Admittedly, there will be an entire generation who know Michael Gambon only from the Harry Potter franchise. Others will immediately think back to an absolutely brilliant performance in The Singing Detective. Whichever the case, more must-see-tv is being commissioned in the UK as Gambon takes on the role of Sir Winston Churchill in ITV’s new drama Churchill’s Secret.
Gambon joins a long-list of actors who have played Churchill over the years including, most notably, Robert Hardy (Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years), Timothy Spall (The King’s Speech), Brendan Gleeson (The Storm), Albert Finney (The Gathering Storm) and, on stage, Warren Clarke in Three Days in May. Hardy has actually portrayed the former Prime Minister and Britain’s wartime leader on seven different occasions. How can anyone forget the Doctor Who appearance by Ian McNiece (Doc Martin) in which Churchill stared down the Dalek with the help of The Doctor, of course. There have been others but we’ll just go ahead and leave out Christian Slater’s performance in the rather bizarre Churchill: The Hollywood Years if that’s alright with everyone.
Based on Jonathan Smith’s novel “The Churchill Secret: KBO”, the feature length film profiles Britain’s Prime Minister in the summer of 1953, during his second term in 10 Downing Street.
It was during those months that Churchill, now in his late 70s, suffered a life-threatening stroke that was kept secret from the world. The drama reveals his battle to recover from it, as told through the eyes of his young nurse, Millie Appleyard. Lindsay Duncan stars as Churchill’s long-suffering wife Clementine, who desperately hopes the stroke will force Winston to retire. There’s a reason this is called a drama as his adult children descend on his Chartwell House home. Unsure if he will pull through, tensions arise within the family and his political friends and foes scheme to decide who will succeed him.
“Churchill’s Secret is the extraordinary and compelling story of how one of our country’s most famous political figures battled back from life-threatening illness to hold on to power,” said ITV’s director of Drama Steve November.
Filming will begin next month in London, and at Chartwell in Kent. The film will air on ITV1 in the UK and in the U.S. as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series in 2016.