Gary Oldman Clarifies Comments About “Mediocre” Portrayal of Sirius Black

Earlier this year, Gary Oldman appeared on Josh Horowitz’s Happy Sad Confused podcast, saying that if he had known Sirius Black’s fate when filming Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he would have “played [Sirius] differently.”

During the hour-long podcast episode with Horowitz, Oldman said he felt his work in Prisoner of Azkaban was “mediocre” and that he wishes he’d been able to read the later Potter books because if he’d had a more complete picture of Sirius, “I honestly think I would’ve played it differently.” Following some reactions from fans who were not entirely happy about the remarks, Oldman has now addressed these comments to clarify what he meant. 

During a Cannes press conference while promoting his upcoming film Parthenope, Oldman stated that he did not want to “disparage anyone out there who are fans of Harry Potter and the films and the character who I think is much beloved.”

What I meant by that is, as any artist or any actor or painter, you are always hypercritical of your own work.

If you’re not, and you’re satisfied with what you’re doing, that would be death to me. If I watched a performance of myself and thought, ‘My God, I’m fantastic in this,’ that would be a sad day.

The Prisoner of Azkaban film was released in 2004, and the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix book, which reveals Sirius’s fate, was released the previous year, in 2003 – the same year Prisoner of Azkaban was being filmed. Oldman explained how this impacted his interpretation of his character. 

There was such secrecy that was shrouded around the novels, they were under lock and key. And had I known from the very beginning, if I had read the five books and I had seen the arc of the character, I might have approached it differently. I may have looked at it differently and painted in a different color.

So when I started ‘Harry Potter,’ all I had was the book, ‘Prisoner of Azkaban,’ and that one representation of that man. One book in the library of Sirius Black. And that’s kind of what I meant by it. It’s not me looking at the movie and saying it’s a terrible film or I’m terrible, I just wish it had been under different circumstances. That’s what I meant, not to be rude to any of the people out there who like that film.

What are your thoughts on Oldman’s portrayal of Sirius? Do you think he should have been played differently, or do you like Oldman’s Sirius as he is?

Grace Hurley

I'm an animal-loving Ravenclaw with a Masters Degree in Writing and a passion for the Harry Potter universe since the age of five.