The Winston Churchill biopic Darkest Hour will feed into the debate around the nature of President Donald Trump’s abrasive, confrontational form of leadership, says Joe Wright, the film’s director. Wright suggests that Darkest Hour, which stars Gary Oldman as the British prime minister during arguably the UK’s most testing period of the second world war, is directly relevant to the US’s current political turmoil.
“There’s a big question in America at the moment: what does good leadership look like,” says Wright, speaking to coincide with the launch of the latest trailer for the film. “Churchill resisted when it mattered most, and as I travel around America I am really impressed and optimistic at the level of resistance happening in the US at the moment. After George W Bush was elected, it wasn’t the same level; there was more apathy then. Now people are very vocal and that’s really positive.”
“Churchill made terrible mistakes as well as achieving great triumphs, but central to it all was a sense of doubt, and doubt is an important and vital factor of leadership, and democracy itself.”
The significance of Churchill to the Trump White House was underlined soon after Trump took office, when the president was pictured with a bust of Churchill in the Oval Office, having made great play of reinstating it after succeeding Barack Obama. However, Wright says when he began working on the film in January 2016 – pre-Brexit, and pre-Trump – its future political relevance was entirely unguessed at. “There was no sense of it being part of a zeitgeist at all. But as we made the film events came over us like a great wave, and suddenly the film became strangely topical. In the past I had always wanted to make a topical film, so I think it’s a case of be careful what you wish for.”