Gary Oldman Got Nicotine Poisoning Playing Winston Churchill

darkest hour winston churchill

Actors are asked to do a lot for their craft. Oftentimes this involves getting into crazy shape or gaining or losing weight for a role, but there are other things that actors have to do repetitively during filming that can take a toll. When veteran actor Gary Oldman signed on to play Winston Churchill in the upcoming Darkest Hour biopic, he also signed on to smoke cigars like Churchill was known for. Only, he didn't take into account how many times he would have to do multiple takes. In fact, all the smoking led him to dealing with nicotine poisoning. According to Gary Oldman:

I got serious nicotine poisoning. You'd have a cigar that was three-quarters smoked and you'd light it up, and then over the course of a couple of takes, it would go down, and then the prop man would replenish me with a new cigar -- we were doing that for 10 or 12 takes a scene.

We don't see actors smoking nearly as often in films like we used to, but in the case of Darkest Hour it was accurate for the character of Winston Churchill to be smoking cigars. To give you a better gauge of exactly how much Gary Oldman was smoking during production, he says Darkest Hour went through at least 400 cigars. The cigars themselves totaled a whopping $20,000 of the movie's production budget, which isn't small potatoes, even when you consider the film's $30 million budget. Even if the cigar was partially "smoked" by the time it made its way into Oldman's hands, that's a lot of smoke to be getting involved with.

Still, director Joe Wright also told THR that nicotine poisoning or no, Winston Churchill had to be smoking in Darkest Hour. So, it doesn't seem as like Gary Oldman had much of a choice if he wanted to take on the role. According to the director,

It's Winston Churchill. You can't have Winston Churchill without a cigar.

Gary Oldman's transformation into Winston Churchill is something that is pretty amazing to behold. You can see the look above, as well as in the trailer, but the big takeaway is that Oldman went through a lot in the makeup chair under Kazuhiro Tsuji's direction and even added foam padding and more to look like the British politician. Really, the cigars were just the icing on the cake.

All is well that ends well, though. All of the effort and detail that Gary Oldman put into playing Winston Churchill has already paid off with a Golden Globe nomination this week. Oldman also was nominated for a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance By A Male Actor in a Leading Role for his work on the film. We'll have to wait and see if he manages to nab some more awards nods and wins as the weeks wear on. Suffice to say, all the huffing and puffing on some $50 Cubans paid off.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Jessica Rawden is Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. She’s been kicking out news stories since 2007 and joined the full-time staff in 2014. She oversees news content, hiring and training for the site, and her areas of expertise include theme parks, rom-coms, Hallmark (particularly Christmas movie season), reality TV, celebrity interviews and primetime. She loves a good animated movie. Jessica has a Masters in Library Science degree from Indiana University, and used to be found behind a reference desk most definitely not shushing people. She now uses those skills in researching and tracking down information in very different ways.