Gary Oldman spent a year studying Sir Winston Churchill and his mannerisms before starting on this movie.
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In a sad coincidence, Sir John Hurt was ill with cancer when he was set to portray Neville Chamberlain, Britain's ousted Prime Minister, who was dying of cancer in 1940. However, in an interview, Gary Oldman said that because Hurt was so ill, he never made it to a reading and never got to film a scene. The movie was still dedicated to Hurt, as it would have been his final cinematic project.
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Sir Winston Churchill often disappeared from Downing Street or the Cabinet War Rooms and appeared somewhere in London, where he would talk to the public and find out what they were thinking. However, there is no record of him ever doing this on an underground train.
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Sir Winston Churchill's "We will fight on the beaches" speech in 1940 was not recorded, as the House of Commons was not fitted with recording equipment then. Churchill recorded all of his major wartime speeches at his house four years after the war.
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Gary Oldman revealed on The Graham Norton Show (2007) that he smoked thirty thousand pounds sterling worth of cigars on-set (about twelve cigars a day) while in character as Churchill, developed nicotine poisoning, and had a colonoscopy during the Christmas filming break.
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The producers had tried to locate a genuine pre-World War II Tube train to film the Underground scene. However, none could be obtained. Instead, a 1959 Tube Stock carriage, which was very similar in style to 1938 stock, was hired from the Mangapps Railway Museum and cosmetically restored to resemble a wartime train.
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Near the end of this movie, Viscount Halifax is depicted as saying that Sir Winston Churchill "mobilized the English language and sent it into battle." Although having Halifax utter the phrase can be excused on grounds of "dramatic license", the quote actually originated with American news reporter Edward R. Murrow, who used it in 1954. It was used again by former President John F. Kennedy in 1963, on the occasion of Churchill being given honorary U.S. citizenship.
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The movie's end titles neglected to mention that while Sir Winston Churchill lost the 1945 election, he later won the 1951 General Election (after having also lost the 1950 General Election). The Labour Party won the popular vote in 1951, although the collapse of the Liberals enabled the Conservative Party to win the most seats. In 1951, Labour won the most votes that the party has ever won and won the most votes of any political party in any election in British political history, a record not surpassed until the Conservative Party's victory in 1992 (by which time there was a much larger population and far more people had been allowed to vote since the voting age had been reduced from twenty-one years to eighteen years in 1969).
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During his "Best Performance by an Actor" acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards ceremonies, Gary Oldman thanked his wife Gisele for putting up with his "crazy for over a year", further adding that she would tell her friends, "I go to bed with (Sir) Winston Churchill, but I wake up with Gary Oldman."
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In the scene in the London Underground carriage, the verse which Sir Winston Churchill quotes to the girl was taken from Thomas Macauley's "Lays of Ancient Rome": "Then out spake Horatius, The Captain of the Gate: To every man upon this Earth death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his gods."
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According to Gary Oldman, twenty-six members of Sir Winston Churchill's family attended the London premiere of this movie, seventeen of whom had earlier visited the set.
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Although he studied Sir Winston Churchill closely to get his performance right, Gary Oldman told the BBC in an interview that he felt playing Churchill had to be more of a creation than an impersonation. He also tried not to be influenced by previous acclaimed screen versions of him, citing in particular those by Albert Finney and Robert Hardy.
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The British historical characters were almost without exception played by British actors. However, Australian Ben Mendelsohn was cast, in addition to his several acclaimed prior roles, because he has a close physical resemblance to the real King George VI, more so than Colin Firth and Jared Harris, two actors who had recently played him, and he is capable of a seamless British accent.
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This movie movie takes place over one month starting in May 1940, the first days of Sir Winston Churchill's wartime tenure as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
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This is Benjamin Whitrow's final screen credit. He died on September 28, 2017, before this movie's general release.
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This movie exaggerates the Labour Party's role in Sir Winston Churchill becoming Prime Minister. Clement Attlee was prepared to serve in a coalition government led by Viscount Halifax in 1940, and even said that Halifax would make a better leader than Churchill. This movie has also been accused by critics, including American writer Adam Gopnik and Adrian Smith, emeritus professor of modern history at the University of Southampton, of downplaying the importance of Attlee in the war cabinet. They pointed out that Attlee and his Labour colleagues were completely opposed to any peace deal with Adolf Hitler in 1940 and their support for Winston Churchill's position on this was vital against Viscount Halifax.
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This movie deals with the political background around the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk in mid 1940. This operation was also the subject of Dunkirk (2017). Both movies were Best Picture nominees for the Academy Awards.
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Set during a sweltering hot spring in 1940 England, this movie was shot during the winter. For that reason, exterior shots were kept to a minimum and the interior scenes emphasize simulated sunlight through the windows to suggest the oppressive heat.
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In his final interview before his death on August 3, 2017, which was published by the Daily Mail on-line, Robert Hardy, who earned widespread acclaim and a BAFTA nomination for his performance in Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981), predicted that Oldman's portrayal would be one of the finest. He was quoted: "From everything I've seen and heard, Oldman's portrayal of Churchill is far more convincing than some other recent portrayals. He certainly looks the part, he's undergone a remarkable transformation. But it's not just his appearance - he's managed to catch the essence of the man." Hardy said it was dangerous for an actor to simply rely on Churchill's famous props such as his cigar: "It's important to get the little details right. It's not just the look, but stance, style and speech, too."
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Sir Winston Churchill jokingly says that Edward Halifax is the fourth son of an Earl, and that fourth sons do not turn anything down. In fact, Halifax's father was merely a Viscount. It was Edward Halifax who later became the first Earl of Halifax, and his three older brothers had all died by the time Halifax was nine-years-old, thereby making him his father's heir from an early stage.
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The scene where Sir Winston Churchill travels on a London underground train and consults ordinary members of the public on whether to negotiate peace with Adolf Hitler was entirely fictional. It was added as the producers felt that this movie was (by obvious historical necessity) dominated by white, middle-class male characters and lacked the wider diversity felt needed for a modern audience, and also to suggest that Churchill was sometimes beset by doubts and uncertainty over his decisions. Many historians have criticized this interpretation, saying the historical evidence shows Churchill was always resolute in his opposition to making peace with Nazi Germany. However, Andrew Roberts has written that Churchill did consider ending the war on May 26, 1940. After Halifax suggested using the still-neutral Benito Mussolini to broker a negotiated end to the war, Churchill replied, "I would be grateful to get out of our present difficulties on such terms, provided we retained the essentials and the elements of our vital strength, even at the cost of some territory." He said that "if we could get out of this jam by giving up Malta and Gibraltar and some African colonies he would jump at it. But the only safe way was to convince Hitler that he couldn't beat us."
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Ivana Primorac and her team won the BAFTA for Best Make-up on Gary Oldman as Sir Winston Churchill in this movie. Coincidentally, she had earlier overseen John Lithgow's spectacular facial transformation for his role as Churchill in the acclaimed television series The Crown (2016).
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This was the second British movie about Sir Winston Churchill in 2017, with the first being Churchill (2017) starring Brian Cox. However, this movie completely overshadowed the other movie in terms of box-office success, critical acclaim, and awards nominations.
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During the scene when Sir Winston Churchill is talking on the phone with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Roosevelt tells him that the United States cannot deliver planes that the United Kingdom has already paid for because of the arms embargo due to the Neutrality Act. Instead, he suggests that the planes be flown to just a mile south of the Canadian border and pulled by horse into Canada for "legal" delivery. One of the main themes of A Yank in the R.A.F. (1941) is a flier who "gets into trouble by flying a new fighter directly to Canada instead of to New York and letting it be towed across as the law demands."
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Extensive make-up was used to transform Gary Oldman into Sir Winston Churchill, but to call this "aging" make-up would not be entirely accurate. In May 1940, Churchill was sixty-five years and six months old. Oldman turned fifty-nine during filming.
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Gary Oldman is the sixth actor from the "Harry Potter" film franchise to portray Sir Winston Churchill after Sir Michael Gambon (Albus Dumbledore) in Churchill's Secret (2016), Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew) in The King's Speech (2010), Brendan Gleeson (Mad Eye Moody) in Into the Storm (2009), David Ryall (Elphias Doge) in Bertie and Elizabeth (2002), Two Men Went to War (2002) and De Gaulle (2006), and Robert Hardy (Cornelius Fudge) several times, beginning with Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981) and including War and Remembrance (1988) and Bomber Harris (1989).
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This was the third movie theatrically released in 2017 that dealt with "Operation Dynamo", the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, France, between May and June 1940. The first was Their Finest (2016) and the second was Dunkirk (2017). Oddly enough, while Their Finest (2017), Dunkirk (2017), and this movie were released theatrically in that order, the events depicted in Their Finest (2017) took place after the events depicted in this movie, and some of the events depicted in this movie took place before Dunkirk (2017). The three movies could also be said to each show a different aspect of the operation. Their Finest (2017) was an insight into the cultural, social, and political impact of the evacuation on Britain and the war effort. Dunkirk (2017) portrayed the evacuation from the eyes of a British soldier, pilot, and civilian sailor involved in the operation, while, lastly, this movie showed Sir Winston Churchill's role during the evacuation and the "behind-the-scenes" political maneuvering surrounding the early period of the war.
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In the scene on the Tube (London Underground) where Sir Winston Churchill meets several everyday Londoners, one man introduces himself as a bricklayer. Famously, Churchill was an amateur bricklayer.
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The train scene, in which Sir Winston Churchill meets a black man and his white girlfriend and approves of their wish to get married, was criticized by many as fanciful. Churchill was a self-described white supremacist who defended European settlers stealing North America from the native Indians. In December 1954, he told a visitor to 10 Downing Street that he did not regard black people as equal to white people. He suggested using "Keep England White" as a campaign slogan for the 1955 General Election.
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Adrian Smith, emeritus professor of modern history at the University of Southampton, described this movie as "deeply flawed" in terms of its historical accuracy. BBC movie critic Mark Kermode also gave it a negative review for The Film Review (2007), while acknowledging that it had "a very good cast" and Oldman's performance was worthy of an award and likely to win the Oscar for Best Actor.
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In an interview to promote this movie, Gary Oldman said that he considered Sir Winston Churchill to be "arguably the greatest Briton who ever lived". Like Churchill, the right-wing political leader he portrayed in this movie, Oldman is known to have right-wing sympathies, having revealed in an interview in 2014 that he was a libertarian, hated political correctness, and believed Hollywood to have a liberal political bias by denying conservatives a podium. Amongst his controversial statements, he claimed that people were considered to be racist if they didn't vote for the anti-slavery movie 12 Years a Slave (2013) at the Oscars. He was also forced to apologize after defending anti-Semitic comments by Mel Gibson.
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Although Lord Halifax has been described as an "appeaser", he was, in fact, instrumental in getting the U.K. to form a military pact with Poland in 1939.
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Although Sir Winston Churchill has traditionally been celebrated as a British icon and a national hero, he is also a highly controversial figure and this movie's release led to many people posting articles on social media feeling that it offered a fictional and romanticized version of him. They pointed out issues such as Churchill's support for the usage of tear gas and poison gas, his use of chemical weapons on villages in Russia, his support for eugenics such as the forced sterilization of the mentally ill, his role in the sinking of R.M.S. Lusitania and the Bengal Famine of 1943 to 1945. For example, popular left-wing actor and Labour supporter Ian Reddington even re-tweeted an article which described Churchill as "a vile racist, fanatical about violence, and fiercely supportive of imperialism", while historian Louise Raw wrote an article for The Independent urging people not to forget "his problematic past." Other areas of contention people have against Churchill include his opposition to votes for women before World War I (he was famously quoted "the women's suffrage movement is only the small edge of the wedge, if we allow women to vote, it will mean the loss of social structure and the rise of every liberal cause under the sun. Women are well represented by their fathers, brothers, and husbands"), sending the Black and Tans to Ireland, the suppression of the Mau Mau Uprising, his support for concentration camps in colonial Africa, his support for forced labor camps for the mentally ill, and his 1950s government's stepping-up of prosecutions against gay men, which of course included Alan Turing, who was famously celebrated in the movie The Imitation Game (2014) and posthumously pardoned. After Oldman said at the Academy Awards "I would just like to salute Sir Winston Churchill", Shree Paradkar wrote for the Toronto Star on-line that the actor "might as well have danced on three million dead bodies" and questioned when there would be "a film on Winston Churchill, the barbaric monster with the blood of millions on his hands."
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This was a passion project for Screenwriter and Producer Anthony McCarten.
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Ronald Pickup (Neville Chamberlain) previously played Sir Winston Churchill's father, Lord Randolph Churchill, in Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill (1974).
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Gary Oldman"s performance as Sir Winston Churchill in this movie was the twenty-second time the Best Actor Academy Award has been won for playing a real-life character. In his review of this movie, critic Brian Tallerico even suggested that this movie was made purely to get Oldman, one of Britain's most acclaimed actors for thirty years, a long overdue Oscar.
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Director Joe Wright, who is British, but has a deep affection for the United States and spends a lot of his time there, suggested that this movie is directly relevant to the country's political turmoil under the leadership of maverick business billionaire Donald Trump and the concern this was causing for the rest of the world. He said, "There's a big question in America at the moment: what does good leadership look like? Churchill resisted when it mattered most, and as I travel around America I am really impressed and optimistic at the level of resistance happening in the U.S. at the moment. After George W. Bush was elected, it wasn't the same level. There was more apathy then. Now people are very vocal and that's really positive."
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Gary Oldman's work in this movie earned him the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama, the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role. At the 71st British Academy Film Awards, this movie received nine nominations, including Best Film and Best British Film, Best Actor in a Leading Role (for Oldman), and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (for Dame Kristin Scott Thomas).
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In an article for The Guardian in 2018, writer, broadcaster, barrister, and human rights development worker Afua Hirsch described this movie as "propaganda" for Sir Winston Churchill and "a great example of the kind of myth we like to promote in modern Britain", as it had "re-branded" Churchill as a "tube-travelling, minority-adoring genius, in line with a general understanding of him as 'the greatest Briton of all time'". In another article, she criticized this movie for "perpetuating the idea that Winston Churchill stood alone, at the Darkest Hour, as Nazi fascism encroached, with Britain a small and vulnerable nation isolated in the north Atlantic. In reality, the United Kingdom was at that moment an imperial power with the collective might of Indian, African, Canadian, and Australian manpower, resources and wealth at its disposal."
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This movie had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on September 1, 2017, and also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.
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This movie is the third portrayal of a British Prime Minister to earn the lead actor or actress an Academy Award, following George Arliss' win for Disraeli (1929) and Meryl Streep's win for her role as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011).
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At one point in this movie, Sir Winston Churchill goes rampaging about the house looking for a book, asking, "Where's Cicero?", who was the great orator of ancient Rome. Soon afterwards, he calls for Admiral Ramsay (David Bamber). Bamber played Cicero on Rome (2005).
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The role of Sir Winston Churchill was played earlier that year by Brian Cox, making Gary Oldman the second actor to win an Oscar for taking over a role from Cox. Cox had previously played Hannibal Lecter/Lecktor in Manhunter (1986), a role for which Sir Anthony Hopkins won the Oscar in The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Hopkins and Oldman appeared in Hannibal (2001).
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This movie was the only Best Picture Oscar nominee of the year to also be nominated for Best Make-up and Hairstyling.
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Objecting to the way in which Sir Winston Churchill was portrayed in this movie, a group of anti-racist protesters demonstrated at the Churchill-themed "Blighty Café" in London in late January 2018. Ironically, this protest and the media coverage led to the previously obscure café becoming far more popular.
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It is unknown what Adolf Hitler's peace terms would have been in 1940. However, Sir Winston Churchill told the House of Commons they would involve "surrendering to Germany" and handing over the Royal Navy. Churchill deliberately prevented the House of Commons from debating Hitler's peace offers in May 1940, and ignored a further offer to end the war on July 19, 1940.
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Ben Mendelsohn is an Australian actor who played King George VI. In The King's Speech (2010), George's older brother, who was Edward VIII before his abdication, was played by Guy Pearce, another Australian actor. Two brothers who became head of the British Royal Family in two different movies were played by Australians.
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Goof, not a point of trivia. As Sir Winston Churchill crosses Downing Street to Number 10 for the first time as Prime Minister, he passes a period car clearly fitted with yellow indicator lights. Indicator lights were not mandatory on English cars until the first day in September 1965.
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