About The Production
Words and Context
In dark days and darker night, when Britain stood along, and most men save Englishmen despaired of England's
life, he mobilized the English language and sent it into battle. The
incandescent quality of his words illuminated the courage o his countrymen. -- President John F. Kennedy, 1963
"Words can, and do, change the world. This is precisely what happened through
Winston Churchill in 1940," marvels BAFTA Award-winning screenwriter and
producer Anthony McCarten. "He was under intense political and personal
pressure, yet he was spurred to such heights in so few days - over and over
McCarten has long held an interest in the legendary statesman's life, and like
many he has found inspiration in Churchill's speeches and oratory. His most
recent screenplay, the Academy Award-nominated one for The Theory o f Everything, explored another great man, Stephen Hawking, whose words changed the
world even after he could no longer speak. McCarten found himself gravitating
towards the intense period "of May 10th through June 4th, during which Winston
turned coal into diamonds."
The linchpins of his original screenplay for Darkest Hour became three speeches
that Churchill wrote and delivered between May and June 1940.
It's a common saying that the first few days and weeks on the job are
challenging. For this 65-year-old man, being named Prime Minister of Great
Britain on May 10th, 1940 came at a time when the stakes could scarcely have
been higher. Allied Forces was already at war with Adolf Hitler, and one
democracy after another had fallen to his Nazi forces. Britain now stood on the
edge of a precipice. The dilemma was, either steel the nerves and be drawn deep
into the conflict; or retreat from the war altogether, with inconceivable
consequences for British sovereignty.
McCarten clarifies, "The question was whether to fight on alone, perhaps to the
destruction of the armed forces and even the nation, or to play it safe - as
Viscount Halifax and [outgoing] Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain believed -
and to that end explore signing a treaty with Hitler. Winston had to wade into
this fray, and he found himself battling the establishment.
"This story is anchored in the past yet it resonates all the way into the here
and now. Too often today, our 'leaders' are followers. These decisions made in
less than one month's time had global ramifications."
Lives also hung in the balance during May and June 1940, as over 200,000 British
soldiers - the UK's entire Expeditionary Force - were trapped on the beaches of
Dunkirk, France, awaiting rescue and evacuation.
McCarten's research led him to the minutes of Churchill's War Cabinet meetings.
He notes, "These revealed a period of uncertainty, something we don't take into
account considering his robust leadership. Winston knew he had made wrong calls
in the past, certainly during World War I with the Battle of Gallipoli.
"Pedestals are for statues, not for people, and a close reading of the minutes
reveals not only a leader in trouble, under attack from all sides and uncertain
what direction to take, but also just how dangerously close a country came to
entering into a 'peace' deal with an enemy who, if unchecked, would have
reshaped the world forever."
Ultimately, says McCarten, the Darkest Hour screenplay took shape "examining the
working methods and leadership qualities and trains of thought. Winston strongly
believed that words mattered, and he took pen in hand to help him - and his
country - face down a terrifying threat.
"In the process came the self-willed making of an iconic man."
Setting himself a concentrated work schedule to mirror the historical time
frame, McCarten after eight days had 16 pages. He showed these to Academy
Award-nominated and BAFTA Award-winning producer Lisa Bruce, with whom he had
made The Theory of Everything , as the project was being completed.
Bruce remarks, "I read it, and at once I realized Anthony was again designing an
intimate look at the humanity of an icon. We have all learned about WWII and
maybe think we remember more than we do, so Anthony put just enough contextual
information into his script; even if you don't know everything about this period
you can clearly follow what's going on in the world that Winston orbited.
"With Darkest Hour, although the wit and intelligence he's known for are very
much in evidence, you see him in such a different way. What Anthony was focusing
on -- an extreme moment in time - powerfully conveys Churchill's vision and
voice as a leader and his ability to assess what mattered. Churchill was able to
tune out the noise and get people behind him, even opposing party members. He
got everyone in line with the idea to stand and fight Hitler, understanding the
threat and the bigger - much bigger - picture."
She adds that, decades on, "Darkest Hour is timely because we feel a void of
leadership now; we want someone to rise to the occasion as Winston did. The
title came from his own assessment of this period as the biggest challenge he
ever faced. His whole life - which was already impressive - had been leading up
to this moment."
As McCarten delivered more pages, Bruce moved to advance the project by bringing
it to the attention of their fellow The Theory of Everything
producers, Academy Award nominees and BAFTA Award winners Tim Bevan and Eric
Fellner of Working Title Films.
Fellner sensed that the story of "a statesman finding grace under pressure"
would appeal to one of Working Title's key creative collaborators, BAFTA
Award-winning director Joe Wright; the production company and the director had
teamed so successfully on, among other projects, Atonement , with its
unforgettable World War II scenes.
Wright remarks, "Our relationship has grown and developed. There's always a
wonderful can-do-attitude at Working Title: here's the script, here's the
director, here's the actors, let's make a movie! And we do."
Fellner's instinct was correct, as Wright found himself "immediately wrapped up
in what was a real page-turner, pure drama. I've always
considered the Second World War to be the fulcrum of the 20th century. It
"If the audience today can engage with an icon of that time as a human being,
then his qualities of leadership will be that much more inspiring."
After Wright committed to the project, he worked closely on the script's
progress. McCarten reports, "Joe became such a partner in the process; I spent
many weeks with his putting my feet to the fire on every line of the script. I
must have gone over to his house 20 times, and each time he would greet me with,
'Good to see you! Okay, page one...'
"That thoroughness and testing of every moment truly tightened up the
Wright notes, "I envisioned this as a film for the world, not solely for a
"We've all seen movies about leaders. Thematically, Darkest Hour is very much
about doubt, a crisis of confidence. What's so engaging about it is you're with
a legend as he rises above the difficulties we have all faced."
Bruce remarks, "I learned a lot from Joe during the journey to get this movie
made. Joe thinks in highly visual terms; he has the whole story in his head and
knows where he wants to take the audience emotionally."
Given the intimidation factor for actors of portraying an icon, the filmmakers
had anticipated casting challenges.
McCarten reflects, "I was hoping that a revisionist take could be part of the
portrayal. I wanted to see an actor completely recalibrate our sense of who
Winston was, and I envisioned a Gary Oldman-caliber actor."
Indeed, whenever the Academy Award-nominated and BAFTA Award-winning actor's
name is mentioned, it follows that a generation of actors who have aspired to
his career comes to mind.
But Fellner thought it best to go to the source - Gary Oldman himself - whom he
began his film career with back in 1986 making Sid and Nancy , which also
happened to be Gary's first feature film.
Gary Oldman's longtime producing partner, BAFTA Award winner Douglas Urbanski,
comments, "Making a movie about Winston Churchill would defy logic - unless you
were examining a specific incident or time frame, which Darkest Hour does.
"When Eric Fellner began to bring people together to discuss the project, we
realized that this would be a journey worth taking - a movie that would
entertain people but also make them stop and think about the resonance of
"When I heard, 'Gary Oldman portraying Winston Churchill,' I thought, 'What a
performance that will be to witness,'" says Joe Wright. "He has been my favorite
actor since I was a teen: Sid and Nancy , Prick Up Your Ears , The Firm ..."
But would an actor who had already incarnated real-life figures ranging from Sid
Vicious to Beethoven to Lee Harvey Oswald be willing to take on Winston
Oldman reflects, "I had always been fascinated by Churchill as he was truly our
greatest statesman. Yet he wasn't someone that I was looking to play. In fact,
the prospect of playing him had come my way years ago and I'd rejected the idea.
"It wasn't the psychological or the intellectual challenge that was the hurdle,
it was the physical component. I mean, you need only look at me and look at
Even so, he admits, "With who was joining up on Darkest Hour, my inclination
became to say yes.
"What I liked about Anthony's wonderful script is that it's not a 'biopic.' It
dramatizes a few crucial weeks in our history straight through, so there's no
jumping forward or back and no aging."
Darkest Hour held an even more elemental appeal for Oldman, who admits, "I
wanted to say those words; Churchill's speeches - which he wrote himself -- are
some of the greatest in the English language. He was remarkable because he didn't go in for purple prose, or overload with metaphor
or imagery. He could make use of those when needed. But he understood the people
he was speaking directly to, and made sure that what he said just went right to
the heart of the nation.
"All the while, he was experiencing adversity. His own government didn't want
him. There was infighting in the War Cabinet, and Churchill feared for the lives
of the thousands of men trapped at Dunkirk. To be under that kind of duress,
under that kind of pressure, and to craft some of the greatest use of the
English language...it was nothing short of miraculous."
Darkest Hour would put one of Oldman's tenets to the test. He notes, "It all
starts with the voice. I had to convince myself that I could sound like
Churchill. So I got one of his speeches and a phone recorder and started to
"Then I dug into written materials outside of the screenplay to learn about the
man who took on a tyrant. I wanted to get at the psychological and the
intellectual. I wanted to build him brick by brick."
Urbanski notes, "The script only spans specific weeks, yet Gary still wanted to
read all about him, sponge up everything he could about Churchill."
Dr. Larry P. Arnn, a Churchill historian and biographer, recommended to Oldman
what the actor took as "essential reading. Which was a help, because there have
to be 1,000 books about him; you could spend years reading about the man!"
Urbanski comments, "Dr. Arnn and our historical advisor, Phil Reed, would review
everything we submitted to them for accuracy. They would also visit the set
whenever we asked."
Oldman reports, "I kept at it vocally, and looked at a wealth of documentary
footage that revealed a 65-year-old man with so much energy and drive."
Churchill's esteemed career and achievements, including his heroics during the
Boer War, are well-documented. But Oldman still found himself in awe as he
tallied the man's accomplishments. He enumerates, "Over 50 years in government.
50 books written - he would later get the Nobel Prize
for Literature. Decorated in four wars. 500 paintings, with 16 exhibitions at
the Royal Academy."
"Had it not been for him, what would our world be like? There's no one to touch
him. There's still no one like him."
Oldman felt that he had a handle on the man, yet the physical aspect still was
giving him pause. He felt he could not do the role until he could "not only hear
the man but feel him physically, the way he moves through space...and, I had to be
able to look in the mirror and see him, or at least the spirit of him, looking
back at me.
"I felt that Kazuhiro Tsuji was the person - the only person - who could help me
get there. In what Kazu does, he's like Picasso."
Acknowledged within the film industry as being in a class of his own when it
comes to prosthetics, Tsuji had twice been nominated for Academy Award during
his quarter-century as a special effects make-up artist. But he had retired from
the film industry back in 2012 to devote himself to contemporary hyperrealist
Oldman approached Tsuji personally. The artist remembers, "Gary told me, 'I will
be in this film only if you will do it.' I debated it, but I could not say no to
Gary. Unlike many, he understands and appreciates the make-up and prosthetics
It was with no small amount of relief that the filmmaking team learned that
Oldman had convinced Tsuji to participate and that he would take on the iconic
role -- "jumping out of the airplane," as OIdman says.
Tsuji quickly assessed action items for his planning. He admits, "It was
daunting, the idea of creating a likeness that everyone their own image of
already. The hardest part was that their proportions and their head sizes are
totally different. Gary has an oval head shape while Churchill had a more
compressed, round face. Gary's eyes are close to each other, while Churchill's
are totally opposite. I had to address these restrictions.
"But with the art of make-up, when you have an actor putting the soul into it,
he can become the person that we intended to create."
The work on the prosthetics, make-up, and hair required creativity. Early on,
everyone realized they needed to find "something that was a hybrid, like a
cross-pollination," says Oldman. "It needed to be both Churchill and Gary; the
face had to be something that I could work through and with."
It took six months of development and testing for them to achieve the right
balance: fitting, sculpting, applying, adjusting, adding and taking away. The
labor-intensive process evolved while McCarten continued revising the script and
Wright continued his own research and convening key crew members.
Tsuji took casts of Oldman - life casts, full body casts, and head casts - "and
we did five make-up tests until we found the design that would work. As a
director, one has to have keen eyes, but Joe Wright has really keen eyes and he
helped guide us."
Marveling at the process was make-up and hair designer Ivana Primorac; the
six-time BAFTA Award nominee is one of Wright's favored collaborators, and had
been recruited by the director early on for Darkest Hour to, as she says,
"design everyone else's look.
"Churchill's silhouette is so particular - the world knows it -that no actor can
be playing him without having that. Gary needed the silhouette to embody
Churchill's physicality in speech and movement. Little by little, the
transformation started to happen - and at every stage, it was fantastic. What
Kazu accomplished with Gary is incredible; I had never seen anything like it."
The life casts had yielded a negative mould which was then used to make a
"positive" mould. With real-life photographs and videos of Churchill close at
hand, Tsuji then sculpted Winston's features in clay on top of the positive
mould. Next, he "made a mould of the likeness and cast silicon rubber in that
mould and applied it onto Gary's face. We also make a wig and hairpieces to
render the hairstyle. That's how we designed Gary as Winston." Since this
prosthetic make-up was made from silicone, a pliable substance that had special
fluids added to make it softer, the result was a lifelike and skin-like texture
that, when applied to Oldman's face, would respond to his
facial movements so that he could be completely expressive through the make-up.
Certain areas were kept free of prosthetic skin, most notably Oldman's forehead
and lips; testing had revealed that prosthetics for both would make it difficult
to read facial expressions and impede the performance. To synch up with Oldman's
facial expressions, the prosthetics could not be even a millimeter out of place.
Tsuji also had constructed for Oldman "a foam body suit, which you might call a
'fat suit' except that it's light. This helped not only the body shape but also
By the time production began in the fall of 2016, the full daily application was
down to an exact science - one that took up to three-and-one-half hours daily,
which helped extend Oldman's workdays to 18-20 hours in total. "I would be in
the studio at 3 A.M. for the prosthetics and make-up," he remembers. "The
costuming would take another half-hour, up to when the crew arrived at 7."
It all would have taken even longer had Oldman not taken the proactive step of
having his head completely shaved so no hair would need to be "masked."
He remarks, "I had David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick working with me every day,
painting and applying everything per Kazu's instructions. What an incredible
The duo would use the natural markers of Oldman's face to guide them - neck,
eyes and mouth - as each line was mirrored on the inside of the prosthetic mask
from the original cast; Oldman's face became the map for the application of
"The headpiece was so soft," Malinowski reports. "It was like holding a pair of
tights with baked beans in it, this floppy thing you're trying to put onto the
face. If it wasn't in the right place it would buckle and crease.
Oldman placed great faith in the daily applications, because once they were
complete he could fully concentrate on his performance. To that end, Primorac
and her unit kept all make-up checks to a minimum; they were
also sensitive to how their lead actor was carrying about half his own body
weight in prosthetics and padding.
Removing the prosthetics took as much as two hours daily; it could never once be
torn off with a movie-style flourish because that would have damaged Oldman's
Wright remarks, "While we were shooting, it was all real to me. I would
completely forget that Gary was wearing any prosthetic make-up at all."
The prosthetic skin often had to be touched up by Malinowski, as the ruddy
redness of Winston's face was a delicate latticework of thread-thin veins. The
painting process would start with the prosthetic skin as a canvas with a base
color of silicone, from which different skin tones, working with the sculpted
contours of the face, would be enhanced or played down. Each and every mole on
Winston's face would be delicately painted on. Once the skin tones and moles had
been added, Malinowski would take the finest of paint brushes to paint hundreds
of delicate red-purple lines to approximate the veins.
Customized efforts had to readily reflect the time of day or night as well as
the physical state of Winston as dictated by a given scene - down to shaving
Malinowski notes. "We tried to create a character who looked like the real
thing. We didn't want people to look at the screen and see the make-up. With
digital lensing, the camera can see more, so when you're putting on detail you
have to ensure it's as close to life as possible."
The 54-day shoot necessitated at least that number of complete prosthetic sets.
That it would be every day without letup for Oldman and the make-up, hair and,
prosthetics team would have daunted everyone but for the commitment and patience
they all shared.
Tsuji flew across the Atlantic to visit the set several times. He would find
himself "not so much looking at Gary as listening to how he put the voice of
Winston into his portrayal. What's great has been to see the likeness and then
hear the voice come out."
Urbanski marvels, "Gary towers as Winston. Although they are completely
different historical figures, his portrayal put me in mind of George C. Scott in
Patton . Your jaw drops when you take in the performance.
"Gary's gifts of concentration were such that he would be on the set every day
with more energy than anyone; he should have had the least, but instead he was
carrying other people along."
"Ultimately," concludes Oldman, "This was the hardest job I've ever been on as
"Yet it was the most freeing. I couldn't wait to get to work and be Winston. I'd
come in every day and think, 'I am so fortunate to be doing this.'"
Speak and Dress the Part
The speeches in Darkest Hour that Winston Churchill made in May and June 1940
are ones have never lost their power or iconic status, nor their ability to
inspire. One of the most influential orators of the 20th century, his speeches
that mobilized a nation continue to have quotes lifted, regurgitated, and
adapted. His words transcend time and place - and now, cyberspace; visit any
quotations site on the internet and Winston's words will be prominent.
Joe Wright states, "With Darkest Hour, we are depicting exceptional speeches and
the exceptional circumstances that shaped their writing.
"What's not always recalled by people is that Winston started out as a
journalist. Writing was his first great talent, one that would serve him well."
Anthony McCarten adds, "He was a writer before he was anything else, and his
words formed an enduring legacy."
While Gary Oldman's months of preparations for the role had started with the
voice, colleagues were nonetheless startled when the actor arrived on location
speaking in Churchill tones well-honed in everything from accent to dialect.
Oldman had noticed something that had eluded many a trained ear. The actor
reports, "In listening to speeches he gave - not just the ones we show in the
movie - I discovered that Winston had a lisp. He also had a nasality to his
speaking, an adenoidal sort of voice. I had to decide when to play those up and
when not to."
Wright knew of the track that Oldman had been on, but kept it private as part of
the trust between director and actor. Oldman had sent Wright some of the early
recordings to gauge. Wright remembers, "I was in the UK and Gary was in L.A. He
would record himself delivering one of the speeches, in his hallway so that he
would get the right kind of acoustics and echo, and he would mail them to me. I
felt I was listening to Churchill.
"Yet it wasn't an impersonation. Gary got at what informed the way Winston
Also vital to Oldman in crafting his portrayal was "the costume detail. It's
such a personal thing because it's what the actor touches."
While Oldman was working from within through the prosthetics and the voice,
costuming for him would be by nature externalized; here, too, continuity and
attention to aesthetic detail remained front-of-mind for the filmmaking team.
Academy Award winner Jacqueline Durran, a veteran of Wright's films, would be
costuming Oldman for the first time since Working Title's Tinker, Tailor,
Soldier, Spy , and with a very different physicality.
"I trust her implicitly and she is a delight to work with," says Oldman. Wright
adds, "Jacqueline, bless her, approached Darkest Hour with the same passion and
enthusiasm that she did our other movies together - even though this meant a lot
of men in dark suits!"
In fact, Durran devoted extra time to working with Oldman, Wright, and Kazuhiro
Tsuji on Darkest Hour, spanning six months even before filming began.
Durran remarks, "When it came to dressing Winston Churchill, the key was to look
closely at what he wore and try to replicate that, accurately.
"What I was keen to do was to give Gary the tools to be the Winston that he
wanted to be, and to get the imagery Joe needed."
Oldman reminds, "There were those very specific things: the cigar, the watch,
the ring, the spectacles, and the hats - he was a hat man."
Churchill's hats were made and supplied exclusively by Lock & Co. Hatters, the
world's oldest hat shop. Founded in 1676, their chapeaux have adorned everyone
from Lord Nelson to David Beckham. The production went straight to the source.
"It was like visiting history," says Oldman. Durran notes, "Gary worked the hats
into his characterization. He has a Homburg, he has a Cambridge, he has a top
hat. There were also a naval cap and a fez, but we ended up not utilizing
For suits, the production sought out Churchill's original tailor. Founded in
1806, Henry Poole & Co. Tailors of Savile Row "made his clothes. Wearing these
felt more tactile for me in portraying him," notes Oldman.
Continuing to outfit Oldman with what Churchill sported, the cigars were Cohiba
Siglos and the pocket watch was made by Montres Breguet. The shoes came last,
and proved to be the only exception to the rule; they had to be custom-made, as
Churchill's original supplier was no longer in existence.
Oldman muses, "It was like a fighter getting ready with the wrapping of the
hands, the rituals of getting ready for the battle. Once the face was on and the
suit and the clothes, it was all there. It was Winnie."
Looking and sounding the part can take an actor only so far. The litmus test
comes in performance.
On the set, Lisa Bruce found she "had chills. At every moment, I felt like I was
standing with the real man. What Gary brings to the portrayal - through what he
does with his eyes, his posture, his movements - creates Winston in a profound
"The incredible make-up and prosthetics bring you to the front door. But it's
Gary Oldman who walks you inside to Winston Churchill."
Wright found that communication with his star took on surprising dimensions. The
director states, "On Darkest Hour, Gary was my partner. Because he is a director
himself - Nil by Mouth is an extraordinary piece of work - I have been able to
talk with him about the mechanics of filmmaking in a way that one can't usually
"Coming into this, I did consider that he might just do his thing himself and
I'd get on with everything else. But Gary is a great collaborator. He wants to
have discussions, and he wants to take direction. So our making Darkest Hour
together became truly exciting."
Oldman adds, "There have been movies I've worked on where I hadn't even met or
spoken to the director until I walked onto the set. So it was lovely to be
working with Joe, who was so thorough - from working on the script aloud early
on to the atmosphere that he creates once on the set. Joe had a vision for
The Women Behind the Man
As the saying goes, behind every great man is an even greater woman. The most
important woman in Winston Churchill's life during those four intense weeks in
the spring of 1940 was his wife of 31 years - and counting - Clementine, known
as Clemmie. Marrying her was, he said, his most brilliant achievement.
His confidante, his conscience, and his critic, Clemmie was the one person
Winston trusted above all others. Joe Wright reveals, "Clemmie was very much
Churchill's partner in policy as well as in domestic life. She was more liberal
than Churchill and as such often argued for the liberal cause. Sometimes he
listened to her, not always. But she was integral to his decision-making
To portray Clemmie, the role called for someone who could convey class and
distinction, intelligence and sharp wit. "Who better than Dame Kristin Scott
Thomas?" says Eric Fellner.
Wright agreed that the Academy Award nominee would be a perfect match for Gary
Oldman on-screen. "You listen to Kristin whenever she speaks," he remarks. "I've
always wanted to work with her, and have probably had a little bit of a crush on
her since I was a teenager."
Scott Thomas had admired Wright's
Pride & Prejudice and
Atonement , "and working with Joe was exactly how I had imagined; he will let
actors experiment, and is open to all sorts of ideas, not completely fixed on
one way or another."
She saw Clemmie as "a pillar. She and Winston completely adored each other - and
they had the most fantastic rows.
"How he managed in those weeks in May and June to instill a sense of patriotism,
bravery, and pride in Britain was extraordinary."
Like Oldman, she found the "material to do homework with quite daunting. I
received this box full of books from the production, and every single book was
so thick. But I plunged in, and doing the research was fascinating.
"I was also conscious of how people have played Clemmie before and done their
versions. I had to find my own way through, my own interpretation and vision of
Once again, it was Winston's words that led the way. Scott Thomas reports,
"Churchill says in one of his letters that he wouldn't have been able to live
through the war without Clemmie by his side. It was clear that she was very
supportive yet had very strong ideas about politics and about what should be
done in the world and how things should be run - and she would tell Winston so."
Lisa Bruce comments, "Both emotionally and intellectually, Clemmie and Churchill
were equals. Nobody else could see past the veneer of Winston in the way that
Clemmie could. Kristin was quite aware of that, and she brought that into her
scenes with Gary. It was like a dance for the two of them, and watching them
together was a joy."
Oldman states, "I believe Kristin's Clementine is definitive. It is a wonderful
characterization. I think she and I have good chemistry in Darkest Hour."
Scott Thomas offers, "I would completely forget it was Gary. We were just Winnie
Responding to what she saw as a "powerful story of our history, of everyone's
history, that we should remember and reflect on," rising star Lily James joined
the Darkest Hour troupe to portray the character of Elizabeth Layton,
Churchill's personal secretary.
James was glad to be "doing a film where I'm not playing a love interest, and
not about romance. But there is a beautiful bond that develops between Churchill
Screenwriter Anthony McCarten had taken inspiration from the real-life
Elizabeth, who published memoirs detailing her years with Churchill under her
married name Elizabeth Nel.
McCarten scripted the character to afford the audience a more intimate ringside
view of a man whose world was by necessity far removed from the everyday, and
Wright carried this motif over to filming the scenes of secretary and employer
together. "Elizabeth is like the eyes of our movie," explains Wright. "I wanted
no blockage between Lily and the audience. Her point of view on the story is an
accessible one and leads into what for me is an important aspect of this story:
Winston's disconnection with, and then restored and strengthened connection to,
the British people.
"To an extent, he lived in a fairly rarefied environment. In a time when true
leadership was essential, he had to step out of his bubble and connect with the
man and lady in the street. Only by making contact with ordinary people and
hearing their concerns could he best understand the repercussions, the effects
of the enormous decisions that he was making."
James reports, "I loved reading Elizabeth's autobiography. She knew she had a
job to do, and a fighting spirit. Her book was just so full of admiration and
you can see that she really loved Churchill, as did I think all his inner circle
of staff; he was incredibly hard and strict and wanted things how he wanted
them, but he had this spirit of generosity and this incredible wit and humor.
"I would barely see him not in full as Churchill; Gary Oldman is so bold and he
was really kind to me, as one actor to another."
She adds, "Joe Wright creates an atmosphere on-set where you can get at the
humanity of the characters rather than the heaviness of politics and history.
"It all felt very collaborative, creating the character's look with Jacqueline
Durran and Ivana Primorac; Joe trusts everyone to work together."
Indeed, as Primorac offers, "It is all linked and we could never do it without
each other's input. Joe utilizes us as a team.
"Lily is a very modern young woman, but we were able to transform her into a
more plain woman of the 1940s."
All through filming, James kept specific details in mind, particularly how
"Elizabeth had to follow him around; even in his car, she would be there with
her notepad or typing. I took a few months and learned to type professionally on
a vintage typewriter.
"Basically, Elizabeth was on duty at any hour and I had to put myself in the
mindset of being a young girl in her early twenties in such close proximity to a
genius, working on speeches and telegrams that would change the course of our
Durran gave the character more of a clothing arc than others in the film. While
Elizabeth initially wears soft pretty dresses, she later is seen more
assertively dressed in fitted suits and knit wool as she keeps pace within the
charged atmosphere of Churchill's orbit.
Lisa Bruce remarks, "Elizabeth is like this bright daisy coming up underground
among these powerful older men. She brings a whole different energy to the story
and to the relationship. With her, Churchill can let his guard down a bit;
through her, you see elements of him which you wouldn't have otherwise.
"Lily has a naturally inquisitive way about her but she also shows Elizabeth's
innocence and how she forged loyalty to Churchill. The real Elizabeth wrote
about how tough he was to work with but how inspiring he was and how it was the
greatest time in her life, and Lily conveying that enhances the story we are
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