Gary Oldman Says the ‘Secrecy’ Behind the ‘Harry Potter’ Films Affected His Acting

Gary Oldman is clarifying what he really regrets about playing Sirius Black in the “Harry Potter” film franchise.

At Cannes, Oldman cleared up any confusion about the time in December 2023 that he called his performance in the movies “mediocre.”

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“What I meant by that is, as any artist or any actor or painter, you are always hypercritical of your own work,” Oldman said. “If you’re not, and you’re satisfied with what you’re doing, that would be death to me. If I watched a performance of myself and thought, ‘My God, I’m fantastic in this,’ that would be a sad day.”

Readers can watch the video of the Cannes press conference below.

Oldman added that he was not trying to “disparage anyone out there who are fans of ‘Harry Potter’ and the films and the character, who I think is much beloved.” Yet, according to the actor, the “secrecy” involved in the franchise itself put a strain on the role, particularly because he didn’t know his full character arc at the time.

“There was such secrecy that was shrouded around the novels, they were under lock and key. And had I known from the very beginning, if I had read the five books and I had seen the arc of the character, I might have approached it differently,” Oldman said. “I may have looked at it differently and painted in a different color. So when I started ‘Harry Potter,’ all I had was the book ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban,’ and that one representation of that man — one book in the library of Sirius Black. And that’s kind of what I meant by it. It’s not me looking at the movie and saying it’s a terrible film or I’m terrible, I just wish it had been under different circumstances. That’s what I meant, not to be rude to any of the people out there who like that film.”

Oldman explained during the “Happy Sad Confused” podcast in 2023 that “maybe if I had read the books like Alan [Rickman], if I had got ahead of the curve, if I had known what’s coming, I honestly think I would have played it differently.”

He ultimately played it how he played it in four films. Oldman first appeared in the third Harry Potter movie, 2004’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” which was directed by Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón. Reading ahead may not have changed much for that one — the fifth book of the novel series, the one in which Oldman’s character dies — came out a year before the film did, likely while he was already in production.

Oldman later reprised his role for 2005’s “Goblet of Fire” and 2007’s “Order of the Phoenix.” He made a final appearance in “Deathly Hallows — Part 2.”

It wasn’t all bad for Oldman. The actor previously credited the franchise for “saving” him as he could do “the least amount of work” and still co-parent his children.

Oldman recently sat down with IndieWire to discuss his latest series “Slow Horses.” Check out the interview here.

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