The World War II prime minister is one of the most portrayed historical figures on Film and TV, and the latest release already looks bound for Oscars glory.
There’s been something of resurgence of portrayals in the last couple of years with Brian Cox’s Churchill covering D-Day doubts, Michael Gambon in TV film Churchill’s Secret on his covered-up stroke, and John Lithgow in The Crown showing his later years as Prime Minister.
Now comes Darkest Hour, set in the crucial period of May 1940 when Britain was on the back foot against Nazi Germany and Churchill stepped up to lead the country, fighting against calls for peace with the enemy. Iconic actor Gary Oldman stars, fat-suited up, in a role that looks set to finally win him the Best Actor Oscar in March – following last week’s Golden Globes’ victory.
But what did Churchill’s family, those who knew him personally and intimately, make of Darkest Hour and how accurate was Oldman’s performance? Speaking exclusively with Express.co.uk, Sir Winston’s grandson, Sir Nicholas, has given his verdict on the actor and the film as a whole.
The Tory grandee, who has been an MP since 1983, was 15-years-old when his grandfather died and walked behind his coffin at the 1965 state funeral.
Having many fond memories of Churchill and his wife Clementine, Sir Nicholas knows an accurate portrayal of his grandfather when he sees one.
Speaking with Express.co.uk in his Portcullis House office, complete with Churchill bust in front of his desk, the 69-year-old gave a large seal of approval for Darkest Hour.
Sir Nicholas boomed: “I thought it was excellent, and not only because of the brilliance of the acting and direction.You look at Gary Oldman, before and after – what they achieved with creating my grandfather’s persona is exceptional.
“There have been brilliant Churchill actors before, like Robert Hardy and there have been some absolute snorkers – but I think Gary Oldman has absolutely nailed it. They each have their own way of doing it, but his portrayal of my grandfather is very vivid. One of the very best.
“Y’know I wasn’t old enough [to know Churchill then]. I didn’t live through the war so I don’t know what he was like then. But certainly he and Kristen Scott Thomas who played my grandmother Clementine were brilliant. I knew her [Clemmie] very well. If you close your eyes it is my grandma.”
Sir Nicholas’ praise didn’t stop at the performances, as he went into detail of how Darkest Hour is more than just another Churchill movie.
He continued: “I loved the little side sketches that showed tremendous things about my grandfather’s humanity and the section where his brother was at Dunkirk – all that is just so beautifully done.
“Not only is it an astonishing piece of filmmaking – very pacy, wonderful to watch – but also it’s a kind of allegory for what people miss about the world. I think it’s more than just a brilliant film, because it’s got a lesson for us all, which is: ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man.’
“I think people today think we’re in a very precarious place, not sure about the direction of the country – very uncertain. But can you imagine what it must have been like, to live in London in 1940? It puts our rather sad politics into some sort of proportion.”
Other moments that stood out for Sir Nicholas were the Underground scene where Churchill asks regular people what they think the government should be doing in regards to Nazi Germany.
He added: “There’s a scene on the Underground, which is an allegory – because the idea of my grandfather on the Underground is absolutely preposterous.
“He’d never been on a bus in his life, but he certainly understood what people were thinking on the bus and Underground.
“And I love that crescendo in the House of Commons [during the Finest Hour speech], the whole thing is so well done.”
Darkest Hour is released in UK cinemas today.