Weinstein Company via Everett Collection
Not this time, champ. Fool us once. See, back in the last trimester of the Prequels era, George Lucas decided to bump up the gravitas of the impending Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith by roping in a bona fide actor: one Gary Oldman, known best for his turns in Sid and Nancy, JFK, and Air Force One — this was before Oldman had embodied either Sirius Black or Commissioner Gordon, so it would have marked his first turn with franchise fare. Lucas had pegged Oldman to play General Grievous, nefarious ruler of the Droid Army, before Oldman opted to pull out of production to comply with the fine print of his Screen Actors Guild membership — in absence of a SAG stamp on the Revenge of the Sith production, Oldman favored his organization loyalties and pulled out, leaving him independent from all things Lucas until this morning’s rumblings that he’s been asked to take a role in Star Wars: Episode VII. But we’re not too excited, and neither is he.
“They’ve called … The deal isn’t done, but yeah, they’ve inquired,” Oldman tells Sky Movies, qualifying the news by adding, “I’m more cynical about it now. I’ll believe it when I’m on a plane home.”
It’s not just the tenuous nature of early rumors that leave us underwhelmed, but the prospect of Oldman taking on a Star Wars role at all. When he left the production, the character of Grievous went to Matthew Wood, a Lucasfilms sound engineer, who, though not an actor by trade, did just as well as anyone could have expected someone to do with the Kaleesh/cyborg hybrid. In earnest, it’s not as though a master thespian like Oldman would have had much dramatic stretching to do with Grievous anyhow. While he gave some extra weight to Nolan’s Batman films and the Harry Potter movies, we’d dare to say that an actor like Oldman might be wasted in the Star Wars universe.
That said, this is the old Star Wars universe we’ve got blocking up our optimism. Under new direction, Oldman could have room to get creative and humane with whichever character he’d be offered here — although J.J. Abrams’ track record has eroded in the past couple of years, he’s still not totally out of his element matching high concept adventures with human sincerity. Plus, as a teen in the 1970s, we couldn’t blame Oldman if playing a Star Wars character would be a longtime dream of his. Although we’d peg him as more of a Middle Earth guy. That’s some casting we could endorse.