Churchill biopic ‘Darkest Hour’ premieres at Westminster


An advance screening of “Darkest Hour,” a film about former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, was held at Westminster on Thursday, Oct. 26.

The event began with a reception at 5:30 p.m. inside the college’s National Churchill Museum. Staff, faculty, students, alumni and museum donors known as Churchill fellows mingled and enjoyed refreshments prior to the showing of the film. Fresh Ideas provided hors d’oeuvres, and museum staff set up a wine bar and a root beer keg for the event. Outside, a red carpet led the way to the door, and spotlights lit up the night.

The film was shown inside the Church of St. Mary, the Virgin, Aldermanbury, located directly above the museum’s entrance. The church is able to seat about 180 people comfortably. An estimated 130 to 140 guests attended the event, according to Tyler Oberlag, manager of guest services and museum operations. Everyone was dressed in formal attire, and Churchill fellows donned gold medals hanging from red ribbons worn around their necks.

Darkest Hour

The church eventually filled up to near maximum capacity for the showing of the film. PHOTO BY MADISON INGRAM.

“Darkest Hour” is set in the early days of World War II, soon after Churchill had become prime minister. It focuses on Churchill’s struggle to decide between negotiating with Hitler or going to war. Playing the lead role as Winston Churchill is Gary Oldman, an English actor, filmmaker, musician and author. Oldman has been in many popular films, such as “The Dark Knight” (2008), “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012), “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004), and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (2011).

The Churchill family made frequent appearances at the movie set in London as the film was being produced. The director of the film, Joe Wright, had produced many motion pictures before “Darkest Hour.” His other works include “Pride & Prejudice” (2005), “Atonement” (2007), “Hanna” (2011) and “Pan” (2015).

National Churchill Museum Director and Chief Curator Tim Riley, who helped coordinate the “Darkest Hour” festivities at Westminster, said he had heard about the film about a year and a half ago. He then brought the film to Westminster by making a few calls to its producers, he said.

Museum staff members sold tickets to the event at $50 piece. Based on the estimated ticket sales, the event raised approximately $6,500 to $7,500 for the museum.

“This is a great event and a great fundraiser for the museum,” said Churchill Fellow Warren Hollrah, who graduated from Westminster in 1976 and worked in the museum from 1978-2000.

“Since 2000, the museum has changed a lot,” he said. “In 2006, $40 million was invested into renovations of the museum. It looks different.”

Thanks to donations from the Callaway County Tourism Board as well as Senior Churchill Fellow Phillip Baeckman, 50 students and faculty were able to attend the event cost free.

“Darkest Hour” will be released in theaters throughout the United States on Nov. 22.

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