It is Gary Oldman’s Destiny To Play J. Jonah Jameson in the Next Spider-Man Movie

By  · Published on March 8th, 2016

Summit Entertainment

Yesterday, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that J.K. Simmons has been cast as the new Commissioner Gordon for the DC Extended Universe movies. The Oscar-winning actor will play the iconic Gotham City character starting with The Justice League Part One, the all-star superhero blockbuster due in November of next year. This gig means he’s very unlikely to be returning to the role of J. Jonah Jameson in the Spider-Man franchise, not that there was much chance of the reprisal with the next reboot anyway but fans hadn’t given up hope.

With the Jameson role now definitely vacant, there’s only one obvious choice for a replacement: Gary Oldman. The Oscar-nominated actor was the previous Commissioner Gordon on the big screen, in Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Signing on to the next Spider-Man movie – due in July of next year – would make for an even swap with Simmons, who’d also played Jameson on screen in just three movies, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3 (he voiced the character in various animated series, too). Marvel and Sony have to complete the circle, obviously, with this very fair trade.

But that’s not actually the reason Oldman needs to play Jameson in the next Spider-Man movie. The Simmons in Justice League announcement is just a reminder that Oldman is destined for the role of the Daily Bugle Editor In Chief, who hates the wall-crawling superhero and unknowingly gives Spidey’s photog alter-ego Peter Parker a hard time on a regular basis. And the character does need to return to the franchise after his absence in the previous rebooted incarnation. They’re going with a young Parker this time around, but he can still submit freelance photos to the paper.

Oldman is one of our greatest living character actors, and Jameson is one of the greatest character characters of comics and now movies. Oldman is best at playing a specific sort of supporting role. It’s sometimes the big bad (The Fifth Element, Air Force One), sometimes a lesser bad (True Romance) and occasionally an auxiliary good guy who works in corroboration with but isn’t exactly teamed with the hero (the Dark Knight trilogy). Even when Oldman is the lead and portraying a famous person, as in Sid and Nancy, he’s not necessarily playing the star of that person’s world.

He’s certainly not above doing remakes and reboots and he’s quite clearly up for any franchise. In addition to being in a few Batman movies, he’s appeared in five Harry Potter installments plus sequels in the Planet of the Apes and Kung Fu Panda series. The latter and other animation roles shows he’s down for voice work, too, in the event that Marvel wants him to do as Simmons did with cartoons and, more likely, the animated Spider-Man feature that’s in the works. Oldman would never consider Jameson too small a character for his stature, either. He’s constantly playing parts that seem beneath his reputation, both in screen time and quality, but he’s always willing and always gives his best.


It’s only a matter of time before Marvel comes to Oldman for something in the MCU. And he need to check that one off his list. But who or what else could he be other than Jameson? He’s not going to be a superhero. He’s too good to be a full-on villain, and anyway with Jameson he could make this an ongoing thing whereas big bads tend to die in their first movie now. I think it’d also be neat if Oldman’s Jameson had two sides, the anti-Spidey meanie who acts like his character from Leon: The Professional in some moments and a more nurturing mentor to Parker akin to his part in the Harry Potter movies in others.

Such duality is perfect for the actor. Oldman has wrongly long been primarily associated with villains, but it’s better to consider him drawn to more complicated characters. Sure, his couple big bads were clearly evil, but we need to look at some of his other memorable roles for why he’s well-suited for Jameson, a guy who isn’t exactly a villain but has been lumped into that category often throughout his half-century existence. Here is the background that leads us to the new head of the Daily Bugle:

Sid Vicious (Sid and Nancy): iconic Sex Pistols bassist who remains beloved by millions even though he murdered (accidentally?) his girlfriend.

Lee Harvey Oswald (JFK): either the lone gunman in the assassination of John F. Kennedy or a patsy in one of the biggest conspiracies of all time.

Count Dracula (Dracula): one of the most iconic antagonists in literature and cinema but in this particular movie also a complex historical figure turned misunderstood monster simply interested in a business transaction and the heart of a woman who resembles his late wife.

Drexl Spivey (True Romance): a common, dreadlocked pimp who mistakenly thinks that his employees are property and that he isn’t white.

Norman Stansfield (Leon: The Professional): a cop but also corrupt, he’s still not that wrong for going after a hired killer.

Milton Glenn (Murder in the First): another authority figure who took advantage of his power for improper treatment of prisoners under his care.

Ivan Korshunov (Air Force One): a terrorist with political motives, some of them justly addressed if not justifications for murder and presidential kidnappings.

Dr. Smith (Lost in Space): a terrorist spy who then sort of becomes aligned with the good guys before betraying them again, or something.

Rep. Sheldon Runyon (The Contender): politician who is rendered a villain for his antiquated sexist beliefs and conspiracy to shame a woman chosen to fill the vacant position of US Vice President.

Mason Verger (Hannibal): a child molester who wants to kill the main character, but it’s still complicated because the main character is also a villain.

Sirius Black (Harry Potter): a prisoner of the harshest of wizarding world prizons and believed by many to be murderer, but he was innocent and wound up being a good godfather to the series hero.

Lord Shen (Kung Fu Panda 2): definitely an evil peacock, it’s still worth defending his interests in gunpowder being weaponized as being a historically acceptable idea.

Floyd Banner (Lawless): a vicious mobster but hardly a bad guy in the context of this bootlegger hero movie.

Dr. Dennett Norton (RoboCop): honestly I’ve purposefully forgotten most of this movie but I recall Oldman being slightly on the edge of evil in his Frankenstein role here only to later be redeemed.

Dreyfus (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes): a misguided human who is afraid of and therefore enemy of all apes even though there are good ones and bad ones.

J. Jonah Jameson? (Untitled Spider-Man Reboot): a misguided human who is afraid of and therefore enemy of all super-powered people even though there are good ones and bad ones.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.