At this point in his storied acting career, Gary Oldman pretty much has nothing to prove to anyone but himself. That’s largely because he’s accomplished just about everything one can as an actor. He’s been delivering iconic work onstage and on-screen for decades, appearing in West End productions, lauded indie films, and studio-backed tentpole properties alike. In 2022, he even took his first long-term small-screen gig, earning raves for the Apple TV+ spy thriller “Slow Horses.” Despite his well-earned reputation, his career longevity, and the astonishing range of characters he’s played, Oldman is arguably still best-known for his work in the “Harry Potter” movies. The actor appeared in four of the eight films as the titular wizard’s caring, initially misunderstood godfather, Sirius Black. And for many fans of the series, Oldman’s work in the role is among the best in the star-studded franchise. It seems the role also became a bit of a pivotal one for the actor himself, who admitted during HBO’s reunion special, “Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts,” that the franchise forever altered the makeup of his fan base. “The great thing about the ‘Potter’ experience,” Oldman said, “was that a lot of kids couldn’t see the type of movies that I made. And then my fan base shifted.”
An entire generation of movie fans know Oldman from the Harry Potter franchise
Gary Oldman’s estimation that his pre-“Harry Potter” oeuvre isn’t exactly kid friendly is a bit of an understatement. The actor had indeed spent a couple of decades prior to his debut as Sirius Black (in 2004’s “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) building a reputation as a fierce, often daring performer who was not just willing to take on dark, heavy roles, but sort of gravitated toward them. Sirius Black is, of course, one of the edgier characters in the Wizarding World franchise. So Oldman’s casting was hardly off point, even if it did come in a franchise that is a little friendlier to younger audiences than anything he’d ever done before. Despite Oldman’s penchant for heavier stories, he’s always displayed an uncanny knack for infusing his roles with an underlying warmth and sincerity, and that’s precisely what he did with Sirius Black, further bolstering the complexity of the character already present in the pages of the “Harry Potter” books. In doing so, Black became one of the most empathetic and ultimately best-loved characters in the big-screen “Harry Potter” franchise, a fact that arguably makes the character’s exit even more devastating than it is in the source material. And as Oldman stated during the HBO reunion special, it indeed opened up a vastly different fan base for him, including a swathe of new admirers ages pre-K to teen. Given the boundless love the “Harry Potter” films continue to garner, that fan base will likely be following Oldman for generations to come.