Finest Hour 180, Spring 2018
Gary Oldman won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role at the 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood, California on 4 March. Oldman, who had only been nominated once before, received his first Oscar for his performance as Winston Churchill in the film Darkest Hour, directed by Joe Wright.
When first approached to play the role of the British Prime Minister, Oldman objected that he looked nothing like Churchill and was not suited to the role. After persistent persuasion from Wright, however, Oldman agreed—provided Japanese makeup wizard Kazuhiro Tsuji was part of the project. This decision led not only to an Oscar for Oldman but gold statuettes for Tsuji, David Malinowski, and Lucy Sibbick for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.
Oldman’s extensive makeup took a full six months to develop. It took four hours to apply each morning and one hour to remove. But it was time well spent. Director Joe Wright was amazed that the makeup did not require digital touchups during post-production, because the lamps used to light numerous scenes were very hot.
Just as much work went into Oldman’s internal preparation as went into his external appearance. He spent four months preparing for the role and would send Wright phone recordings of himself performing and practicing the speeches. It all paid off on Oscar night.
During his acceptance speech, Oldman said, “I would just like to salute Sir Winston Churchill, who has been marvelous company on what can be described as an incredible journey.”