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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Natasha Wynarczyk & Zoe Delaney

Stars who have played Prime Ministers as Jonny Lee Miller takes on Sir John Major role

Jonny Lee Miller looks a far cry from his Trainspotting days in pictures yesterday that showed him filming his new role as former prime minister Sir John Major.

Best known for playing heroin addict Sick Boy in the 90s flick, Jonny, 49, has taken on a surprising part as the former Conservative politician for the latest series of Netflix hit The Crown.

Jonny has already proved he’s a fantastic double of Major, whose premiership took place between 1990 and 1997.

But he’s not the only star who has bowled us over with their uncanny transformation into a British PM. Here, we take a look at the best...

Jonny Lee Miller looked miles away from his iconic Trainspotting role (Internet Unknown)
The actor looked unrecognisable as he filmed scenes for The Crown as former British Prime Ministor John Major (Dean/Click News & Photos /

Antony Sher - Benjamin Disraeli

The Laurence Olivier Award-winning actor, who died in December aged 72, was heavily praised for his performance as the Victorian prime minister in 1997 film Mrs Brown.

This was the actor’s breakthrough film role and one of just a handful of films he starred in as he was more known for appearing on stage.

Following Antony’s death, co-star Judi Dench, who played Queen Victoria in the hit movie, described his portrayal of Disraeli as “spectacular”.

She added: “He could completely immerse himself in a character and make it completely remarkable. He was sublime. He was totally engrossed whenever he was working in that part and in that character.”

Disraeli twice served as prime minister under Queen Victoria, first between February and December 1868 and secondly from 1874 to 1880.

He’s credited with being the founder of the modern-day Conservative Party.

Jeremy Northam - Anthony Eden

Gosford Park star Jeremy, 60, played doomed Conservative PM Anthony Eden in The Crown between 2016 and 2017.

Eden held his position from 1955 to 1957 but was brought down by his poor health and bad handling of the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis, all of which featured in The Crown’s second series. Eden was ranked among the UK’s least successful prime ministers.

Sir Winston Churchill shaking hands with Anthony Eden outside 10 Downing Street in 1995 (Mirrorpix)

Jeremy was also seen in the first series of the Netflix drama being against the relationship between Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby) and Peter Townsend (Ben Miles).

To transform into Eden, Jeremy was given grey hair and the former PM’s signature moustache.

However, responses to his performance were mixed, with one critic saying he played “Prime Minister Anthony Eden like he’s having a nervous breakdown in every scene”.

John Lithgow - Sir Winston Churchill

American actor John starred as Tory PM Churchill in The Crown between 2016 and 2019. The star was so delighted to be offered the role, he said: “I think I said yes before my agent even finished the sentence, even though I was quite astonished.”

However, transforming himself into one of the most recognisable figures from 20th Century history was no mean feat.

“I don’t think I’ve ever prepared for any role quite as much as this, mainly because I’m an American playing the archetypal Englishman,” revealed John.

John Lithgow as Winston Churchill in the first season of The Crown (Daily Record)

“I almost overcompensated by immersing myself so completely in the man’s history. It was just fascinating, I sort of became addicted to Churchill the way I’ve discovered many people are.”

John also used a wig to make him look bald, and was given plumpers inside his mouth to swell his jowls and help him speak more like the former PM, who led Britain between 1940 and 1945 during the Second World War and again from 1951 to 1955.

Gary Oldman - Sir Winston Churchill

When he was initially offered the role of Churchill in 2017 war film Darkest Hour, Gary, 63, was concerned as he looked nothing like him.

He recalled “The physical aspect was always going to be a challenge. I would have had to put on about 80 pounds, which I couldn’t do. Make-up was the only answer.”

Gary as the late politician in the wartime drama (2017 FOCUS FEATURES)

To change his looks, Gary wore a fat suit and had facial prosthetics applied including a nose tip, chin and cheeks to transform into the wartime PM - a process that took almost four hours every day on set.

Gary also said he downloaded an app on his phone that featured Churchill’s speeches which he listened to on repeat in order to remember his lines and get the accent right.

It was all worth it, as the actor received the 2018 Oscar for Best Actor for his performance.

Meryl Streep - Margaret Thatcher

Meryl, 72, won her third Oscar for her portrayal of the UK’s first ever female PM in 2011 film The Iron Lady.

In preparation for the role, the American actress sat through a session of British MPs at the House of Commons, but although she wanted to meet the former Conservative PM, Thatcher reportedly refused.

Meryl Streep won an Oscar for her stint as the British politician (PA)
Thatcher reportedly refused to meet the actress playing her on screen (Getty Images)

Despite Meryl’s critically-acclaimed portrayal of Thatcher, who was PM from 1979 to 1990, The Iron Lady received some criticism from former colleagues of Thatcher due to scenes that showed the politician as an elderly woman suffering from dementia.

Meryl responded: “It’s something that I don’t think there should be a stigma about, it’s life, it’s the truth.”

When Thatcher passed away from a stroke in April 2013, Meryl praised the controversial PM as a “figure of awe”.

She added: “Margaret Thatcher was a pioneer, willingly or unwillingly, for the role of women in politics.”

Gillian Anderson - Margaret Thatcher

Another portrayal from The Crown, Gillian, 53, stunned with her uncanny resemblance to Thatcher during the recent fourth series.

Gillian wore two different wigs - one was softer and blonder to reflect her less severe image when she first came into power, and a thinner, receding one that signified her loss of power when her fellow Tory MPs turned against her.

Instead of using prosthetics, Gillian said emulating the rest of Thatcher’s looks was a case of costuming and make-up.

Gillian Anderson got the late politician's voice just right in series four of The Crown (Des Willie/Netflix)

“We were a similar age, so it didn’t feel like I would need to make myself look older,” she said.

“We have a similar nose. We have somewhat similar eyes as we’ve both got hooded eyelids.”

Gillian was also praised for nailing the late politician’s mannerisms and distinctive, raspy voice - and the latter was key to an accurate portrayal.

“You can have the wig and you can have the clothes, but if the voice is wrong you’re kind of screwed,” said Gillian.

Michael Sheen - Tony Blair

Michael’s breakthrough TV role was as the former Labour prime minister in Peter Morgan’s 2003 film The Deal, which explored the Granita pact made by Blair and Gordon Brown before the 1994 Labour Party leadership election.

Since then, Michael, 53, has gone on to play Blair, who was PM between 1997 and 2007, twice more for Morgan films - The Queen (2006) and The Special Relationship (2010). These roles earned him nominations for a BAFTA and an Emmy.

Tony and Cherie Blair embrace infront of No 10 Downing Street in 1997 (PA)

Michael met Blair just before he started work on the final film in the ‘Blair trilogy’.

He recalled: “He was very wary of me.

“It was interesting because he’s clearly someone who is very socially charming and engaging, and clearly wants the social interaction to go well, but I could see this other part of him was going: ‘Hang on, this guy might be copying me.’

"There was an odd dynamic there.”

Kenneth Branagh - Boris Johnson

The British actor was recently photographed looking the spitting image of current PM Boris Johnson thanks to prosthetics and a strawberry-blonde wig.

Belfast director Sir Kenneth, 61, is set to play the Tory leader in an upcoming sky drama series about the Coronavirus pandemic.

Kenneth Branagh as Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the upcoming drama (PA)

Called This Spectred Isle, it is currently scheduled to stream on NOW TV from this autumn and takes a look at the government response during the first wave in spring 2020.

The drama’s five episodes will also follow Johnson’s hospitalisation after contracting Covid-19, the birth of his son Wilfred and the impact of the pandemic on the country as a whole.

Appearing on ITV ’s Lorraine last month, Sir Kenneth praised This Spectred Isle’s prosthetics team for helping him transform into Johnson.

“There was an amazing team, the team that put that together were incredible.”

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