Winston Churchill is on a role, or, more correctly perhaps, he is THE role. Although he still has a long way to go to catch up with Abraham Lincoln, Churchill has become a continuously popular figure from history to depict in film drama. In 2016 The Crown scored a huge hit for Netflix, with American actor John Lithgow playing Churchill at the end of his active political career. This year Brian Cox and Gary Oldman will both be seen in theatrical releases depicting the wartime prime minister.
First up will be Scottish actor Brian Cox in Churchill. The film is currently scheduled for a summer release and depicts events leading up to the D-Day landings in June 1944. Miranda Richardson plays Clementine Churchill, and John Slattery plays Gen. Eisenhower. While filming took place late last spring, Cox was precisely the same age Churchill was during the time period depicted, sixty-nine.
At 58, Gary Oldman is still seven years shy of the age Churchill was when he became Prime Minister in 1940, but makeup and talent have landed him the starring role in a film due out in UK cinemas on 29 December. Kristen Scott Thomas will play Clementie with John Hurt appearing as Neville Chamberlain. Darkest Hour dramatizes Churchill’s first weeks in 10 Downing Street. Here is the official synopsis for the film:
Within days of becoming Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill must face one of his most turbulent and defining trials: exploring a negotiated peace treaty with Nazi Germany, or standing firm to fight for the ideals, liberty and freedom of a nation. As the unstoppable Nazi forces roll across Western Europe and the threat of invasion is imminent, and with an unprepared public, a skeptical King, and his own party plotting against him, Churchill must withstand his darkest hour, rally a nation, and attempt to change the course of world history.
The part of Churchill is no stranger to great talent. Richard Burton, Albert Finney, Sir Michael Gambon, and Brendan Gleeson have all played the “Last Lion” to great acclaim, but no actor has undertaken the part on screen and stage as many times as the International Churchill Society’s honorary member Robert Hardy. Hardy “played” Churchill yet again as recently as the 2015 International Conference at Blenheim Palace when he read extracts of letters from Winston to Clementine in a double act with the Churchill’s granddaughter Celia Sandys, who read extracts of letters from Clementine to Winston.
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