Gary Oldman has always been an actor I've admired. I don't think I'd call him my favorite actor, but he's definitely an actor I've always enjoyed watching onscreen. I'd even go so far as to call him one of the most underrated actors of this generation, if not all time . . . until recently. The thing is that Gary Oldman had always been more recognizable for playing villains - having played several memorable ones in Bram Stoker's Dracula, True Romance, Leon, The Fifth Element, and Air Force One in a span of five years. Throw in Lost in Space and Hannibal and he was pretty much typecast as an actor who turned in great villainous performances.
I think by the end of the 90s, Oldman got tired of playing the bad guy. I don't remember where, but I remember hearing or reading that Oldman wanted to get away from the villainous roles and get into different characters that weren't the heavy. After reading that, I had a difficult time imagining Oldman doing something like a comedy or action movie as the good guy. I just couldn't picture Oldman doing anything else.
Looking at his filmography on imdb.com, he wasn't kidding. His foray into "something else" wasn't even in a movie. He did a two episode arc on "Friends" - playing an actor co-starring in a movie with Joey. And he was great in those episodes, particularly the one where he shows up on the movie set drunk, holding up Joey.
He then took on the role that was perfect for him, considering what had been going on with his career. He was cast as the (evidently) misunderstood Sirius Black in the Harry Potter series. The character is at first thought to be a villain, but turned out he was framed for a crime he didn't commit. For the rest of the series, he's Harry Potter's godfather, friend, and mentor.
And then there's The Dark Knight trilogy. I said before that it was difficult for me to imagine Oldman playing any other role than a villainous one. Well, it's now hard to imagine anyone else playing the role of Jim Gordon (sorry Pat Hingle). The character of Jim Gordon went from Lieutenant to Commissioner over the course of the films (and Sargent too, I believe, in the first scene we see him in when he meets the young Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins), but we always see him as a true ally to Batman, as he truly understands what the hero is trying to accomplish. Gary Oldman plays the role perfectly in we see him in action sequences, emotional scenes, and was even able to add some humor to some scenes ("I gotta get me one of those.").
It's admirable that Oldman was able to change his career path from that of playing mostly villains to being a mentor or ally in two of the biggest movie franchises ever. It shouldn't come as a surprise since . . . if you think about it - none of the villainous roles he played were similar. Hell, I don't think any of them even had the same accent. And on top of being a big part of two huge franchises, he also got his first ever Academy Award nomination for playing . . . a good guy in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Now audiences know who he is, now more than ever. He hasn't sworn off villains entirely - having played the heavy in recent films like Book of Eli. Gary Oldman can do anything as far as acting is concerned. Here's to an awesome actor who's finally getting the respect a talented actor such as he is deserves.