Gary Oldman: From Sid to Smiley, why it"s no more Mr Nasty for Best Actor Oscar nominee

From Sid to Smiley, why it's no more Mr Nasty for Gary Oldman

Oscar nod: Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Oscar nod: Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Gary Oldman — nominated this week for a Best Actor Oscar for his role as taciturn secret agent George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy — is so unlike the villains and outcasts he has played it is almost disturbing.

We think of him as Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols in Sid And Nancy.

Then there’s Bex Bissell, estate agent by day and Stanley knife-wielding leader of a gang of football hooligans by night, in Alan Clarke’s The Firm.

Even as Sirius Black, godfather to Harry Potter, he is dangerous, teetering on the edge of an explosive temper.

But in person, four-times married Oldman, 53, is actually a very nice chap. He was showered with praise for the Smiley role.

In it, he holds his own against co-stars John Hurt, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch.

He even eclipses the formidable Sir Alec Guinness, who played Smiley in the acclaimed Seventies TV series. ‘I loved it because for once I was not being asked to bounce off the walls like a nutter,’ he says.

‘It was about blending in, like a real spy. Smiley is an observer.’

James Bond he certainly is not. ‘I had to put on a little bit of weight for Smiley,’ he says.

‘I would basically eat anything. What I hadn’t calculated was how hard it is to lose.’

Did he find the offer to play this banal sixtysomething spy a little disconcerting ‘Mel Gibson once referred to me as Mr Potatohead,’ he says.

‘As in, you put all the different things on and make him look how you want. But it’s easy for him to say, the good-looking b*****d.

‘And I am now what you would technically call an out-of-work actor. I have nothing to go on to.’

Except, of course, the Oscars.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is available on DVD from January 30.