November 27, 2011 3:59pm PT by Scott Feinberg, Noela Hueso, Gregg Kilday , Pamela McClintock
Gotham Awards 2011: Honorees Charlize Theron, Gary Oldman Reveal the Inspiration Behind Their Work
The Gotham Awards, presented by the Independent Filmmaker Project and determined by small committees of journalists, seek to honor the year's best indie films and filmmakers. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with four indie stalwarts who are receiving award tributes at this year's ceremony. Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairman and CEO Tom Rothman, who is receiving the Industry Tribute, began his film career in New York as a producer, went on to head Samuel Goldwyn during the heyday of independent film and founded Fox Searchlight in 1994. This year's Career Tribute recipients are actor Gary Oldman, who has appeared in more than 40 films and stars in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; A Dangerous Method writer-director David Cronenberg; and Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron, who stars as a troubled author in Jason Reitman's Young Adult.
On the nature of art: "I don't think art is black and white or has a beginning or an end. It's a constant discovery process. It's an evolution of new things -- in the case of an actor, the human condition -- that inspire you and make you obsessive and haunt you and excite you."
On becoming an actor at 19 after a knee injury sidelined a career in ballet: "I was mourning something I thought I had lost completely. I had to reevaluate why I loved dance so much in order to find something that could substitute it. It took me really looking at it and understanding that it was the storytelling. It was taking on a character in storytelling, and [acting] was a natural."
On what she won't do on film: "It's not about what you won't do. For me, it's more about, "Is this the story that I want to explore for the next year of my life?"
On the directors he worked with during the 1980s and early 1990s: "There were so many seminal films: Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law, Ang Lee's first film, The Wedding Banquet, Spike Lee's School Daze, Norman Rene's Longtime Companion -- the first commercial movie about AIDS -- David Lynch's 1990 Wild at Heart, Anthony Minghella's Truly, Madly Deeply and Henry V, directed by Kenneth Branagh."
On what his Gotham Award means to him: "It feels like a homecoming, but in another sense, it feels like my career has been a continuation of those days. I've continued to work with many of the directors I met then, such as Ang, who is making Life of Pi for Fox 2000. I've been fortunate in my time at Fox in that the studio overall makes a very eclectic set of movies. And while specialized companies have come and gone, Searchlight has continued passionate support from myself and fellow chairman-CEO Jim Gianopulos."
On following in Alec Guinness' footsteps playing George Smiley in Focus Features' Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: "One was very much in the shadow of Guinness, because it's such an iconic role. Initially, I was a little nervous about it. You're walking along the same path, in many cases, you're saying the same words. But it's different because Guinness was nearly 70 when he played the role, and I'm younger [he's 53]. There are aspects of the character that speak to me as well. At the end of the day, I approached it much the same way as an actor would with any classical role like Hamlet or King Lear."
On what's next: "I'm not sure what I'm going to be doing next, but that's part of the terror and excitement of the work. You can chase things and steer a career to a degree, but you don't get offered everything, so you are at the mercy of the industry and the imagination of the people who cast you. At my kids' schools, they were more impressed that I did the voice for Viktor Reznov in the Call of Duty videogames than that I played Sirius Black [in the Harry Potter movies]. None of it has been really planned."
On the motivations behind the stories he tells: "I have no real agenda. I don't have anything that I'm using film to promote. The basic function is to explore what it means to be human: "What is the human condition? What is the nature of life? How do we live?"
On the possibility of "going Hollywood": "I haven't really tried to avoid it. I've often joked and said, "I've been trying to sell out for years, but nobody's buying!" I did try to do The Matarese Circle with Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington at MGM, but MGM went belly-up for a while. The only in-house studio movie I ever really did was A History of Violence with New Line. I've tried, and in each case, it's not happened for all kinds of reasons."