Sunday, November 24, 2013

Richard Toye's "Churchill's Empire"

Richard Toye studied at the Universities of Birmingham and Cambridge, and is currently Professor of Modern History at the University of Exeter. His books include Lloyd George and Churchill: Rivals for Greatness, Churchill's Empire: The World that Made Him and the World He Made, and Rhetoric: A Very Short Introduction. His new book is The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill's World War II Speeches.

Here Toye explains how he would turn Churchill's Empire into a movie:
I would have Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame) play Bella and Philip Seymour Hoffman play Churchill.

Churchill's Empire

His greatest triumph was also his greatest tragedy.

Winston Churchill – a man of greatness who outlived his era. He vowed that he had ‘not become the King’s First Minister to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire’. But it was on his watch that the imperial house of cards began its collapse. This film focuses on three crucial years, from the humiliation of the fall of Singapore in 1942, to Churchill’s dismissal by the British voters in 1945. It shows how a great power was humbled even as it achieved military victory over the forces of the Axis. And it shows the personal torment of an imperial hero as his beloved Empire crumbled to the ground. After the adulation of the crowds on VE Day cruelly followed by a crushing election defeat, he is caught by the ‘black dog’ of depression as he realises that his personal triumph is hollow. ‘I have achieved everything only to achieve nothing’, he confesses. ‘The Empire I believed in has gone.’

The story is told mainly through the eyes of the twenty year old Bella Hislop (a fictional amalgam of real people). Called to serve as a new secretary to Prime Minister Churchill on the very day of the British surrender at Singapore, her first experiences are enough to make her want to quit. Churchill’s moods, rages reduce her to tears – until she learns to answer back. From then on, he begins to trust her and she learns to love him wholeheartedly – whilst at the same time she experiences the agony of a tragic wartime romance. But she soon begins to experience conflicts of loyalty. The man she is in love with, Ranald Macrae, is a liberal-minded colonial office civil servant, who tries to persuade her that Churchill’s racial attitudes are out of date. And as Churchill stubbornly resists moves for colonial freedom, Bella begins to suspect that his antiquated diehard approach is threatening to destroy the very Empire he loves. Yet we also come to understand why Churchill sees things the way he does. We see earlier episodes of his life through flashback: his early, brutal experiences of imperial warfare in India, Sudan and South Africa form the dramatic counterpoint to his modern day political dilemmas. This is a grittily realistic Churchill for the Twenty-First Century.
The Page 99 Test: Churchill's Empire.

Writers Read: Richard Toye.

--Marshal Zeringue