Gary Oldman continues his apology tour — but does he mean it?

Gary Oldman probably never bet his top-notch acting skills could work against him, but then again, he probably never imagined he would be doing an apology tour defending himself against charges of anti-Semitism, either. So far, it doesn’t seem to be going so well — although, really, how well do these things usually go?

After writing a letter of apology to the Anti-Defamation League, which it rejected, for an interview with Playboy in which he said, “Mel Gibson is in a town that’s run by Jews and he said the wrong thing because he’s actually bitten the hand that I guess has fed him,” Oldman appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” Wednesday night, where he apologized again.

He started with a deep breath. “I said some things that were poorly considered, and once I had seen it in print, I could see that it was offensive, insensitive, pernicious, and ill-informed,” he said. “You know, words have meaning. They carry weight and they carry on long after you’ve said them and I don’t condone or excuse the words I used, well, in any context. I just basically shouldn’t have used them in any context. But I did, and I have deeply injured and wounded a great many people.”

Oldman faltered a bit, and continued. “I appreciate you having me here and extending your hospitality to put me in this seat once again and it gives me the opportunity to say to those people, that I, from my heart, I am profoundly, profoundly sorry and deeply apologetic. … I’m a public figure. I should be an example and an inspiration, and I’m an A-hole. I’m 56, and I should know better.”

Actor Gary Oldman covered political correctness, Mel Gibson, Hollywood, Hillary Clinton and more in his interview with Playboy magazine. (Tom LeGro and Natalie Jennings/The Washington Post)

Though he’s only been nominated for an Academy Award once — for his turn as British intelligence agent George Smiley in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” — Oldman has amassed a laudable body of work, which Kimmel noted when making a point about the sincerity of Oldman’s apology.

“It’s obvi — well, I guess I don’t know. Maybe — you are a great actor, so we cannot trust anything you say,” Kimmel joked.

“Oh no, trust me,” Oldman said.

In what seemed to be a message to the ADL, Kimmel said, “I think it’s important, when somebody apologizes, to accept their apology.” The ADL earlier rejected Oldman’s letter in a statement from its president, Abraham H. Foxman, who accused Oldman of perpetuating the same stereotypes about Jewish people and Hollywood in his apology that landed Oldman in trouble in the first place. Said Foxman:

While his apology may be heartfelt, Mr. Oldman does not understand why his words about Jewish control were so damaging and offensive, and it is therefore insufficient.

His reference to the Neal Gabler book he was reading only reinforces the notion that Jewish directors, producers and financiers are there in Hollywood as Jews. They’re not, and the book does not draw that conclusion. They are there acting as individuals. They do not pursue a Jewish agenda or strategy. They are there acting as professionals and Americans with skills working alongside many other non-Jews who are also in show business for the same reasons. (emphasis ours)

Mr. Oldman needs to recognize that his words, not just as they were written, but as he uttered them, are deeply offensive. And he needs to be sensitive to the fact that other remarks for which he has yet to apologize — including his disparaging remarks about the Pope and about gay people — were also deeply troubling and hurtful to many.

Is it too cynical to wonder if Jonah Hill created a new “apology prototype” that stars will model when they find themselves in the midst of a public relations mess? That is, namely, to be direct, heartfelt and really hard on yourself? It appears we have an answer to the earlier question of whether or not Oldman would be keeping his schedule of television interviews that he’s got lined up to promote his new film, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”: Yes. In fact, he’ll probably limit himself to just talking about his work in the future.

“We’re public figures and sometimes we’re looked upon, or we’re asked to be political commentators and I can’t speak for other people, but I’m not, clearly,” Oldman said. “And I stepped out of my area of expertise and I just landed both feet in a hornet’s nest. … It just came over in a certain way, and for that, I’m deeply sorry.”

As long as they’re knowledgeable, competent and passionate about what they’re representing, people don’t mind social commentary from celebrities. The public has accepted that stars are multifaceted people who have interests and opinions about things other than their jobs, just like everyone else. Angelina Jolie is well-respected as a champion of human rights and no one dismissed her as “just an actress” when she delivered a speech recently at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence. The same goes for Olivia Wilde’s Conscious Commerce or Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria’s turns as campaign surrogates for President Obama. The trick, it seems, is not to make it All About You.

But however this turns out for him, apology accepted or not, Oldman can be thankful for at least one thing: He doesn’t own the Los Angeles Clippers.

Soraya Nadia McDonald covers arts, entertainment and culture for the Washington Post with a focus on race and gender issues.
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