The Transatlantic Careers of Gary Oldman and Tim Roth

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 (, 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 career?

- 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) generations?

- How do they fit in the American and British acting traditions?

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

[log in to unmask]


Amiel, Vincent, Jacqueline Nacache, Geneviève Sellier et Christian Viviani (eds). L’Acteur de cinéma : approches plurielles. Rennes : PU Rennes, 2007, p.19-31.

Dyer, Richard. Stars. Londres : BFI, 1998 [1979].

Heinich, Nathalie, Ce que l’Art fait à la sociologie, Éditions de Minuit, Paris 1998.

Hilton, Matthew, Moores, Chris, & Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, Florence, “New Times revisited: Britain in the 1980s”, Contemporary British History, Volume 31, 2017 - Issue 2

Latour, Bruno, Reassembling the Social, Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford 2005

Luhmann, Niklas, Art as a Social System, Stanford Univ. Press, Stanford 2000

Manning, Phil, “Drama as Life: The Significance of Goffman's Changing Use of the Theatrical Metaphor”

Mukarovsky, Jan, Aesthetic Function, Norm, and Value as Social Facts

Nacache, Jacqueline. L’Acteur du cinéma. Paris : Armand Colin, 2005.

Naremore, James. Acteurs : le jeu de l’acteur au cinéma. Traduit de l’anglais par Christian Viviani. Rennes : PU Rennes, 2014 [1988].

Powrie, Phil, ed. The Trouble With Men. Masculinities in European and Hollywood Cinema. New York: Columbia UP, 2004.

Reinelt, Janelle & Roach, Joseph, Critical Theory and Performance, Univ. of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor 2007

Schechner, Richard. “Performance Studies: The Broad Spectrum Approach.” The Drama Review 32,1988.

Shevtsova, Maria, The Sociology of the Theatre, Part Three: Performance, New Theatre Quarterly

Sindoni, Maria Grazia, Wildfeuer, Janina, and O’Halloran, Kay, “The Languages of Performing Arts: Semiosis, Communication and Meaning-Making”, Social Semiotics, Volume 26, 2016 - Issue 4, 2016.

Sociological Theory, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Spring, 1991), pp. 70-86.

Spicer, Andrew, Typical Men: The Representation of Masculinity in Popular British Cinema, London: I.B. Tauris, 2003.

Swingewood, Alan, Sociological Poetics and Aesthetic Theory (London: Macmillan, 1986)

Thomson, Matthew, “Psychological Subjects: Identity, Culture and Health in Twentieth Century Britain”, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Tobin, Yann. Dossier “Acteur et actrices britanniques”. Positif 681, novembre 2017, p. 94-115.

Todd, Selina. The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class 1910–2010. London: John Murray, 2014.

Van Delinder, Jean, “The Sociology of the Performing Arts”, 21st Century Sociology, eds. Clifton D. Bryant & Dennis L. Peck, Sage ?

Vinen, Richard, Thatcher’s Britain: The Politics and Social Upheaval of the Thatcher Era. London: Simon & Schuster, 2009

Viviani, Christian. Le magique et le vrai : L’acteur de cinéma, sujet et objet. Aix-en-Provence : Rouge Profond, 2015.

Wetherell, Sam. “Painting the Crisis: Community Arts and the Search for the ‘Ordinary’ in 1970s and 80s London.” History Workshop Journal 76, no. 1 (2013): 235249.10.1093/hwj/dbt008

Wincott Daniel, “Social Policy and Social Citizenship: Britain's Welfare States”, Publius: The Journal of Federalism, Volume 36, Issue 1, Winter 2006, Pages 169–188,

Woodin, Tom. “Muddying the Waters: Changes in Class and Identity in a Working-class Cultural Organization.” Sociology 39, no. 5 (2005): 1001–1018.

MeCCSA mailing list
To manage your subscription or unsubscribe from the MECCSA list, please visit:
MeCCSA is the subject association for the field of media, communication and cultural studies in UK Higher Education.

This mailing list is a free service and is not restricted to members. It is an unmoderated list and content reflect the views of those who post to the list and not of MeCCSA as an organisation.

MeCCSA recommends that the list be used only for posting of information (for example about events, publications, conferences, lectures) of interest to members or to promote discussion of current issues of wide general interest in the field. Posts to the MeCCSA mailing list are public, indexed by Google, and can be accessed from the JISCMail website (

Any messages posted to the list are subject to the JISCMail acceptable use policy, which states that users should avoid “engaging in unreasonable behaviour, or disrupting the general flow of discussion on a list.”

For further information, please visit: