'I worried if I was up for it': Gary Oldman on playing Churchill

Movie awards season begins on Monday with the Golden Globes, and Gary Oldman's portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour is the hot favourite for Best Actor.

Oldman doesn't look much like the rotund British wartime leader, so he had to spend hundreds of hours in makeup and a year studying old archive pictures of Mr Churchill.

The result is so close it has won the actor some of the best reviews of his highly successful career.

Mr Churchill has been immortalised in countless films, books and TV shows, so putting a new spin on the statesman was a challenge.

"It was challenging in as much as it required a great deal of energy and stamina to pull it off, to get through it," Oldman says. 

"I worried if I was up for it."

It looks as though Oldman wasn't just "up for it" - it's been lauded as the performance of his career.

"It was like Gary left the building, and I'd hear his voice in between takes coming out of Churchill's body," says co-star Lily James, who plays Mr Churchill's secretary, Elizabeth Layton. 

"It was surreal. But he never acts; he just is."

One of Mr Churchill's defining features was his fondness for cigars, a bad habit Oldman adapted in order to fully immerse himself in the role.

"I did have to smoke cigars, and got a little bit of nicotine poisoning, but it was worth it."

Darkest Hour is set in a specific short period early in World War II, when Mr Churchill was the newly minted Prime Minister facing the prospect of negotiating with Adolf Hitler.

Kiwi screenwriter Anthony McCarten brought the story to life with a script Oldman says was "terrific".

Director Joe Wright says McCarten was inspired by several stirring speeches delivered by Mr Churchill in 1940, such as his famous "we shall fight on the beaches" address to the House of Commons.

"[He] realised that three of the greatest speeches in political history had been written in a period of four weeks, and he wanted to know why they'd been written and how they'd been written. That was the beginning. That was the genesis of the project"

A film buzzing with talk of Golden Globe and Oscar wins, Darkest Hour certainly has bright prospects.


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