The Gathering Storm (2002)


The Gathering Storm is a BBC-HBO co-produced television biographical film about Winston Churchill in the years just prior to World War II.

The title of the film is that of the first volume of Churchill’s largely autobiographical six-volume history of the war, which covered the period from 1919 to 03 September 1939, the day he became First Lord of the Admiralty.

It was followed by a sequel in 2009 (Into the Storm). A 1974 film of the same name bears little resemblance to the 2002 version. Also known as The Lonely War (US, working title).


In 1934, Winston Churchill is deep in his wilderness years, and struggling to complete his biography of his ancestor the Duke of Marlborough, which he hopes will revive his fortunes. Winston is chided by his wife Clemmie for their lack of money and is aware that as a ‘man of destiny’ his moment may have passed. At the same time he struggles in the House of Commons as a backbencher to get a hearing for his concerns about German re-armament under Hitler and the policy of appeasement.

Churchill is also disappointed by the behaviour of his son Randolph Churchill (Tom Hiddleston), which leads to further arguments with Clemmie, who announces she is leaving to go on an extended overseas trip. Churchill is devastated and throws himself into his pet activities: painting, and building walls around the family house. Clemmie eventually returns, and the couple are reconciled.

A young official in the government, Ralph Wigram (Linus Roache) has become concerned about the growth of the German Luftwaffe (air force), and is convinced by his wife to leak information about it to Churchill.

Shortly afterwards, Churchill uses Wigram’s information to launch an attack on the appeasement policies of Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin (Derek Jacobi). In 1936, Wigram commits suicide.

With Churchill’s fortunes restored, the narrative jumps forward to September 1939, with the declaration of war against Germany at the start of World War II, and the announcement that Churchill will be taking over command of the Royal Navy again as First Lord of the Admiralty. An impatient Churchill bids farewell to the staff at the country house, and travels to London. Arriving in the middle of the night at the Admiralty, Churchill is met by a Royal Marine corporal who informs him the fleet have already been signalled that “Winston is Back”, to which Churchill triumphantly replies, “And so he bloody well is!”


  • Albert Finney as Winston Churchill.
  • Vanessa Redgrave as Clementine “Clemmie” Churchill.
  • Jim Broadbent as Desmond Morton.
  • Linus Roache as Ralph Wigram.
  • Lena Headey as Ava Wigram.
  • Derek Jacobi as Stanley Baldwin.
  • Ronnie Barker as David Inches.
  • Tom Wilkinson as Sir Robert Vansittart.
  • Celia Imrie as Violet Pearman.
  • Hugh Bonneville as Ivo Pettifer.
  • Gottfried John as Friedrich von Schroder.
  • Anthony Brophy as Brendan Bracken.
  • Edward Hardwicke as Mr. Wood.
  • Tom Hiddleston as Randolph Churchill.
  • Tim Bentinck as John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, Churchill’s ancestor.
  • Dolly Wells as Sarah Churchill.
  • Emma Seigel as Mary Churchill.
  • Nancy Carroll as Diana Churchill.
  • John Standing as Lord Moyne.
  • Gerrard McArthur as Vic Oliver.


Chartwell House was Churchill’s real-life family home and was used for the scenes at his house and grounds.


  • The film also features a supporting cast of British actors such as Derek Jacobi, Ronnie Barker (his first role since retiring in 1988), Jim Broadbent, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie, Linus Roache and Hugh Bonneville, and is notable for an early appearance by a young Tom Hiddleston.
  • Lena Headey, Simon Williams, and Edward Hardwicke all make brief appearances amongst the supporting cast.
  • Among the film’s executive producers were Ridley Scott and Tony Scott.
  • Finney gained many accolades for his performance, winning both a BAFTA Award for Best Actor and an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor.
  • Ramin and Whitemore won the Emmy for Outstanding Writing.
  • It won a Peabody Award in 2002 for being “a portrait of a 20th Century hero’s return from political obscurity to direct the destiny of a nation.”

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • Richard Lorraine.
  • Producer(s):
    • Sue Berger … co-producer.
    • Frank Doelger … producer.
    • Lisa Ellzey … co-executive producer.
    • Nick Gillott … producer (uncredited).
    • Michael Halpern … associate producer.
    • C. Cory M. McCrum-Abdo … associate producer (as Cory McCrum-Abdo).
    • Julie Payne … executive producer.
    • Tracey Scoffield … executive producer.
    • Ridley Scott … executive producer.
    • Tony Scott … executive producer.
    • David M. Thompson … producer.
  • Writer(s):
    • Larry Ramin (story).
    • Hugh Whitemore (screenplay and story).
  • Music:
    • Howard Goodall.
  • Cinematography:
    • Peter Hannan … director of photography.
  • Editor(s):
    • Jim Clark.
  • Production:
    • HBO Films.
    • BBC Films (in association with).
    • Scott Free Productions.
  • Distributor(s):
    • British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) (2002) (UK) (TV).
    • Warner Home Video (2003) (UK) (DVD) (special edition).
    • Argentina Video Home (2005) (Argentina) (DVD).
    • Argentina Video Home (2005) (Argentina) (VHS).
    • HBO Home Entertainment (2009) (USA) (DVD).
    • HBO Max (2020) (USA) (video) (VOD).
    • HBO Video (2002) (UK) (DVD).
    • Home Box Office (HBO) (2002) (USA) (TV) (original airing).
    • Home Box Office Home Video (HBO) (2003) (USA) (DVD).
    • Home Box Office Home Video (HBO) (2003) (USA) (VHS).
    • Warner Bros. (2005) (Argentina) (all media).
    • mediacs AG (Germany) (DVD).
  • Release Date: 27 April 2002 (US) and 12 July 2002 (UK).
  • Rating: 12.
  • Running Time: 96 minutes.
  • Country: UK and US.
  • Language: English.

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