Published: 00:02, 25 June 2017
The release of Jonathan Teplitzky’s Churchill is certainly timely.
In the wake of the battle for No.10 and the fall out from the Grenfell Tower fire, the biopic – a ticking-clock thriller that follows Britain’s prime minister Winston Churchill in the 96 hours before the D-Day landings in June 1944 – has raised some poignant questions.
Namely, to what extent do our modern day politicians measure up? Or differ, as the case is argued.
“Nobody matches Churchill,” quips Brian Cox, who, in the titular role, puts in a forceful performance of the late wartime hero.
“There’s an element that’s strongly missing, which is really good political leadership and leadership with vision.”
“It’s all self-aggrandising now,” he adds, shaking his head. “It’s not about the future, it’s not about the country, and it’s not about how you bring this community together.”
“We live in a multicultural country that has to be brought together and for too long it’s been allowed to drift apart,” alleges the 71-year-old, who famously defined Shakespeare’s King Lear at the National Theatre.
“There has to be a fusion and you need a great leader to bring that fusion about. We ain’t got one - and we need one desperately.” Teplitzky shares a similar view.
“I think Churchill would have won the [recent] election if he was standing, because what he did and what his great talent was, was to lead people in whatever way he felt best equipped to do,” he says.
“I don’t necessarily think that every politician knocking about today even can identify with that,” muses the Australian director, whose credits include the Railway Man and Marcella.
“That’s why it’s poignant to watch a film like this now, to ask those questions.”
“Churchill was an amazing individual and he had an extraordinary constitution,” adds Brian. “He drank too much, he had depression, he only slept three hours a night, but he also had this great wife,” he says, gesticulating in the direction of his co-star Miranda Richardson.
“[She wouldn’t take] any rubbish from this great big baby,” quips the Harry Potter actress, 59, who plays the unflinching Clementine “Clemmie” Churchill.
It is a double act that is even more credible on screen, thanks to Cox’s impressive transformation.
“He became Churchill,” Teplitzky enthuses of the actor, who shaved his head, gained weight and perfected the leader’s jutting lower lip and walk for the part.
“A great privilege of what I do is to be this close - [it’s] as close as I will ever come to having a conversation with Churchill.”
“It brings history alive,” he adds. “His performance is amazing in capturing and enabling an audience to sit almost on the shoulder of Churchill as he emotionally and psychologically and politically manoeuvres through this 96 hours before D-Day.”
To capture such authenticity, Teplitzky insists he stuck to the facts.
“You try very hard to tell the truthful story, but at the same time you try very hard to capture the essence of the person or the people,” he elaborates, full of praise for the man who led his country to victory during the Second World War.
“The film gives the audience them another point of view that they wouldn’t necessarily have and that’s really important – particularly with a character that people describe as the ‘greatest ever Briton’.”
Churchill bought the property in 1922 after falling in love with its views over the Weald.
Clementine Churchill created a lovely home there even though she never really liked the estate. She was disappointed that her husband had bought it without consulting her and feared the house would prove too costly to run.
Her fears proved correct and the house was put on the market twice before being bought by a consortium of Churchill’s friends and admirers in 1946.
In 1965 Lady Churchill handed over the mansion and grounds to the National Trust.
Today the property is presented as it was in the 1920s and 1930s and welcomes close to 200,000 visitors a year.
The estate is open daily from 11am to 5pm. Admission is £13.50 for adults, £6.75 for children, £33.75 for family. More details at nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell
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