Anthony Hopkins’ bio-pic of ‘British Schindler’ seals his place in history

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Anthony Hopkins’ bio-pic of ‘British Schindler’ seals his place in history

Jewish News campaigned for Sir Nicholas Winton to get his own stamp. Now the Holocaust hero gets a posthumous movie

Brigit Grant is the Jewish News Supplements Editor

Holocaust hero the late Sir Nicholas Winton who will be portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins in the film One Life
Holocaust hero the late Sir Nicholas Winton who will be portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins in the film One Life

Almost 30 years after Steven Spielberg brought the story of German Industrialist Oskar Schindler and his rescue of Jews to the big screen, a new biopic about the ‘British Schindler’ Sir Nicholas Winton is soon to start shooting in Prague.

Directed by Aisling Walsh, One Life will celebrate the commitment of stock broker and humanitarian Winton to help rescue 669 children, most of them Jewish, from Czechoslovakia on the eve of WWII. Known as the Kindertransport, it was Winton who arranged the children’s journey from Prague to Britain and then helped them find new homes.

Never seeking public recognition, Winton’s efforts went largely unnoticed until he was reunited some 50 years later with some of the children he helped rescue, now adult, on Dame Esther Rantzen’s BBC TV show That’s Life.

Winton meeting the Kindertransport children as adults on That’s Life

With a screenplay by Nick Drake  and The Danish Girl’s Lucinda Coxon,  One Life will show how the then 29-year-old Winton, arriving in Prague in December 1938 intending to go on a skiing holiday in Switzerland, before changing his plans when he hearw about the refugee crisis in Czechoslovakia. Over the following nine months, Hampstead-born Winton, organised eight trains to carry 669 children.

Young Winton and below actor Johnny Flynn who will portray him at this age

Actor Johnny Flynn who rose to fame portraying David Bowie in the unofficial biopic Stardust and the film Emma. is playing the younger Winton while Hopkins captures the Holocaust hero in his later years. This will be the second time the celebrated Silence of the Lambs’ star has played a Jewish character, the first being his depiction of Yitzhak Rabin in the 1976 TV film Victory at Entebbe.

Hopkins, who became the oldest actor to win an Oscar when he won last year for The Father, was keen to play Winton because he sees it as an opportunity to highlight the Ukranian refugee crisis.

“Anthony and Johnny are without a doubt the right people to bring Lucinda and Nick’s beautifully crafted screenplay about this amazing man to life,”said the film’s producers  Iain Canning and Emile Sherman of See-Saw Films who produced The King’s Speech.

“Despite never wanting any attention for his altruistic act, Winton’s story and the story of those he saved must be told. To be a part of sharing this moment in history with the world is an extraordinary privilege.”

Producer Sherman who is Jewish began his career with a documentary about his great-great-uncle Chatzkel, a Lithuanian Jew who lived through both world wars and the Bolshevik revolution.

One Life’s producers Emile Sherman and Iain Canning

One Life will be the first English-language production to focus on Winton as his story has been recounted in the Oscar-winning Czech documentary Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport and the Czech-Slovak feature All My Loved Ones, which starred Rupert Graves as Winton.

In the UK the most prestigious  tribute to Winton who died aged 106 in 2015, was initiated by Jewish News, when they successfully campaigned for him to feature on a set of commemorative postage stamps.

More than 105,000 people backed the campaign which was lead by the paper’s Associate Editor Justin Cohen who said: “Sir Nicholas shied away from the ‘hero’ label but we could think of no-one more deserving of this rare honour.His inspirational story shows that one person truly can make a difference and the stamp will bring his heroic efforts to the attention of even more people.”

The film One Life is set to do the same for this man’s heroic life.

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