An admirer of great orators, looking for his next project after Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything—for which he was nominated for two Oscars—screenwriter Anthony McCarten found a natural fit in Joe Wright’s World War II drama, Darkest Hour. An unorthodox war film with no scenes taking place on the front lines, Wright’s film instead took a behind-the-scenes approach, examining the early days of Churchill’s prime ministership as he attempted to fight off Hitler.
“I’ve always loved speeches and the great art of rhetoric, and in all these books, you would invariably find at least one speech by Winston Churchill, and often two or three,” McCarten recalled, speaking with Deadline’s Mike Fleming Jr. at The Contenders London. “At some point early on, I realized that three of the greatest speeches ever delivered were by Winston Churchill, and they were written and delivered within a four-week period of each other.”
In other words, for McCarten, there was an embarrassment of riches to be explored in taking on this project. “Diving into research started to give me a sense of what incredible forces were at work that spurred him to this outpouring of magnificent rhetoric,” the scribe said. “He wrote more words in his lifetime—published words—than Dickens and Shakespeare combined.”