Winston Churchill, who died half a century ago, is the new face of prestige television and film. The former British prime minister has been the focus of at least four major productions in the last year, and has supporting roles in many others. He’ll next be depicted by English thespian Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour, a film that’s expected to clean up at next year’s Academy Awards.
Churchillmania kicked off in 2016, when American actor John Lithgow portrayed Churchill in the Netflix series The Crown—a role that earned Lithgow an Emmy nomination. That same year, Irish-born English actor Michael Gambon (best known as the wizard Dumbledore in the Harry Potter films) played Churchill in the film Churchill’s Secret, which was broadcast by ITV in the United Kingdom and by PBS in the United States.
But we had yet to reach peak Churchill. In June the prime minster was portrayed by Scottish actor Brian Cox in the aptly titled indie biopic, Churchill. Though Churchill did not appear on screen in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, his words factored heavily into the film’s inspiring ending. Darkest Hour, meanwhile, premieres Nov. 22, and the second season of The Crown debuts on Netflix on Dec. 8. By then, perhaps, we can declare full Churchill saturation.
The British leader has been depicted in dozens of films and TV shows before, but never so many in such short a time (not since the 1950s, anyway). The question remains: Why now?
Churchill, of course, was instrumental in ending the British policy of appeasing Nazi Germany, and his leadership helped the UK survive World War II. He has since become become a symbol of steadfastness in the face of encroaching fascism—even though historians argue his response to other fascist regimes was not quite as steadfast.
With fears of fascist thinking again growing in Europe and the United States, it makes sense that Hollywood would make Churchill its new poster boy.