How an unrecognisable Gary Oldman became Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour
IT SOUNDS IRRESISTIBLE. Gary Oldman, arguably Britain’s finest actor, as Winston Churchill, widely regarded as history’s finest Brit. But Oldman’s first reaction was to laugh. “Not because I didn’t think I could do it,” he says. “I knew I could play him, but the physicality was crazy.”
This was about more than resemblance, because, at 59, Oldman remains trim. Months of prosthetic tests went into persuading the actor that he could be Churchill. Key was leaving room for the performance.
“We went full-on Churchill,” he says. “But the more I resembled him, the weirder it looked. You’ve lost me. So we had to pull it back.”
Directed by Joe Wright and written by The Theory Of Everything’s Anthony Mccarten, Darkest Hour concentrates on the critical period in 1940 when Churchill took power. Through three rousing speeches, backed by some canny politicking, he inspired a nation and prevented capitulation to that “bloodthirsty guttersnipe” Hitler.
Oldman deems Churchill “essential to history”. The ambition of the film, however, is to climb beneath the jowls, words and self-promotion to discover the reality beneath. “There are a lot of people who will go and see the movie who think they know him,” he says, “but I have had the chance to play someone they don’t quite know.” Exactly the kind of big talk that, come February, could well rouse that other iconic baldy — Oscar.