So Who WAS the FINEST Churchill? Gary Oldman's Portrayal Won Him a Golden Globe. but in His Last Interview, Robert Hardy -- Who Played Winston NINE Times -- Gave His Often Caustic Verdicts on His Rivals

Daily Mail (London), January 19, 2018 | Go to article overview

So Who WAS the FINEST Churchill? Gary Oldman's Portrayal Won Him a Golden Globe. but in His Last Interview, Robert Hardy -- Who Played Winston NINE Times -- Gave His Often Caustic Verdicts on His Rivals


Byline: York Membery

BRITAIN'S wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill has been portrayed in more than 200 mainstream movies and TV dramas, and dozens of times on stage.

The latest film -- Darkest Hour in which he's played by Gary Oldman -- has already won its lead three Best Actor awards, including a Golden Globe, and is now being tipped for Oscars success.

Richard Burton, Albert Finney, and Sir Michael Gambon are just some of the legends who have played the great man, but the record for being Churchill the most times is held by Robert Hardy, who was cast as him in nine different productions.

In his final interview before his death, aged 91 last year, which has not been published until now, Hardy pulled no punches when we spoke about the performances of his fellow actors -- and accurately predicted that Oldman's portrayal would be one of the finest.

Darkest Hour focuses on the early days of World War II -- it's 1940 and the newly appointed Prime Minister must decide whether to negotiate with Hitler or fight on. Could Oldman become Hardy's successor as the greatest Churchill actor? Hardy died before the film's release but had taken a keen interest in it and told me he liked what he saw.

he liked what he saw.

'From everything I've seen and heard, Oldman's portrayal of Churchill is far more convincing than some other recent portrayals,' he said.

'He certainly looks the part, he's undergone a remarkable transformation. But it's not just his appearance -- he's managed to catch the essence of the man.' Oldman has revealed that he initially turned down the role, as he was daunted by the prospect of living up to the performances of actors such as Hardy.

He said: 'I thought, "What could I do with it that was new?" Whoever took the part was not only being asked to step into the shoes of arguably the greatest Briton who ever lived, but he was also walking in the shoes of all those other actors who have played him so well, like Albert Finney and Robert Hardy.' Oldman spent more than 200 hours in make-up and carried half his body weight in padding to fill out his figure. But first, he'd spent a year studying Churchill and his mannerisms -- and Hardy agreed it had paid off.

It was, he said, dangerous for an actor to simply rely on Churchill's famous props such as his cigar.

'It's important to get the little details right. It's not just the look, but stance, style and speech, too.

'It took me nine months of preparation to get Churchill right the first time I played him, back in 1981 in the drama series The Wilderness Years for ITV.' So what did Robert think of some of the other Churchills on our screens? BRIAN COX Churchill (2017) THE Scot starred alongside Miranda Richardson as Churchill's wife Clementine in last year's biopic, which covered the 96 hours before D-Day in 1944, but it was hardly a victory according to Hardy.

'I'm afraid I found it rather disappointing,' he said.

'He did look uncannily like Winston, the cosmetics people did a fantastic job, but I don't think he got much right.

'I found his Churchill a little bit Scottish, and by that I mean there was Scottish in his voice, which is totally wrong.' Was there anything he liked about Cox's Churchill? 'He went at it,' conceded Hardy, 'he certainly went at it.' JOHN LITHGOW The Crown (2016) THE American actor was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe for his depiction in the first series of the lavish Netflix TV drama.

But Hardy was not impressed. Lithgow stuffed cotton wool up his nose to replicate Churchill's speech impediment and padded his cheeks to give him jowls.

But that wasn't enough to give him complete authenticity, said Hardy. 'It's not his fault, but he's 6ft 3in, which is too tall to play Winston convincingly. He loomed over everyone, which the real Winston never did.' Some actors -- including Lithgow -- have said they toned down aspects of Churchill's overpowering personality for fear of appearing over the top. …

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