In Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour (in theaters November 22), Gary Oldman is unrecognizable playing a Winston Churchill who sort of bumbles his way to being the Prime Minister before leading Britain through one of its most troubling times, the battle of Dunkirk. (And, yes, you may have seen another movie this year about Dunkirk.)
Oldman is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination as he transforms himself into a leader with few friends, whose army is completely engulfed by German forces, and who’s surrounded by those demanding he broker some sort of peace with Hitler, which Churchill obviously thinks is a very bad idea.
At an Academy event at Manhattan’s Le Cirque thrown by publicist Peggy Siegal, I got a few minutes in-between glad-handers to speak to Wright about both Oldman’s astounding performance and just what he thought about that other movie about Dunkirk that came out earlier this year.
Sometimes I forgot was watching Gary Oldman. Your brain makes you think it’s really Churchill.
I think all truly great actors have the ability to project their imagination beyond themselves. So, their imagination is projected into the space, and the audience’s imagination meets it there and together they create this character together. It’s a kind of strange, magical process. And it’s really about the power of imagination, as any art form is. There are amazing techniques and there are amazing skills. There’s an extraordinary depth and well of emotion that’s he’s able to draw from and power. But, really, it’s the power of imagination that creates the performance in the mind of the audience.
I imagine you might have been worried when you first heard there would be another big movie about Dunkirk this year. But Christopher Nolan’s movie and your movie almost complement each other…
Yes! Absolutely. I was worried when I heard that it was happening. I became a little less worried when I heard there wasn’t a Churchill in the movie. But then I went and saw it once I finished the locked cut on my film – I kind of delayed seeing it because I didn’t want to be influenced by it. And I think it’s an extraordinary piece of work. I’m incredibly impressed by it. And, so, there’s space enough for everyone.
They each fill in some gaps…
No, you’re right – they’d make a good double bill.
Oh, I’m sure that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
[Laughs.] Yeah, we’ll do that
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