Oscars 2018 – The Darkest Hour: Prosthetic Perfection

It’s February. It’s award season. The 90th Academy Awards are now less than a month away. This article is part one of three of a small mini-series by Blair MacBride. Part One: The Darkest Hour

This week, the focus is on the Oscar for best make-up and hairstyle in a feature film. The accolade has to go to Joe Wright’s ‘The Darkest Hour.’

winston churchill
Above: (from left to right) Gary Oldman, Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, and Winston Churchill himself.

Gary Oldman had to sit for up to four hours every day to achieve the former PM’s ambiance: and it really, really shows. The credit for this work of art lies with Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski and Lucy Sibbick. According to Gary Oldman, it was really all about Kazuhiro, ‘Me doing this was partly contingent on getting Kazu. (He’s) the only man on the planet who could pull it off’.

In the 21st century, many aspects of life are reminiscent of Winston Churchill. Bulldogs and babies are the two obvious examples that spring to mind – but Gary Oldman certainly isn’t one of them. That said, he looks unrecognisable as himself. This may not be the best overall imitation of Churchill in terms of voice or facial features, but then that’s not what this portrayal is about. What it is about is the way in which Churchill was depicted; he was a human being just like everybody else, who was susceptible to vulnerability and extreme pressure. The make-up and prosthetics combined with Gary Oldman’s performance really articulate the epitome of the former PM; Churchill’s staunch maverick-like personality and outspoken nature are captured perfectly.

A huge part of this was down to the work of Tsuji and his assistants. They magnificently enabled Oldman to capture the physical persona of the great politician with ease. In every scene, the prosthetics applied to the actor’s face are so well done that he genuinely looks like Churchill. In many other films centred around Churchill in recent times, the work that had gone into the appearance of the actor portraying Mr Churchill was never as in depth or as skilled as ‘The Darkest Hour’.

Despite many challenges facing Kazuhiro and his team, ‘The Darkest Hour’ truly deserves this award. Considering that Oldman would’ve most likely shied away from the role without him, Kazuhiro was clearly pivotal in making this film a success in more ways than one. He and his team truly deserve the Oscars’ recognition for their outstanding work in succeeding in the face of casting adversity.

By Blair Macbride