Gary Oldman: ‘I really didn’t want to play Winston Churchill’

Focus Features

Gary Oldman vowed he’d never portray Winston Churchill on screen, after turning down the chance to portray Britain’s wartime leader twice in one year.

The movie star is now a hot favorite to pick up the Best Actor Oscar for playing the Prime Minister in Darkest Hour after dominating this year’s awards season – and he can’t believe he turned down the role on two occasions.

“I was offered Churchill twice in one year, which is very strange,” he explains. “Apart from the physicality, which was always going to be a huge challenge, I was terrified to take it on.

“I said, ‘No, I will never do it’. Every time Churchill was mentioned by my manager or my agent, I had made my mind up that I wasn’t gonna do it. Then Working Title had this Churchill project. We had started out our careers together in (Sid Vicious biopic) Sid and Nancy when they were in their fledgling years but I still wouldn’t do it.

“Then this came and it was a script about a pivotal moment in his (Churchill’s) premiership, on our world history; specifically an area that had not been touched on in any great detail. That fascinated me.

Once the seed was planted, even though I was saying no, I went to a Churchill speech and listened to it and tried it out on my iPhone and thought, ‘Maybe there’s something here!'”

Gary admits it was his new wife Gisele Schmidt who made him see sense: “It was really my wife Gisele who said, ‘Are you really gonna give up the opportunity to say those words? You have to be crazy, and really, what’s the worst that can happen?’.”