Sir Winston Churchill, former prime minister of Great Britain, was almost never without a lit cigar. Recently a new movie, Darkest Hour, was released depicting the wartime leader during WWII. With so many scenes involving Churchill puffing a cigar, the movie makers believed it necessary to warn the public about the dangers of tobacco smoking.
After watching Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman as Churchill, viewers noticed an odd disclaimer near the end of the credits. A warning most felt was entirely unnecessary, according to a Daily Mail report.
“The depictions of tobacco smoking contained in this film are based solely on artistic consideration and are not intended to promote tobacco consumption. The surgeon general has determined that there are serious health risks associated with smoking and with secondhand smoke.”
Set in 1940, Darkest Hour opens with Sir Winston Churchill sitting in a darkened room, with the only light emanating from a lit cigar. Later, as he is greeting a baby on the London Underground, the iconic cigar is hanging from his mouth.
Professor and historian Mary Beard considered the smoking warning an indirect message that may promote tobacco use.
“It only adds to the temptation if you ask me,” she told the Daily Mail.
Another history expert, Sir Richard Evans, saw the anti-smoking message as pointless, telling the British paper, “I don’t suppose the film will prompt many to rush out and buy cigars.”
Hugo Vickers, a Winston Churchill biographer, noted the Darkest Hour’s smoking disclaimer omitted one crucial fact.
“Perhaps they should have added a line, ‘Sir Winston Churchill lived to be 90.'”
Moviegoers may or may not be predisposed to avoid cigar smoking after seeing the warning, but one actor did suffer some real health consequences of tobacco during filming. Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Gary Oldman described how his commitment to accurately portraying Britain’s most famous leader took its toll.
“I got serious nicotine poisoning,” he explained. “You’d have a cigar that was three-quarters smoked and you’d light it up, and then over the course of a couple of takes, it would go down, and then the prop man would replenish me with a new cigar — we were doing that for 10 or 12 takes a scene.”
Moviemakers wanted to be authentic as possible by using the actual brand smoked by Churchill — Romeo y Julieta Cubans. Of the film’s $30 million budget, an estimated $20,000 was spent on cigars alone.
Already being shown in U.S. theaters, Darkest Hour is set to hit British theaters in January. Distributors of the Winston Churchill biopic, Universal Pictures, has not commented on the smoking warning.