Last week I had a chance to see an early screening of Focus Features latest film Darkest Hour and I have to say it is one of my favorite films I’ve seen in a long time! You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate this thrilling movie that absolutely will be up for an Oscar (my prediction) as will Gary Oldman who plays Churchill. He has always been one of my favorite actors and he is quite spectacular in this movie.
Synopsis: During the early days of World War II, with the fall of France imminent, Britain faces its darkest hour as the threat of invasion looms. As the seemingly unstoppable Nazi forces advance, and with the Allied army cornered on the beaches of Dunkirk, the fate of Western Europe hangs on the leadership of the newly-appointed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman). While maneuvering his political rivals, he must confront the ultimate choice: negotiate with Hitler and save the British people at a terrible cost or rally the nation and fight on against incredible odds. Directed by Joe Wright, DARKEST HOUR is the dramatic and inspiring story of four weeks in 1940 during which Churchill’s courage to lead changed the course of world history.
After we screened the movie we were invited to a press event on The Queen Mary and enjoyed a panel with Gary Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn, Randolph Churchill (Winston Churchill’s great grandson), cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel, sound editor Craig Berkey, costume designer Jacqueline Durran, production designer Sarah Greenwood, set decorator Katie Spencer, and editor Valerio Bonelli. We had a chance to speak to the costume designer, Jacqueline Durran, after the panel discussion and we congratulated her on the fantastic costumes worn throughout the film. She said that it was easier to fit Mr. Oldman as they looked at photographs from that time period and replicated the suits he wore. They had more free rein dressing Kristin Scott Thomas and enjoyed finding antique fabrics and styles.
From the costumes, to the sets, storytelling and performances, this really is a film you do not want to miss seeing in the theater. It is one of my favorite films I have seen in a very long time. And I wouldn’t say I am a history buff at all. In fact, I probably would embarrass myself if I was on the show “Are you smarter than a fifth grader” because I probably would lose in history BUT you do not have to be a fan of history to enjoy this movie immensely! If you are though, you going to be thrilled with this movie. We plan to take our 11 year old daughter (it is rated PG-13) because we want her to see a great historical drama.
I was so excited to see Gary Oldman in person and grabbed a front row seat! You can check out my Facebook Live coverage here and here. It was quite fascinating to hear about how much work went into creating the outfits that Gary Oldman wore throughout the film. They were able to locate Mr. Churchill’s actual tailors. From his suits to his shoes, they kept the items as close to what he actually wore during that time period. Mr. Oldman mentioned that they were so well-made that he would have liked to have kept the suits but since they were made to fit a larger man (he wore a very realistic fat suit) alas they didn’t fit him.
Following the interview panel, we enjoyed a reception featuring a premium whiskey tasting and cigar bar. I immediately looked for both Ben Mendelsohn and Gary Oldman. Lucky for me, Ben was off to the side of The Queen Mary deck, so I was able to corner him and asked to take a selfie. Kidding aside, he was very gracious and took a couple photographs with me. I told him how much I liked him in Bloodline but that he was really creepy. If you haven’t check out this series yet you really must! He is quite amazing but I did tell him he had to “go to the dark side” to get into character. He laughed and agreed. I asked him what it was like tackling this role and he said it was quite daunting and enjoyed working with Gary Oldman. He mentioned that he was off to Mammoth that night so he wasn’t going to drink any whiskey but he was looking forward to the appetizers and cigars. For all his fame (he stars in Rogue One) he is just a down-to-earth guy who happens to be a fantastic storyteller!
I then searched for Gary Oldman and he was very sweet as well! I told him he was in one of my favorite movies of all time – The Fifth Element and he seemed surprised that movie was a favorite of mine. His wife mentioned that their son, William, hasn’t seen it yet. My prediction is Mr. Oldman will definitely be up for an Oscar for this role! You really don’t realize it is him at all as he takes on not only the physical features of Mr. Churchill but his mannerisms as well. Even Randolph Churchill (great-grandson) said that the whole family thought Gary Oldman played him perfectly. You really are mesmerized by his performance and he draws you into the angst and turmoil Churchill felt during this historic time period. What a gift Mr. Oldman has and it was a real treat meeting him in person.
The Queen Mary is opened their latest exhibit, Their Finest Hours, on December 7th. The exhibit will showcase several Churchill artifacts and letters along with set pieces from DARKEST HOUR, including the replicas of the War Rooms where Winston Churchill and the Allies plotted Hitler’s defeat. Learn why the Queen Mary was Churchill’s secret weapon and see where history was made.
DIRECTOR: Joe Wright
WRITTEN BY: Anthony McCarten
STARRING: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup, and Ben Mendelsohn
RELEASE DATE: November 22 (NY/LA); December 2017 (additional cities)
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Thank you Focus Features and Working Title for the fantastic day and evening!