Brian Cox reveals 'deep suspicion' of Winston Churchill

Churchill, a film depicting Winston Churchill's life in the hours leading up to D-Day, has been released in New Zealand cinemas on Thursday.

Regarded as one of the greatest orators of our time, it's no wonder getting to play Churchill is an actor's dream.

"Somebody like Churchill - it's like being presented with a wonderful canvas," lead actor Brian Cox told Newshub.

And perfecting his character is an art - there were many shades to Churchill beyond the brave and bold speeches.

"It was a construct. It was something he created. There was the other guy, the private Churchill. The Churchill who did drink a lot, suffer from acute depression," Cox said.

Haunted by his decision to send thousands of men to die in Gallipoli as army commander in World War I, the film explores his inner battles as Prime Minister in the lead up to D-Day.

And Cox has a personal connection.

"He was the MP in my home town, and he changed parties and they kicked him out, and they didn't like him," Cox said.

"I mean, I was raised with deep suspicion of Winston Churchill."

Cox was raised by sisters after his father died when he was young and his mother suffered from health problems.

He says he identifies with Churchill's sense of loneliness.

"The thing that really links me to him is the child was very much in Churchill. I've said it before and I'll say it again: all babies look like Churchill, and Churchill looks like all babies," he said.

"And there's a reason for that - there is this sort of baby mentality - he's like a brilliant infant."

Reminding him of one brilliant infant in particular - Family Guy's Stewie Griffin.

"He can be evil, he can be nasty, he can do all these things - his fantasy life can be quite astonishing. I just thought that's Winston Churchill."

An inspirational leader and a colourful character, and for an actor, "it's a gift".