There’s no end to the stories about serious actors getting as serious as possible for a role, and living out that character through the process known as method acting. And usually when an actor throws themself into the method process, they’re basing their performance on a real person or a real experience that they can measure their choices against. Well, all of those method actors are amateurs compared to Gary Oldman. Gary Starred in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as the titular Dracula. And you might be wondering how the hell someone method acts as a totally-fictional character creature with zero basis in reality. Because really, who is going to check you for accuracy? Vampires aren’t real! But Gary found a way. Specifically, he went as method as a human can go when playing a vampire, and he slept in a coffin every night.
This revelation wasn’t made by Gary himself, but Cary Elwes, aka Westley in The Princess Bride, who recently spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about notable roles in his career. Cary was asked about working on 1992’s Dracula. Cary played Lord Arthur Holmwood (remember him? His wife got turned into a vampire). It meant spending a lot of time with Gary Oldman, which also meant finding out what Gary Oldman was doing in his off-hours. Apparently, after leaving the set at the end of every day, he crawled into a comfortable four-walled casket to recharge his batteries.
According to Cary, they discovered this little tidbit while doing some pre-production cast bonding at Francis Ford Coppola’s wine estate in Napa. Except nobody bonded with Gary Oldman, because he was already in two-hundred-year-old vampire mode. via THR:
“I really wanted to work with [Francis Ford Coppola]. I have every book written on Francis, so by the time I met him, I was really up to speed on everything. He brought the whole case up to Napa to rehearse. We all stayed in the guest houses on the property. Francis believes that the more time the cast spends together that will translate onscreen. So he had all the vampire hunters live on one property and poor Gary [Oldman] had to live by himself. Gary was sleeping in a coffin every night, that was how seriously he took it. He was sequestered from us all – by choice. So we met him for the first time on set during rehearsals and then we’d never see him again.”
To be fair, we’ve heard Winona Ryder talk about her experience with Gary Oldman on set, and it sounds like having Gary sequestered away in a coffin was the best move for everybody on set.
But I won’t be impressed by this story until we know exactly what kind of coffin he was method-sleeping in. Was it an actual replica 19th-century coffin made with reclaimed hundred-year-old pine boards and antique hand-forged steel nails, or was it one of those cushy numbers you get at Casket Express, where it’s lined with plush satin and a Sealy comfort mattress (even a corpse deserves the comfort of individual pocket coils). I demand to know if Gary Oldman was risking an eternity of back problems during his method acting stunt.
Pic: Columbia Pictures