on him.

16:42

Charlie Rose: I’m out of time.

16:44

Gary Oldman: You are?

16:46

Charlie Rose: Yes, sir.

16:47

Gary Oldman: Okay.

16:49

Charlie Rose: I’m delighted to meet you. I hope–

16:52

Gary Oldman: Yeah.

16:53

Charlie Rose: –you’ll come back.

16:55

Gary Oldman: I will.

16:56

Charlie Rose: It was a pleasure.

16:57

Gary Oldman: Thank you.

16:57

Charlie Rose: Thank you very much. Stay with me one secondwhile I say goodbye to this audience. We thank you for joining us. The film is called Immortal Beloved and Gary is there, Isabella Rossellini was here a couple of nights ago. There were many things I wanted to talk about that, which I didn’t have time to, as– and a lot of other things. I hope you will come back. We also thank JOHN SINGLETON and NORMANPODHORETZ and JOE KLEIN. We look forward to seeing you on Monday. Arthur Schlesinger will be here and Bill Buckley and others.

Friday 01/06/1995

Gary Oldman on his starring role as Ludwig van Beethoven in the film, “Immortal Beloved.”

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