THE first season of Netflix’s The Crown features a star-studded cast, with Claire Foy as a young Queen and Matt Smith, chosen to play Prince Philip.
But who was picked to play Winston Churchill, one of Britain’s most famous war heroes?
Who plays Winston Churchill in The Crown?
Revered, and later criticised, Winston Churchill is a listening ear, and almost a mentor, for the Queen in the early part of her reign.
To portray this pillar of British history, creator Peter Morgan decided to knock on John Lithgow’s door. An actor prolific on stage, cinema and television.
John Lithgow immediately accepted Winston Churchill’s part[/caption]
“It was an immediate yes”, the actor later said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
“I think I said yes before my agent even finished the sentence, even though I was quite astonished. I was a combination of thrilled and terrified.”
For his role, he had to drastically change his silhouette by slipping into a life-like fat suit and get into cigar-smoking.
What are the main storylines about Winston Churchill in The Crown?
When he has to counsel the King
The first season sees a young Elizabeth enjoying married life and motherhood with Philip who, as a proof of his love and commitment to both her and the Crown, renounces all titles and citizenship before taking on the name Philip Mountbatten.
But the young couple is soon hit with dreadful news when the King and Elizabeth’s father, George VI, undergoes a lung operation.
A heavy smoker, he is soon diagnosed with a terminal diagnosis and confides in newly elected Conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
The war hero soon becomes a strong support system for both the sovereign and his eldest daughter as she adapts to her new role.
When Anthony Eden questions his ability to govern
John Lithgow and Victoria Hamilton as the Queen Mother[/caption]
With the King in ill health, Elizabeth and Philip replace him during a Commonwealth tour.
Meanwhile, several Cabinet members express their concerns about Winston‘s ability to govern.
This prompts Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden (Jeremy Northam), to ask George to persuade Winston to step down.
Of course, the PM refuses, stating that he will only step down when the time is right.
Despite his operation, George VI dies in his sleep on 6 February, 1952, after battling lung cancer, triggering a wave of change within the monarchy.
When Elizabeth and Philip argue over their family name
John Lithgow as Winston Churchill in The Crown[/caption]
When a ruler dies, another one is set to take his place. Elizabeth makes no exception. But with her imminent coronation, a host of changes take place, impacting her marriage.
What’s in a name? Whatever the case, Matt Smith’s Prince Philip is disappointed when he doesn’t see his Mountbatten surname next to his eldest children’s forenames.
Adding salt to the wound, the Duke of Edinburgh finds out he has no choice but to move into Buckingham Palace, despite wanting to stay at Clarence House, as it’s tradition for the monarch to reside in the palace.
Elizabeth has no choice but to seek advice and approval from Winston. But when she finds him reluctant to agree, she decides to drop both matters.
She later finds out that the PM has set her coronation for the following year as a way to secure his place within the Conservative party.
When his secretary dies in a tragic accident
Kate Philips portrayed Venetia Scott, Winston Churchill’s secretary[/caption]
A heavy smog forms over London in December 1952, reducing visibility, sending thousands to hospital and killing thousands more in a matter of days.
Refusing to address the matter at the Cabinet and deeming it an “act of God”, Winston soon becomes distraught when his secretary, Venetia Scott, who he is particularly fond of, gets killed by a double-decker bus.
The tragic death provokes a change of heart and Winston makes a passionate speech in which he promises a new approach to prevent any future smog.
A wise decision : Elizabeth was about to turn her back on him, listening to his opponents claims that he isn’t fit to govern.
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When his own health falters
After urging an international summit, following the Soviet Union’s test of a thermonuclear weapon, Winston suffers a stroke at the last minute, in August, 1953.
But instead of going public with his health issues, undoubtedly scared to see it used to discredit him, he keeps them secret, demanding that Lord Salisbury do the same.
Unfortunately, the secrecy doesn’t last long : Elizabeth is informed of their deception by Jock Colville (Nicholas Rowe).
When he destroys his own birthday portrait
When Parliament commissions Graham Sutherland to paint him a birthday portrait, Winston reluctantly meets with the artist.
But upon seeing the work of art, the Prime Minister is hit with the reality, realising his own advanced age.
The accuracy of the painting proves too much to handle and Winston resigns, asking for Anthony Eden to replace him.
His wife Clementine, perhaps following his request, orders the portrait to be destroyed.
When the Queen visits him on his deathbed
John Lithgow makes a final appearance as Winston Churchill in season 3 of The Crown[/caption]
John Lithgow makes a final appearance as the infamous Winston Churchill in season three of The Crown, as Elizabeth (this time portrayed by Olivia Colman) hears of rumours surrounding Harold Wilson in 1964.
According to these rumours, the newly elected PM works for the KGB.
But when rebuffing these rumours as gossip, she knows the echoes of a dying Winston Churchill are serious.
Although this is open for speculation, the Queen visits Winston on his deathbed who quickly tells her he was suspicious of Harold when he himself was still in office.
Winston dies off-screen but his funeral, held in 1965, soon leads Elizabeth to keep an eye on Harold, as rumours regarding his role as a Russian spy grow stronger.