Director Joe Wright dropped by our studio to talk about his latest achievement Darkest Hour and his process of making films in my new video series Behind the Lens, which examines the art of the director.
Wright’s career which began with a bang with back-to-back critical and box office successes with 2005’s Pride & Prejudice and 2007’s Atonement, both garnering numerous Oscar nominations. He also scored to varying degrees with the disparate likes of The Soloist, Hanna and Anna Karenina before the box office disappointment Pan two years ago. But he has come roaring back in style with his story of Winston Churchill, set in the period of 1940 when England and the world was being challenged by Hitler, and particularly the rescue operation of 400,000 mostly British soldiers from Dunkirk.
Darkest Hour has been described as the flip side of Christopher Nolan’s current hit Dunkirk and, asked about it in our conversation, Wright calls it “too coincidental to be a coincidence,” but that is pretty much what it is. He says after he finished his movie he saw Nolan’s pic and was “blown away by it.” Ironically, he had previously tackled the Dunkirk rescue in a brilliant five-minute tracking shot set on the beaches there for Atonement. Wright says Darkest Hour, from the POV of Churchill and the parliament rather than the men on the beach, is partially about resistance.
We also talk about making Churchill human and not just the statue, shaping the script with writer Anthony McCarten, the brilliance of star Gary Oldman’s performance, plus how Wright gets upset when some people call his films “painterly” believing instead he makes them cinematic and emotional. He says he is most excited now about the trajectory of his career, moving into a new phase of creativity, and keeping his future works “simple” with attention paid first to the story, second to the actors, and third to the direction.
Check out our conversation above.