Churchill launched the largest seaborne invasion in history; but no one could know just how stressful it was to the prime minister.
“Keep Calm and Carry On”–that is the mantra that so many British people ascribed to during their harrowing World War II experiences. It was a quintessentially British mindset, one that continued past into the ascetic post-war period, in which complaining about one’s predicament was unacceptable and rather socially gauche and one that would carry on, becoming a cornerstone of Britishness. But while many of the citizens that showcased this mentality were of the working class, it was not an exclusively blue-collar notion. The stoic and reserved affect of the British populace was one that was similarly seen in the stiff-upper-lip mentality of Britain’s upper class. Resilience and mental fortitude were of the highest quality characteristics to showcase. Home was destroyed? Don’t complain. Need to ration food amongst family members? Don’t fuss if you have the smallest portion. Lost a mother? Don’t discuss it–bottle it all up.
The need to open up about feelings is something that only recently has entered social culture in the small island state. Prince William began encouraging his once wayward younger brother, Prince Harry to open up about the loss of his mother, Princess Diana as a means of unburdening his mind. The 32 year-old had recently begun campaigning for the need to open up about mental health, citing his own erratic behavior as a result of neglecting his emotions. According to Prince Harry, it is a mentality that is an unhealthy approach to loss, pain, and anxiety and one that must change in Britain. It appears that the Prince is dead set on changing the “We shall fight them on the beach” mentality that figures like Winston Churchill had instilled in the populace.
But even Churchill seemed to have a difficult time overcoming the weight on his shoulders during his years as prime minister. With his country at war, the Nazi’s presence becoming ever increasing on the continent and international calls to launch an extremely large and risky invasion, Churchill began living a voracious lifestyle that was filled with heavy cigar smoking and an even heavier drinking habit. It was the only socially acceptable way to deal with the stressful and mentally exhausting life that the prime minister was leading–one that director Jonathan Teplitzky explores in his newest film, “Churchill.” The Knockturnal graced the red carpet to discuss mental health, Churchill’s lifestyle and the increasing interest in Churchill’s life with Teplitzky and stars Brian Cox, John Slattery.
Churchill Here, Churchill There, Churchill Everywhere
Winston Churchill sure has become the source of Hollywood fascination lately. With the Gary Oldman-starring “Darkest Hour” slated to be released later this year (which critics have already been suggesting is a strong contender for Oldman to nab the Best Actor Oscar) and now Teplitzky’s film set to be released this summer, Churchill has become quite a filmic icon this year. It is a pattern that is not foreign to Hollywood, who often release two or more films about the same subject back-to-back. Truman Capote’s research for “In Cold Blood” was the subject of two films in one year with “Capote” and “Infamous.”
Speaking of the peculiarity of knowing another film is being released later this year, Teplitzky reflected, “I think it’s planets lining up. This happens so often–someone develops one on a particular subject and suddenly there’s three or four coming along at the same time. But I also think that at this time, there’s a whole thing about leadership going on around the world and Churchill is always reflected back on as being one of the great leaders.” The director added that, “It’s quite a long time since his death and we’re just going through a period where Churchill’s attributes and some of his failings are being looked at more closely and with interest so that’s what our film does and other films do too but I think we’re just all flushing these subjects out into the open more.”
Eisenhower–A Straightforward Man
Military men are rarely emotionally gushing individuals. It’s one of the main reasons that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is rarely discussed by servicemen and is only now becoming a much more publically visible issue within the military. It was a quality that was most certainly demonstrated in the years of Eisenhower, whose stoic outlook, affectless personality and subdued emotional state inspired millions of soldiers to do the same. Therefore, John Slattery (who plays Eisenhower) had a difficult time finding any notes on the general’s demeanor or emotional state.
“There’s wasn’t a lot of psychology written about Eisenhower,” said Slattery. “Truman was flashier, Roosevelt was more erudite and what I came away with was that Eisenhower was a straightforward guy who was trustworthy,” reflected the actor. Slattery went on to say he believes that “that’s why he got to the position that he did. He was a motivator of men and a straight arrow.” It was a quality that Slattery certainly embodied, exuding it as he discussed his time on the film.
Stewie Griffin Embodies the Traits of Churchill
When Stewie Griffin was born, he apparently had already laid his plans out for world domination in the womb when the doctor also pulled out a map of Europe that had bombing strategies on it. But while Stewie may want to rule the world out of selfish egoism, Churchill seems to have wanted to save it from that. Nevertheless, the ambitious drive of Stewie is one that is reflected in the stoic relentlessness of Churchill–one that star Brian Cox believes to be true.
When constructing his Churchill character, Cox believed that the prime minister’s intense cigar smoking was not only an nicotine addiction but also a remnant of the Freudian idea of oral fixation as manifested by thumb-sucking. It was at that moment that it seems Cox had an epiphany regarding the characterization of Churchill. “I was sitting with my family and they were watching Family Guy. I looked at this character and I thought, ‘my god, that’s a young Winston Churchill! That’s the baby Winston Churchill!'” The actor went on to explain, “If you think about it, Stewie Griffin is absolutely the baby Winston Churchill. All of a sudden, a light went off in terms of the character. Stewie also has a very English accent that he uses. He’s also like Churchill, in that he’s very misunderstood.” Thankfully, Cox appears to have successfully embodied the persona, look and underlying anxious depression of Churchill, leaving audiences reeling from just how difficult being a war minister can be.
“Churchill” is set to be released June 2.