As an actor, is there a moment where you have to say, 'Well I have to forget that she was a real person that I've read about and I just have to play in the scene as I would any other?'
No, no, no, never. You'd always play the scene as you think she would have done it, which is always going to be a version of yourself. I mean if Clementine Churchill's there and I'm here, the performance will always be there, somewhere in the middle. Otherwise, I'd just be doing an impression which would be rather dull. You have to bring your own heart and imagination. And yet I'm not her, I can't be her. So you have to sort of meet somewhere in the middle. But all the choices that you make, how a person gets cross or how she laughs or how she asks for a cup of tea. Or how she reacts to being applauded is not how I would react.
Do you have to make a mental note of the fact that it's set in a different time?
It becomes part of the rehearsal period, imagining how you live your day, imagining what you do with your time, imagining what you're imagining. And watching a lot of documentaries, like the 'The World at War,' and looking at books and thinking about how people really lived their lives. And talking to my dad who was in the war. It's funny my nephew's an extra today. And he's eighteen and he's down there in a RAF uniform and a funny moustache and a weird haircut. And you look at him and think, God, he's just eighteen. He'd be out there fighting, possibly dying, and that's what people lived with every single day. Trying to imagine the genuine everyday terror and the pressure of thinking, are we going to bomb Dresden? Are we going to bomb Lubeck? Are we going to send men in the boats? How are we going to get people out of Dunkirk? How many can we possibly save? How many do we think we might lose? We think we might lose 200,000 men. I mean imagine that. We're so far away from the war, our generation, we can't remember it. Really imagine you don't know whether you're going to win the war. You don't know whether Hitler is going to invade. You don't know anything, really. And that was sort of pre-media, no television, everyone had a wireless, that's it. And pre-celebrity. Apart from the movies that people would go to. The most famous people in England were Winston Churchill and Clementine Churchill. Imagining who you could possibly trust, how you couldn't tell your best friends anything. Winston would tell Clementine a huge amount of political things that she was never allowed to open her mouth about. Imagine the weight of that kind of responsibility. So you try and put yourself inside it a little bit and then see what it does, it's interesting.
Can you talk about the last scene of the movie, which you've been shooting today?
It's based on something that really happened. After the war in 1945, he lost the election to a landslide Labor victory, which was such an enormous shock and an enormous humiliation for him. He led the country to victory and everyone knew it, and many people were shocked that people wouldn't vote for him in peace. He was incredibly broken by that. So it's the end of the war, he's exhausted, and just at the end of his tether, really, as was Clemmie, and they go to the theater to try and have a nice evening out, not really looking forward to it, and end up being quite moved when at the theater, they applaud him for saving the nation. It's incredibly moving to realize that it's all been for something. It might have cost an enormous amount in human terms, but it was for something -- the freedom of everybody there not being in a Nazi prison somewhere.