EXCLUSIVE UPDATE: Gary Oldman has sent an explanation to the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Weisenthal Center, in response to the ADL’s charge he propagated anti-Semitic stereotypes in his Playboy Interview. He’s the response:
Dear Gentlemen of the ADL:
I am deeply remorseful that comments I recently made in the Playboy Interview were offensive to many Jewish people. Upon reading my comments in print—I see how insensitive they may be, and how they may indeed contribute to the furtherance of a false stereotype. Anything that contributes to this stereotype is unacceptable, including my own words on the matter. If, during the interview, I had been asked to elaborate on this point I would have pointed out that I had just finished reading Neal Gabler’s superb book about the Jews and Hollywood, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews invented Hollywood. The fact is that our business, and my own career specifically, owes an enormous debt to that contribution.
I hope you will know that this apology is heartfelt, genuine, and that I have an enormous personal affinity for the Jewish people in general, and those specifically in my life. The Jewish People, persecuted thorough the ages, are the first to hear God’s voice, and surely are the chosen people.
I would like to sign off with “Shalom Aleichem”—but under the circumstances, perhaps today I lose the right to use that phrase, so I will wish you all peace–Gary Oldman.
EARLIER: As one who has been fortunate enough to have done a couple dozen Playboy Interviews of stars and directors, I reflexively cringed this morning as I watch the knee-jerk condemnations of Gary Oldman because of excerpts from a Playboy Interview he did to promote Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. Today, I’ve got my younger staffers wondering and speculating if Fox will stifle Oldman (who is more quiet and thoughtful than the characters he plays onscreen) from promoting the movie. I laugh and only partly because he’s the only internationally recognizable actor in the movie, unless Fox wants to unleash a phalanx of actors dressed in ape costumes for Kimmel, Fallon and Conan.
I cherish being part of the Playboy Interview since Robert Downey Jr chose me to interview him 17 years ago and was so honest about his life that he made me look good enough to get invited back. It’s the preeminent forum for in-depth print interviews, and it taught me almost everything I know on how to do good Q&As. Versions of today’s Oldman blowup has happened to me, though, and it can be the most painful part of the interview process. You get a subject to trust you enough to open up about their lives, careers and views on the world in hours of taped sessions, you work like a surgeon to deliver a provocative but balanced discussion, then you wake one morning to see out of context incendiary quotes that were serviced by PR, pasted on web outlets and newspapers all over the world. You spend the day talking down from ledges the stars and reps who are sorry they ever met you. You know it will be OK once everyone sees the actual interview. They don’t want to hear it and say from now on, superficial junkets only!
I’d bet $20 that Oldman interviewer David Hochman is doing that dance right now. I recall once writing a story about how Oldman once discovered that an imposter had sent an audition tape pretending to be him for the Andy Kaufman film Man On The Moon. Today has to be about as surreal as that episode for the actor. Hochman’s Oldman piece has all the earmarks of a good Playboy Interview; a funny, introspective, measured discussion with a chameleon actor who plays at a high level and rarely lets the public glimpse his life. He talks about his insecurities, hating his own work, drinking problems, politics. He skates on thin ice, but doesn’t seem to fall through, with a discourse about political correctness when he asks why some people get away with saying polarizing things, while others are ostracized. It’s lively banter and when Hochman asks, “What about the Pope?” and Oldman answers, “Oh, f*ck the Pope!,” it plays as a joke when read in context. That line has made some headlines, but Oldman has been TMZ’s best friend today when he strayed into Mel Gibson territory in challenging the hypocrisy of political correctness. In a 7000 or so word conversation, Oldman’s response doesn’t seem scandalous to me. It doesn’t come until late in the interview. Isolated on The Drudge Report? Yowza!
I got an email from the Anti-Defamation League, blasting and condemning what it calls Oldman’s anti-Semitic remarks. Per the release: “The British actor remarked that, ‘Mel Gibson is in a town that’s run by Jews and he said the wrong thing because he’s actually bitten the hand that I guess has fed him.” The ADL says the remarks “irresponsibly feed into a classic anti-Semitic canard about supposed Jewish control of Hollywood and the film industry,” said ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman. “He should know better than to repeat and give credence to tired anti-Semitic tropes. Mel Gibson’s ostracization in Hollywood was not a matter of being ‘politically incorrect,’ as Mr. Oldman suggests, but of paying the consequences for outing himself as a bigot and a hater. It is disturbing that Mr. Oldman appears to have bought into Mr. Gibson’s warped and prejudiced world view.” Foxman adds that the assertion that Jews control Hollywood…”is an anti-Semitic stereotype based on the ‘Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,’ the 19th Century anti-Semitic forgery that suggested Jews conspire to control major industries such as banking and finance.”
All this for one imperfectly worded answer in nine hours of interview time? Oldman’s manager/producing partner Douglas Urbanski emailed me his defense. “I wanted to respond to to the misleading headlines that have popped up…by that I mean that Gary does not blast ‘liberal Hollywood’–the word liberal is not used by him…nor does Gary in anyplace in the piece (or out of it) defend Mel Gibson or Alec Baldwin. I have looked at the Playboy interview a few times now. I am unaware–as I have seen reported–of Gary Oldman defending any anti-Semitic remarks in the interview, or, for that matter, anyplace! He would not do so, and in fact he finds any kind of bigotry, homophobia, anti-Semitism, racism or sexism unacceptable and disgraceful. Period. If you read the Playboy piece correctly and entirely, and in context, it is the hypocrisy of politically correctness that Gary is addressing, nothing else….in this interview, Gary is doing what many intelligent people do: he is illustrating the absurd by being absurd.”
I’ve always appreciated when Downey and others dropped their guards and made it possible for readers to feel they were part of a good conversation with me. In this age where straying from the movie promotion script arouses calls for condemnation from the ADL, why would any actor in his right mind engage?
I would be remiss in excluding the other part of Oldman’s interview with Hollywood relevance that made me laugh. Amazingly, he has never won an Oscar, and was only nominated recently for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The discussion brings him to Oscar season and specifically the Golden Globes, which has completely ignored his work (at their peril).
Said Oldman: “It’s a meaningless event. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is kidding you that something’s happening. They’re f*cking ridiculous. There’s nothing going on at all. It’s 90 nobodies having a wank. Everybody’s getting drunk, and everybody’s sucking up to everybody. Boycott the f*cking thing. Just say we’re not going to play this silly game with you anymore. The Oscars are different. But it’s showbiz. It’s all showbiz. That makes me sound like I’ve got sour grapes or something, doesn’t it?”