Gary Oldman, known for his versatile acting style, wasn’t keen on taking on the role of Prime Minister Winston Churchill for Darkest Hour. “Initially, I said no to it only because of the obvious roadblock was the physicality,” Oldman told Pete Hammond onstage at Deadline’s annual The Contenders event. “He was such an iconic figure. … That was the challenge, to meet the physical side of it so it wasn’t on my wish list.”
For director Joe Wright, it was important to capture the iconic historical figure in a relatable light. “The idea for me was to take Churchill of that plinth where he stands in Parliament Square in London and to meet him eye to eye and to try to discover who he was and how he operated — his flaws and his triumphs — and thereby hopefully learn something about him. I find it quite difficult to learn something from an icon. It’s much easier to learn from someone I can relate to.”
The film follows the early days of Churchill’s prime ministership as he attempted to fight off Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
“Churchill had made a lot of mistakes in his career,” Wright continues, “but one of his guiding characteristics was this willpower. … That willpower was the same attribute that led to his extraordinary resistance of Hiter. The idea that our attributes are our flaws, I found very interesting.”
Along with Darkest Hour, Focus Features brought its Stephen Frears-directed period piece Victoria & Adbul, which stars Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Ali Fazal as her Indian attendant Abdul Karim in a comedic drama that depicts the unlikely friendship that blossoms between the two, despite their differences in age and status. Speaking with Dominic Patten, Fazal, who was cast out of India, recalled the simple cultivation of a relationship with Dench. “We are at opposite ends of the spectrum,” he said. “It was my first time in London. We spent so much time together. We were like a theater group living in the hotel/ It was this wonderful relationship brewing, which I thought was quite apparent.”
Also on hand today for Focus Features was costume designer Mark Bridges, who talked about the director inspirations for Phantom Thread, starring Daniel Day-Lewis in what the actor has said is his final role. “It was an amalgam of so many people like Charles James,” he said. “It came down to what kind of designer is Reynolds Woodcock, Daniel’s character. … We settled on the fact that Reynolds Woodcock wasn’t quite a game-changer. He was part of the movement of couture in London in the late-’40s and mid-’50s. it’s not based on one person but the flavor of the time.” Talking about his process, Bridges said: “What I feel like my job is is to illustrate that character’s movement. … I try to visually give you that story that reflects whats going on. … It’s a world of dressmaking and couture.
Anthony D’Alessandro contributed to this report.