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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
The making of The Gathering Storm
Albert Finney as Churchill
Finney's physical resemblance to Churchill is uncanny
The three Emmys for Churchill drama The Gathering Storm are a tribute to the formidable talents behind the BBC One film.

Executive producer Ridley Scott is already well-known for directing imaginative epics like Alien, Bladerunner and Gladiator.

Albert Finney, named Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, is regarded as one of Britain's finest character actors.

Julie Payne sand Ridley Scott
Scott collected an Emmy with co-producer Julie Payne (L)
And writer Hugh Whitemore has now created a niche for himself with historical plays which explore the personalities and character traits of those involved in famous events.

In The Gathering Storm, Whitemore chose not to focus on the well-known Churchill of Britain's "finest hour", but rather on the apparently washed-up politician of 1934 - the great war leader's "wilderness years".

Finney turned in a magnificent performance as the ageing backbencher, a nuisance to Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin (played by Sir Derek Jacobi) and a man ridiculed for his warnings about the rearmament of Hitler's Third Reich.

Out of the public eye, Churchill was also having to face down personal financial problems, brought about by his appetite for the finer things of life.

'Intimidated'

The casting of Finney is unlikey to be bettered - his physical likeness to Churchill being, at moments, quite uncanny.

Finney, 66, said he was "tempted and slightly intimidated by the idea of playing him."

"In one way, it was quite exciting to try, and in another way it was bit worrying because of who he was. In the final analysis I thought, 'No, do it, do it'," he said.

Ronnie Barker plays Churchill's manservant, Inches
Ronnie Barker was persuaded out of retirement
Finney was supported by other major names, including Vanessa Redgrave as Clemmie Churchill, the great man's long-suffering yet still affectionate wife.

And there were smaller roles for Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent, Linus Roache and Tom Wilkinson and, coaxed out of retirement, Ronnie Barker.

The film's Emmys success is bound to increase demand for Hugh Whitemore's screenplays.

In 2001 Whitemore helped bring Sir Derek Jacobi back to the West End stage to perform in his play God Only Knows.

And in Macmillan, he focused on the eponymous prime minister in his twilight years - rather than looking at his celebrated 1950s heyday.

The Gathering Storm also seems to have benefited from something essential to good drama - timing.

It was broadcast in the US and UK at a time when a number of politicians were invoking Churchill's stand on Hitler and Nazism, to bolster their positions on Saddam Hussein and Iraq.

See also:

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