Pitman Training London has been working on a secret mission, having been drafted in to train the award winning actress Lily James behind the scenes in preparation for her role as Winston Churchill’s PA in Darkest Hour, out this week (12th Jan).

A war drama starring Gary Oldman as Churchill, the story follows his early days as Prime Minister, as Hitler closes in on Britain during World War II and whist it is a political drama there is a strong underlying story exploring Churchill’s relationships, especially with his new secretary Elizabeth Layton, played by Lily James. After almost quitting on her first day on the job, Churchill’s secretary goes on to play a key role in his career, through dictation recording his innermost thoughts and interpreting his emotions during a highly emotional point in history.

Lily James who plays Winston Churchill’s wartime PA in Darkest Hour has confessed to having typing personal tutoring with Pitman Training London. Lily James was discussing her role on the Steve Wright show on BBC Radio 2, and the DJ revealed that his mum also trained with Pitman at the start of her career.

Lily James said: “I really learnt to type, so while Gary was giving his Churchill speech I would really be typing it, so I felt that real urgency and need to get it right, which is exactly what Elizabeth would have felt……”

She went on to talk about the satisfaction of learning to type, saying: “I did 6 weeks of typing…. I had this great teacher Liz, who would come round and she thought me to type, I really enjoyed it. I think with acting you never know if you’ve got it right but with typing you type a page without any mistakes, then you’ve got it right!”

In those days posture was everything, they sat with one foot in front of the other. This was partly because typing was a manual skill – you had to really bash the keys, hit the carriage release lever and the tab key, with a fair degree of force and with even pressure on all the keys – the positioning of their feet kept typists stable and from falling off the chair!

James who, before her training with Pitman “could type but not touch type, but not without looking, not without speed, and not with the right fingers!” was a delight to work with according to Liz.

Liz Davis, Pitman Training London, said; “Taking her from a casual typer to a fully-fledged touch typist was really rewarding and to see her in action in the film makes me really proud. What Lily did was incredibly impressive, it was really hard work, learning to touch type with all the nuances in between learning lines. It was done on location and I coached in our normal Pitman Training way. I sometimes enjoyed playing Winston myself and barking the speeches at her so she could practice as authentically as possible!”

“The role of a secretary, especially in such a role, can be immensely stressful and high pressured, and it’s great to see this being truly reflected in the film, and also to see how having really honed skills can help. It’s fantastic that the production company committed to training Lily with Pitman and as a British heritage brand with over 180 years’ experience in this industry we think they made the perfect choice!”

This is not the first time Liz Davis from Pitman Training London has supported famous actors to assume their role. James Bond’s Q, Actor Ben Wishaw also had top secret typing lessons with Pitman.

Pitman Training has been synonymous with office based training since Sir Isaac Pitman invented shorthand in 1837, and the company now helps thousands of students each year progress their careers through tailor-made study programmes and Diplomas with one to one support at over 100 local centres across the UK, as well as via online courses, and short seminars to help top up skills.

You too can be a star ‘Lily’ style, by doing the Pitman Training Learn to Type in 2 Days lessons with Liz Davis or enrolling on our Typaz Online course. For more information see https://www.pitman-training.com or contact 020 7256 6668 or email [email protected]


Notes to Editor

• For more information see https://www.pitman-training.com 

• Link to Lily James discussing her role on the Steve Wright show on BBC Radio 2, and the DJ revealed that his mum also trained with Pitman at the start of her career. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05tdscc

• Link to Film images – http://lily-james.com/photos/displayimage.php?album=586&pid=29368#top_display_media

• Image of Liz Davis from Pitman Training London supporting James Bond’s Q, Actor Ben Wishaw available on request.