Darkest Hour has earned seven Oscar nominations, including for best film and best actor.
Gary Oldman's transformation, through extensive prosthetics and three hours each day on set, turned him into the former British prime minister for Joe Wright's World War II drama. Oldman spent a collective 200 hours in the makeup chair throughout the course of filming.
Below are 10 facts about the film's production collected through The Hollywood Reporter's interviews with the Darkest Hour's actors, director, writers and prosthetics team.
Film editor Valerio Bonelli said the historic speech, in which Churchill persuades Parliament to fight on rather than negotiate with Hitler, needed a focused shot.
Bonelli explained after working with Joe Wright on the scene, the pair "went back and said, 'No, I think we need to stay on this close-up of Gary rather than having this glorious crane shot,' because what became clear to us is the scene wasn't just about the speech, it was about him rallying [Parliament] and getting everyone behind him."
Transforming Gary Oldman into the British prime minister for Joe Wright's World War II drama took more than three hours a day — due to prosthetics, makeup and a hair designer.
Kazuhiro Tsuji said, "I sculpted facial prosthetics consisting of the neck, cheeks, nose and chin. Gary also wore a very finely crafted wig that changed the actor's facial and head shape similar to the former British prime minister." The look was completed with makeup, applied by David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick.
Oldman didn’t want to copy or be influenced by other actors’ performances, like Robert Hardy, Richard Burton and Albert Finney, while playing the iconic figure.
"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 said.
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."
British writer Anthony McCarten expressed the importance of portraying Churchill properly and getting the historical facts right because "he is too beloved, he is too iconic" for mistakes.
"There's a really fine line between artistic license and artistic licentiousness, and history is a lousy filmmaker. It doesn't give you all the ingredients you need, no story will quite fulfill that three-act structure," he said during The Hollywood Reporter Writers Roundtable. "However, you're compelled to apply your imagination to a real-life story, and if you don't, it will be inert or just vast action sequences of the known, and it won't tell you anything we don't already know from documentaries."
Gary Oldman was ecstatic over getting an Oscar nomination for his portrayal.
“Firstly, I want to congratulate my fellow nominees, both in the acting categories and across the board. To be in such company is deeply, genuinely, humbling. To have the chance to play an iconic leader like Winston Churchill at this point in my career, was the opportunity of a lifetime and I am so happy that my colleagues and partners on this wonderful film have also been honored with nominations. I am overjoyed to be nominated, and proud to be part of this wonderful thing known as movie making!”
This is his second nom, following his first one, for 2011's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Joe Wright says vaping helped him land Gary Oldman in the lead role as Winston Churchill.
The duo originally met in Los Angeles to discuss the role, Wright said last year 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.
Production designer Sarah Greenwood and set decorator Katie explained while production was able to shoot in the halls and lobby of the House of Commons in the Palace of Westminster, they needed to use a set for the chamber.
“They offered it to us, but there’s a real law that you can’t sit down on the green benches. So you can bring in extras, but they can’t sit down.”
Greenwood also revealed, “We were allowed to shoot outside Downing Street, which is a very rare thing. That was fantastic.”
Oldman has described having had an interest with Winston Churchill over the years, growing up reading books and quotes of the icon. While he says it would take a lifetime to read everything about him, since playing the character, he says his appreciation Churchill has furthered.
To unwind from filming Darkest Hour, the actor says he and his wife recorded him dancing to James Brown in full Churchill regalia.
“It’s great to give people a giggle," Oldman said.
The Oscar nominee had turned down offers to portray the British prime minister before, but Oldman described Anthony McCarten's script as eye-opening.
The actor, who donned a 14-pound fat suit and silicon face mask said, "I just thought that the physicality was the biggest challenge. How the hell would I do that? If someone had said to me, Neville Chamberlain, I could have maybe wrapped my head around that. So the hurdle to leap was the physical — it was the elephant in the room. And so I forbade everyone around me to even mention him — don’t keep bringing him up! It’s never ever going to happen!"