By Audrey Rock
Long Beach, CA (The Hollywood Times) 12/12/17 – The next Academy Award Winner for Best Actor spent some time mingling with media members and press influencers Dec. 2nd on The Queen Mary in Long Beach. After they’d enjoyed an immaculate screening experience of “Darkest Hour” at Pacific Design Center, a box lunch from Lemonade, a tour of set pieces aboard the boat, and a formal panel, actor Gary Oldman made himself available to simply chat with whoever wanted to meet him.
It seemed appropriate that he’d become a man of the people this balmy December afternoon. His character in “Darkest Hour,” Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was known for spending time with the common people and getting to know them on a personal level. Churchill had always wanted to make himself available; he wanted to understand the public. Several scenes in “Darkest Hour” highlight this endearing attribute, and how it bonded him to the British people.
Oldman, whose performance in “Darkest Hour” was so preternaturally remarkable that it’s difficult to imagine any other outcome at the Oscars than a win, was as regal in his appearance at the event as Churchill ever was, from the start. He took the time to hug each panel member (behind-the-scenes crew, including makeup, wardrobe, and cinematography) already sitting onstage before finally taking his seat next to Ben Mendehlson, (who plays King George VI in the film) and Randolph Churchill, the legendary world leader’s great grandson. Of course. The highly accomplished actor, long overdue for an Academy Award, taking time to commend those who simply don’t get screen-time.
That’s only the beginning of Oldman’s attributes. To start with, his acting is off-the-charts. Oldman as Churchill is simply the most chillingly accurate interpretation of a historical figure since Daniel Day Lewis’ unspeakably transcendental Abraham Lincoln in 2012’s “Lincoln.” Oldman IS Winston Churchill. One doesn’t comprehend the reality of sitting in a theater, watching an actor. It’s more of a quickening than a suspension of disbelief. And that’s a frighteningly powerful performance.
“It’s very simple,” said Randolph Churchill during the panel. “Gary absolutely nailed it.” Churchill spoke about seeing Oldman during production about a year ago at Ealing Studios along with the great great grandchildren of Winston Churchill. “We were lucky enough to watch and see some of the filming,” he said. “And then suddenly through the door—I didn’t recognize Gary at all. It was my great grandfather! I promise you, our family was completely dumbstruck.”
He also lavished praise on the cast of central stars and acknowledged director Joe Wright’s remarkable handling of the historical events surrounding Churchill’s life. “We’re always a little bit nervous about these ventures, but I can say wholeheartedly, Gary, Kristen Scott Thomas, Ben, have absolutely done us so proud.”
Much of the transformation had to do with makeup and prosthetics, which was ultimately so successful, it had to be dialed back a bit. “It was a trial and error,” Oldman told the audience. “We had one version that was sort of what I call ‘Full Winston’. And it was quite remarkable, but you lost me, in there somewhere, too much. And so we pulled some of it back.”
Oldman, Mendelsohn, and Churchill engaged in additional in-depth banter before the crowd was invited on-deck for a whiskey-and-cigar bar reception, hosted by none other than Oldman himself, who appeared alongside his new bride, Gisele Schmidt, and her 9-year-old son. Oldman and Schmidt married in late August. The two were incredibly cordial to guests as they fielded questions and congratulations on the film.
By the time the event had ended, it was difficult to imagine that a single media guest hadn’t been convinced that this Hollywood veteran wasn’t the impervious frontrunner for Best Actor at the upcoming Academy Awards. There’s simply no way around his remarkable historical performance. The festive holiday ambience on the Queen Mary intensified the experience.
The Churchill set pieces exhibit is on display at The Queen Mary; it’s called “Their Finest Hours: Winston Churchill and the Queen Mary.” The sets featured were used to replicate covert war rooms where Churchill and allies plotted out Adolf Hitler’s downfall. There are also historical photos and artifacts on display; The Queen Mary was one of Winston Churchill’s “secret weapons”.
Focus Features’ “Darkest Hour” is currently playing in theaters.