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Tuesday, March 26 , 2019, 1:37 am | Fair 50º


Actor Gary Oldman Honored With Modern Master Award at Santa Barbara Film Festival

He is recognized for his many contributions to the film industry, culminating with 'Darkest Hour'


Day Three of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival ushered in the Maltin Modern Master Award presentation to veteran British actor Gary Oldman, who was recognized for his recent portrayal of Winston Churchill in the movie "The Darkest Hour."

Oldman has been nominated for an Oscar for best actor in a leading role for this portrayal. 

The Modern Master Award is the highest honor presented by SBIFF. Established in 1995, it was created to honor an individual who has enriched our culture through accomplishments in the motion picture industry.

The award was re-named the Maltin Modern Master Award in 2015 in honor of long-time SBIFF moderator Leonard Maltin.

Recipients have included Denzel Washington, Johnny Depp, Michael Keaton, Bruce Dern, Ben Affleck, Christopher Plummer, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, Clint Eastwood, Cate Blanchett, Will Smith, George Clooney, and Peter Jackson.

SBIFF board president Lynda Weinman opened the tribute event Friday night by saying, “Wow, what an amazing turnout!”

Indeed, the Arlington Theatre was packed with rapt attendees. Weinman said, “I think Executive Director Roger Durling was one of the first people to see the film 'The Darkest Hour.' As soon as he did, we contacted Gary. We had him booked six months ago!”

Weinman acknowledged the event’s sponsor Ugg before introducing movie critic and commentator Leonard Maltin, who described Oldman as a chameleon and an actor who transcends the role that he is playing.

Next, Maltin conducted a 90-minute interview with the versatile actor, interspersed with Oldman’s film clips. Maltin noted that this was his 28th year at the festival. 

Actor Gary Oldman is interviewed by film critic Leonard Maltin at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
Actor Gary Oldman is interviewed by film critic Leonard Maltin at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara. (Fritz Olenberger photo)

Oldman was born in New Cross, London, England to Kathleen, a homemaker, and Leonard Oldman, a welder. 

“I was watching TV with my mother when I was 13. They used to show a movie after the news. I watched “The Raging Moon” with Malcolm McDowell. I was immediately hooked on acting. This is where I ‘got the bug.’ However, I was turned down for my first scholarship to go to drama school.”

Ultimately Oldman won a scholarship to Britain's Rose Bruford Drama College in Kent, where he received a B.A. in theatre arts in 1979. He later studied with the Greenwich Young People's Theatre and went on to appear in a number of plays throughout the early 1980s.

“I always worked while I was studying and acting. I worked in a slaughterhouse, factories, sold sports equipment, and was a newspaper boy and a milk boy. Waking up at 3:30 in the morning to put milk on people’s doorsteps was good training for the rigors of shooting films like 'The Darkest Hour.' I always did the work.

"While other students were going to the pub, I was writing letters, doing head shots, and auditioning.”

Actor Gary Oldman answers a reporter’s question Friday night on the red carpet outside the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara. Oldman was honored with the Modern Master Award by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Click to view larger
Actor Gary Oldman answers a reporter’s question Friday night on the red carpet outside the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara. Oldman was honored with the Modern Master Award by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. (Steve Kennedy / Noozhawk photo)

His film debut was in "Remembrance," although his most-memorable early role was when he played Sex Pistol Sid Vicious in the movie "Sid and Nancy." 

More acting roles followed in the films "True Romance," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Air Force One," "JFK," "Dracula," "Immortal Beloved," and many others.

However, his fame and audience grew with his roles in the Harry Potter and Dark Knight franchises.

“I was a single father with two young sons that I was raising," Oldman recalled. "I wanted an acting job that would keep me close to the home that was familiar to my children. Working in the Harry Potter films was just magical and allowed me to not have to travel to acting jobs. I could spend time with my sons.”

“I think I have the greatest job in the world. Some times I have to pinch myself. I have been able to work with the best, like Denzel Washington, Anthony Hopkins, and so many others. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

SBIFF is a nonprofit arts and education organization dedicated to making a positive impact utilizing the power of film. The festival is a year-round organization that is best known for its main film festival that takes place in February.

Over the past 32 years, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 90,000 attendees and offering 11days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums.

SBIFF has expanded its year-round operation to include a variety of educational programming, fulfilling its mission to engage, enrich and inspire the community through film.

For more information, contact SBIFF, 1528 Chapala Street #203, Santa Barbara 93101, phone 805.963.0023, or visit www.sbiff.org.

Rochelle Rose is a Noozhawk contributing writer and veteran of many Santa Barbara International Film Festivals. 

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