How we helped Gary Oldman become Winston Churchill

Simon Cundey watched Gary Oldman collect his Best Actor Oscar for Darkest Hour with a sense of genuine delight.

For as well as being a big fan of his performance as Winston Churchill, Cundey played a key part in the chameleon-like performer's astonishing transformation into Britain's wartime leader.

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But Cundey isn't a make-up artist, speech coach or assistant director. He's a leading tailor.

'Authenticity was everything'

Cundey's firm Henry Poole & Co created suits for the real-life Churchill all those years ago.

And as Darkest Hour director Joe Wright and Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran "have a meticulous eye for historical details", they were approached to craft bespoke suits for Oldman in the role.

Working with Durran and her assistant Andrea Cripps, Cundey, fellow tailor and costume history expert Keith Levett, and Vice Chairman Philip Parker dived into the task of recreating Churchill's look - down to the finest details.

"We spent a great deal of time looking through images, and our archive of what we made for Churchill," says Cundey. "We were also able to provide Churchill’s measure and an accurate account of what cloth he ordered, and suit styles. Details such as the shoulder finish and the pressed creases in the sleeves were very much a Churchill feature.

"There were certain subtle details to take into account like the front and back creases in Churchill’s sleeves which might’ve otherwise been missed. Authenticity was everything."

Through their research, the team at Henry Pool & Co also uncovered some surprising facts about the former Prime Minister.

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"Churchill was a keen painter - and we even made his cotton painting overalls."

Henry Poole & Co was established in 1806, and is widely regarded as the founding tailor of Savile Row. Simon's father Angus was awarded an MBE by the Queen in 2016 for services to tailoring and charities.

A 'mesmerising' transformation

The tailors of Henry Poole & Co arrived for Oldman's suit fittings at the reasonable hour of 9am - after his extensive make-up had been applied through the early hours of the morning.

Straight away, Cundey says you could see a change come over the actor when he got into costume.

"As soon as he put on the suit it was mesmerising. His actions, such as walking with his hands on the lapels was very much what Churchill did.

"It was a delight seeing his professional manner. All the details. Gary has played many varied characters in films and I believe this film has been his pinnacle so far."

Gary Oldman, after his extraordinary transformation was complete

Darkest Hour was ultimately nominated for Best Costume Design at this year's Oscars, and Cundey feels the authenticity of the filmmakers' approach was key.

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"It’s extremely important to keep historical costume and clothing accurate. Its shape, drape and proportion can make all the difference to a film.

"Darkest Hour will be one of the great moments in our history - which goes back over 200 years."

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