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Don’t think this aging icon still has “it?” Just watch him during the scenes where he believes that his ward, Bruce Wayne, is dead. No actor cries that realistically. It is straight from the character’s intensely broken heart. With nearly 60 years in the business, no one is better. Of course, there have been a few flubs along the way (like the time he couldn’t pick up his Oscar for Hannah and Her Sisters because he was busy filming… Jaws: The Revenge?) but for the most part, he’s turned a stellar career into an example for any up and coming British thesp.
He’s played everyone from the Master of Suspense to the only US president ever to resign from office. He’s best known for his turn as a slick, sadistic cannibal psychiatrist and yet many of his roles showcase a softer, more introspective side. For many, he is the Richard Burton of the post-modern age, a deeply intense (and, in the past, hard drinking) performer who digs deep into his roles without losing his own unique presence.He’s also one of those rare performers who can command true commercial appeal without losing any of his amazing acting prowess.
Having finally won an Oscar for his work as the stuttering statesman, King George VI, it seems like Firth has/had finally arrived. Of course, the sharp eyed cineaste will argue that the man has been doing amazing work since 1984 (!)...and they’d be right. Indeed, this actor has one of the most impressive resumes of all the names listed, associated with everything from definitive dramas (The English Patient) to daft comedies (the original, soccer-ccentric version of Fever Pitch). He’s even showcased his vocal range (?) in the awkward ABBA musical Mamma Mia! . After finally earning the Academy’s highest honor, Firth gets to take his place along his equally admired countrymen.
We give Gary a lot of guff, especially when he turns up in turds like Tiptoes, but few names, by merely appearing on a marquee, can get our interest up quicker than this engaging UK maverick. The fact that he doesn’t have an Oscar is an omission that makes the Academy look stupider every single year it goes unaddressed. Even if his work has been hit (Sid and Nancy, State of Grace, Nil by Mouth) or miss (Lost in Space, Lawless) he remains a force of film performance nature. Oldman may be long remember as the long suffering and stoic Commissioner Gordon in Christopher Nolan’s comic book epics, but he’s much more than that.
He has three well-earned Oscars, more than any other actor for leading roles (remember, Jack Nicholson has the same number, but one is for supporting). His turns have often redefined the artform, giving new life to both is amazing Method intensity and his dedication to precise detail. For My Left Foot, he actually lived like Christy Brown. For his interpretation of a turn of the century oil tycoon in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, he worked tirelessly on his accent. Even his most recent turn as our 16th President argued for meticulous research and recreation. He is, without question, the greatest living actor today.