Gary Oldman says playing Winston Churchill was ‘a wonderful ride’ as he gathers with nominees for Oscars

Harriet Alexander
Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill in a scene from

Gary Oldman said playing Winston Churchill had been “a wonderful ride”,  on the eve of the Academy Awards ceremony that could see him take home his first Oscar.

The British actor is hotly tipped to be named best actor for his role in The Darkest Hour, which depicts the early days of Churchill’s rule as the Nazis swept across Europe and threatened the United Kingdom.

Yet, speaking to The Telegraph at an event to celebrate British film, Oldman, 59, was philosophical about his chances.

“Sunday will be, what Sunday will be,” he said, with a wry smile.

Ladbrokes make Oldman the favourite at 1/25, with fellow Briton Daniel Kaluuya, nominated for Get Out, at 16 to one – equal with Timothee Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name.

Daniel Day-Lewis, already the most successful lead actor in Oscars history, with three best actor awards, is 25 to one for his swansong, Phantom Thread.

Denzel Washington is considered the outsider for Roman J. Israel Esq, with Ladbrokes rating him a 100 to one shot.      

If Oldman wins, he will be the first Briton named best actor since Eddie Redmayne, who won three years ago for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.

Defeating Day-Lewis - a fellow Londoner who rose through the British theatre scene alongside Oldman - would be the crowning moment in a dazzlingly diverse 35-year career.

“Churchill has been such fabulous company,” Oldman said, sipping his coffee. The actor has been teetotal since a well-publicised battle with alcohol in the 1990s.

Oscars 2018 Full list of nominees

“I’m so glad there has been such support for it, and interest in it. And that the Churchill family has embraced it.”

Randolph Churchill, the great-great grandson of the prime minister, heaped praise on Oldman, as well as Kristin Scott Thomas, as Churchill’s wife, and Ben Mendelsohn, who plays King George VI.

“We’re always a little bit nervous about these ventures,” he said last month.

“But I can say wholeheartedly, Gary, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben have absolutely done us so proud.”

 The film is up for six awards, including best picture. Dunkirk, its fellow Second World War tale, is nominated for eight.

“It’s very simple,” Mr Churchill said. “Gary absolutely nailed it.”