Plus, John Lithgow’s recipe to make the perfect Winston Churchill. (Hint: it involves a fat suit, and “lots of liquor.”)
by Paul Chi
Claire Foy had “no idea” what to expect during awards season.
“My work is usually not nominated for anything, so it’s been a complete whirlwind,” Foy, a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominee for her work in The Crown, told Vanity Fair at the BAFTA Awards Season Tea Party in Beverly Hills on Saturday afternoon. “I’m still shooting the second season of the series, and that feels very regular—but all of this is out of the ordinary for me. I just hope I am not breaking any rules I do not know about. Oh God, please tell me if I do!”
The candid star, who plays a young Elizabeth II on the series, will soon be a pro at navigating the endless red carpet events that dominate the early months of the year. Her performance in The Crown received effusive praise from critics impressed at the way she captures both the human and the regal sides of the young monarch. To honestly play the Queen, Foy said it was important to understand her as a private woman.
“I do think she’s like everybody else, but she’s not able to express emotions in the same ways as we do,” explained Foy. “Her duty and her job means she’s not able to be open about her feelings in the way that we all can with our family and with our marriages. Her family was the most important thing to her, and all of a sudden she had to sacrifice them to her job. Once I understood this, she was no longer a disembodied figure and a real person that I could portray her truthfully on the screen.”
Foy’s costar John Lithgow is also nominated for a Golden Globe; he may very well take to the stage on Sunday evening to pick up the best supporting actor award for his turn as Prime Minister Winston Churchill. To transform into the famous government official, the two-time Oscar nominee used a special trick to make his 6’4” frame appear smaller. (Churchill was only 5’6”.)
“I wore a fat suit, and that did the whole job for me,” Lithgow told Vanity Fair at the BAFTA Tea Party’s red carpet. “It made me hunch over a little, and it completely changed the way I moved.”
Lithgow also worked with makeup artist Ivana Primorac to reshape his face, making it look more like Churchill’s. Lithgow wore plumpers stuck inside his teeth to get jowls that resembled the prime minister’s own.
“I had these little blobs designed by Chris Lyons, who also created Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher teeth [for The Iron Lady], and I had cotton jammed up my nose. That was my idea—to give me his nasal voice,” Lithgow said. “You do all those mechanical things, and it immediately transformed me. I felt like I wasn’t John anymore, and much closer to Winston than I was before.”
To nail the character, Lithgow read Churchill’s biography and studied as many video and audio clips as he could find.
“Churchill had so many qualities. He was tremendously temperamental, but he was also sentimental and morose. He was very funny and witty, but had a deeply depressive side,” said Lithgow. “You take all those qualities, and you stir in lots and lots of liquor and cigar smoke, and you get Churchill.”