David Bowie's wicked dark humour revealed in last cancer battle letter to actor Gary Oldman

11 June 2021, 17:05 | Updated: 15 June 2021, 16:04

David Bowie wrote a funny and reflective letter to his good friend Gary Oldman (centre) to tell him of his cancer diagnosis just months before his death in 2016.
David Bowie wrote a funny and reflective letter to his good friend Gary Oldman (centre) to tell him of his cancer diagnosis just months before his death in 2016. Picture: Getty

By Giorgina Hamilton

David Bowie wrote a reflective letter to his old friend Gary Oldman in 2016 to tell him of his terminal cancer diagnosis, with the star cracking jokes until the very end.

David Bowie was diagnosed with terminal cancer and was given just three months to live, but his sense of humour never left him.

The singer released his 25th and final album Black Star on his 69th birthday and passed away just two days later, to the shock of fans all over the world.

See more: David Bowie's 20 greatest ever songs, ranked

After Bowie's untimely death on January 10, 2016 the singer was posthumously honoured at an emotional BRIT Awards ceremony by grieving friends and fellow performers on February 24.

David Bowie wrote a reflective letter to his old friend Gary Oldman in 2016 to tell him of his terminal cancer diagnosis, with the star cracking jokes until the very end.
After Bowie's untimely death on January 10, 2016 the singer was posthumously honoured at an emotional BRIT Awards ceremony by grieving friends and fellow performers on February 24. Picture: Getty
The singer released his 25th and final album Black Star on his 69th birthday and passed away just two days later, to the shock of fans all over the world. (Pictured on stage in 2004)
The singer released his 25th and final album Black Star on his 69th birthday and passed away just two days later, to the shock of fans all over the world. (Pictured on stage in 2004). Picture: Getty

The 'Life On Mars' singer was honoured for his music and influence over his varied and long career, with his good friend actor Gary Oldman accepting the Icon Award on David's behalf.

See more: David Bowie predicted in 1999 the impact the internet would have on society in mind-blowing video

While the knowledge of David Bowie's illness was kept a secret from the public the star had told his close friends of his diagnosis, with Gary Oldman revealing Bowie's characteristic wit until the very end.

The three-time Oscar winning actor told an emotional audience: "He faced his illness with enormous courage, dignity, grace and customary humour - even in dire circumstances."

See more: How David Bowie met Iman: Matchmaker recalls night "lonely" star met his soulmate

Oldman then went onto reveal exactly how David Bowie had broken the news to him with typical grit and humour: "When he wrote to tell me the bad news, he added, 'The good news is I've got my cheekbones back.'"

Actor Gary Oldman (right) and David Bowie were great friends. The apir pictured together at a film premier in New York in 1997.
Actor Gary Oldman (right) and David Bowie were great friends. The apir pictured together at a film premier in New York in 1997. Picture: Getty
David Bowie was honoured for his music and influence over his varied and long career, with his good friend actor Gary Oldman accepting the Icon Award on David's behalf (pictured).
David Bowie was honoured for his music and influence over his varied and long career, with his good friend actor Gary Oldman accepting the Icon Award on David's behalf (pictured). Picture: Getty

Gary then went on to describe David's final thoughts on music.

"In recent years," the actor continued, "David sparingly spoke about music and his process; but in one of these rare instances, he graciously and elegantly expounded, 'Music has given me over 40 years of extraordinary experiences.

See more: David Bowie's daughter Lexi shares poignant tribute to mum Iman five years after her father's death

"'I can't say that life's pains or more tragic episodes have been diminished because of it, but it has allowed me so many moments of companionship that when I have been lonely and sublime means communications when I have wanted to touch people.

"'It has been my doorway of perception and the house that I live in.'"

See more: David Bowie mimics Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and more in brilliant clip from 1985

Gary added: "Over his career, David challenged and changed our understanding of the medium, whether in music or life, he emphasised originality, experimentation, exploration, and is his very unique way, he also reminded us to never take ourselves too seriously."

Watch the 2016 BRIT Awards David Bowie tribute video below:

The night also saw Annie Lennox give a tribute to the star with whom she had famously performed a breathtaking duet of 'Under Pressure' at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992.
The night also saw Annie Lennox give a tribute to the star with whom she had famously performed a breathtaking duet of 'Under Pressure' at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992. Picture: Getty

The night also saw Annie Lennox give a tribute to the star with whom she had famously performed a breathtaking duet of 'Under Pressure' at The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992.

See more: David Bowie's last ever interview on Ricky Gervais' 2007 TV show is a masterclass in deadpan comedy

"For me, it's almost impossible to mention Bowie's name in the past tense," she said.

"Everything he represented as an artist always was and will be incredibly present.

See more: When mischievous David Bowie pranked Annie Lennox by calling live TV show to make song request

"As a cutting edge, artistic genius, he continues to live on through his music."