Gary Oldman on Winston Churchill: ‘He was a superman’

WASHINGTON — At a press tour stop in D.C. earlier this month, actor Gary Oldman — who’s been known to have somewhat, shall we say, interesting views on political correctness — actually shied away from any overt mention of politics on the red carpet for his new movie “The Darkest Hour.”

Oldman, a cinematic chameleon, stars as Winston Churchill in the bio pic about the then-newly minted British prime minister in early days of World War II. And though Oldman had a lot to say about the knowledge gap (pay attention in world history, folks!), never once did the British actor, considered a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination, talk about “history repeating” itself.

Q: What do you want audiences to take away from the film?

A: It highlights the fortitude and resilience and the humanity of its leader, Winston Churchill. We screened the movie, and I could forgive the Americans for not knowing the history, but I was amazed that Britons didn’t really know it either.

Q: What don’t they know?

A: They didn’t realize how close we came to some living arrangement with Hitler.

Q: That’s a nice way of putting it.

A: We came right down to the wire, and I was amazed that that was not common knowledge.

Q: Especially since you consider yourself a bit of a history buff, right?

A: My mum, God bless her, is 98 and lived through “The Blitz” and my dad fought on warships in Okinawa. So I feel somewhat a connection there, and growing up in the ’60s we were taught that Churchill was the man who saved the world. That’s what I hope people will take away: To see the film and realize, “Oh boy, we came very close to a different way of living.”

Q: What did you learn about Churchill while shooting the film?

A: His stock rose considerably. I realize that this was a man, he was incomparable. I don’t know if you could equate him or contrast him with other leaders. I think perhaps he’s there up with Washington and Lincoln. The achievements. He was a man who held almost every major political position, was in politics for over 50 years and wrote 50 books — all of them readable. You’re looking at a man who painted 540 paintings, 16 exhibitions at the Royal Academy, won the Nobel Prize in literature. I mean the list goes on and on.

Q: So you were surprised by … ?

A: He was a superman. An indispensable figure.

Q: You’re getting plenty of Oscar buzz for this role. Does that mean anything to you?

A: What it means is that there is a lot of work ahead. It’s always nice that people are appreciating the work. It was a real privilege to play the role, and I feel like I got out of it what I wanted to get out of it personally. All the other stuff, I know it’s cliche to say, but it really is the icing on the cake.