Toronto: Joe Wright Says Vaping Led Gary Oldman to Play Winston Churchill in 'Darkest Hour'

Courtesy of Focus Features
'Darkest Hour'

"By the end of the vape, we were like brothers," the director said of first discussing the iconic role with Oldman.

Darkest Hour director Joe Wright on Monday said vaping helped him land Gary Oldman in the lead role as Winston Churchill.

Both men originally met in Los Angeles to discuss the role, Wright said Monday as he promoted his wartime drama at the Toronto Film Festival. "I was certainly nervous at meeting Gary, and I was surprised that Gary was nervous too," he said.

But they sealed the deal after sharing an e-cigarette. "We went outside and vaped together. By the end of the vape, we were like brothers, really, brothers," Wright said.

Darkest Hour sees Oldman — laden with ample prosthetic makeup  play Churchill during his early days as British prime minister at the beginning of World War II.

Oldman told journalists at TIFF he was initially wary about playing Churchill because earlier British acting greats like Robert Hardy, Richard Burton and Albert Finney had already portrayed the wartime leader on the big screen. "I didn't want to be contaminated or influenced by other people's performances. We've all got an impression of Churchill and a lot of that comes from the people who played him, not the actual man," he explained.

So Oldman relied on British Pathe reel footage of Churchill and historical reading to research the role: "To hear him and see him was the way in."

Despite Darkest Hour unfolding against the backdrop of Nazi Germany, director Wright recalled it wasn't entirely certain at the time Adolf Hitler was the mortal threat in most peoples' eyes that he later became. "We now know that he was right. But at the time, you didn't know whether he was right or not," he recalled.

Oldman added that Churchill saw a pattern in the run-up to the Second World War that caused him to raise an alarm, which at the time was seen as unfashionable. "Churchill... believed that we were in the eye of the hurricane, between two world wars, and the second one was coming," he explained.

Oldman added history may be repeating itself today, during uncertain times as politics and war dominate headlines. "Maybe we are in between and something is coming," Oldman ventured.

Co-star Kristin Scott Thomas agreed there's an appetite for a Churchillian leader to emerge. "There're such feelings of insecurity in the world that we may well look back and say, someone was able to show up and talk sense and save us and there may hope somewhere," she said.

Darkest Hour will hit theaters Nov. 22.

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