The Transatlantic Careers of Gary Oldman and Tim
One-day symposium organized by Jean-François Baillon (CLIMAS), Claire Cornillon (RiRRa21), Nathalie Rivère de Carles (CAS) and David Roche (RiRRa21)
March 6-7 2020, Nîmes, Festival Ecrans Britanniques
As a part of the 23th edition of the film festival Écrans britanniques (www.ecransbritanniques.org), this
one-day conference will focus on two British actors, Gary Oldman and Tim Roth,
as State of Britain actors. Both are emblematic of an aesthetic and a dramatic
education profoundly modified by the evolution of education and cultural
funding in the UK. This conference would like to ask whether the likes of Gary
Oldman and Tim Roth are still possible on the British stage and screen? As such
this conference will participate in the pluri-disciplinary discussions of CAS 1
and 3 on the politics of the stage and the screen.
Born and bred in South London in working-class and
middle-class families, Oldman and Roth emerged in the early 1980s. They starred
in some of the major productions of the decade—Made in Britain (Alan
Clarke, 1982), The Hit (Stephen
Frears, 1984), Sid and Nancy (Alex
Cox, 1986), Prick Up Your
Ears (Frears, 1987), The Cook, His
Wife, Her Lover and the Thief (Peter Greenaway, 1989)— and expanded their
careers by appearing in American major, independent and off- Hollywood
productions —JFK (Oliver
Stone, 1991), Reservoir
Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola, 1992), True Romance (Tony Scott, 1993), Romeo Is Bleeding (Peter
Medak, 1993). Gradually they became cult international stars, Oldman recently
winning an Academy Award for his rendering of Churchill in Darkest Hour (Joe Wright, 2017). Their
acting careers intertwine as in Meantime (Mike Leigh, 1983) and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Tom Stoppard,
1990), and so do their directing debuts: Nil by Mouth (Oldman, 1997) and The War Zone (Roth, 1999). The latter
films identify Oldman and Roth as social actors as they feature personal
biographical and social views of their childhood and of the environment they
grew up in.
Oldman and Roth belong to a long tradition of
London-born working-class British actors such as Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant,
Michael Caine or Roger Moore. However, they came to acting at a time of deep
ontological crisis, soul-searching or soul-searching avoidance during the pre-
and Thatcher years. Their training, recognition and career evolution accompany,
represent and testify to a State of Britain aesthetic that has seldom been
explored through the prism of actors and acting. Pairing sociological, literary
and cinematic approaches, this one-day symposium will pay attention to Oldman’s
and Roth’s careers, acting technique and star images, the symposium will
question whether they are exceptions or representative of certain trends in
British and international cinema. It will also assess the relevance of
treating actors and acting as social actors as well as the carriers and the
fashioners of an aesthetics. The latter will be also questioned in terms of the
existence of a shift from directors to actors as aesthetic trend-setters in
British and American cinema.
Presentations based on performance studies, star
studies, sociological approaches to art and popular culture, and cultural
studies from both a British and transatlantic perspective are welcome. They may
raise the following questions (the list is non-exhaustive):
- To what extent did both actors embody their
generation’s version of the angry young men?
- How long did their South of the River persona
remain relevant to their star image or has it evolved with their transnational
- How do their careers compare with those of other
British actors of their generation (Phil Daniels, Ray Winstone, Brian Cox), or
of British actors of previous (Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Malcolm MacDowell)
or subsequent (Ewan McGregor, Jude Law, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmaine)
- How do they fit in the American and British
Attention can also be paid to:
- acting style, techniques, training (notably
accents, social background of actors, access to training…)
- star images or star persona, typecasting;
evolution in terms of casting; ageing; appearances in music videos (in
connection with typecasting or the opposite).
- historical approaches to their careers (notably
their mentors): project choices, stage and television work, their own position
in film history (mentoring)
- the cognitive actor & the social actor:
anthropology and performance, actor-network theory, career choices and social
and political commitments
- the films they directed: film as testimony; how
do actors direct? and how are their works received?
300-word proposals, along with a short biography,
should be sent by 15th September 2019 to
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