FIRST LOOK: See Anthony Hopkins as Nicholas Winton, the man who saved Czech-Jewish children

Winton saved almost 700 children just before the outbreak of World War II, but his actions largely remained secret until the 1988.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 27.07.2023 17:16:00 (updated on 27.07.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

About a year ago, word came out that Sir Anthony Hopkins would play Sir Nicholas Winton, the man who helped to save the lives of 669 mostly Jewish children from occupied Czechoslovakia just before the outbreak of World War II.

The first official still images from One Life have now been released. These show Hopkins playing Winton as an old man, Johnny Flynn playing Winton in 1939, and Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Winton’s mother, Babette Winton. The images were released on Instagram by the film production company See Saw.

Filming took place in the UK and Prague in September 2022. During production, some images of Prague’s main train station Hlavní nádraží decorated in Nazi banners leaked online, snapped by passersby at the station.

Sir Anthony Hopkins in One Life: Photo: See Saw Films
Sir Anthony Hopkins in One Life: Photo: See Saw Films

The film is the feature debut of director James Hawes, who previously directed dramas in Britain, as well as an episode of the Netflix series Black Mirror. The script is based on the biographical book If It’s Not Impossible …The Life of Sir Nicholas Winton, which was written by Winton’s daughter Barbara. The script was penned by Lucinda Coxon and Nick Drake.

The film is set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. However, further release dates have not yet been announced because the film is still seeking international distributors.

Barbara Winton with father Nicholas (Photo via Holocaust Memorial Day Trust)
Barbara Winton with father Nicholas. Photo: Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

In 1938, Winton, a banker by trade, found himself in Prague when war was looming and conditions for Jewish people were rapidly deteriorating. Instead of going on a planned ski vacation, he started a rescue effort to transport primarily Jewish children from Prague to Britain.

Winton and those working to help him had to find homes for the children with British families, raise money, bribe officials, and in some cases forge documents. In March 1939, the first train left Prague, and over the next few months, 669 children were rescued to safety. A final train was prevented from leaving because the war had started.

Johnny Flynn in One Life. Photo: See Saw Films
Johnny Flynn in One Life. Photo: See Saw Films

Winton lived to the age of 106, passing away in 2015. His efforts to save children remained secret for half a century until his wife found some documents about the rescue train in their attic. Winton personally never sought fame for his deeds. His story became known to the public due to the BBC television program That's Life in 1988. In a famous clip from that show, Winton can be seen sitting in an audience unaware that he is surrounded by the now-adult people he saved and their families.

In 1998, Winton received a high Czech state decoration, the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, and he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002. Two Czech astronomers at the Kleť Observatory in South Bohemia named an asteroid after him.

Helena Bonham Carter in One Life. Photo: See Saw Films
Helena Bonham Carter in One Life. Photo: See Saw Films

On the 70th anniversary of the rescue trains in 2009, a statue of Sir Nicholas was unveiled near the tracks at Hlavní nádraží. Another statue is at the Maidenhead railway station in England, where Sir Nicholas was a member and former president of the Maidenhead Rotary Club.

This is not the first film to tackle Winton’s legacy. Slovak-born director Matej Mináč made the 1999 feature film All My Loved Ones. His story also came to life in the 2002 Emmy-winning documentary Power of Good: Nicholas Winton, and in the 2011 documentary Nicky’s Family, which included dramatic re-enactments.

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