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Darkest Hour

Trailer: New movie about Winston Churchill

Lily James spent six weeks learning to touch-type to convincingly play a secretary in upcoming movie Darkest Hour.

The Cinderella star plays Elizabeth Layton (later Nel), the secretary to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in the biographical war drama, which follows the newly-appointed leader as he decides whether to negotiate with Hitler during the early days of World War II.

To look the part, Lily made sure she could use a typewriter without looking at the keys by undergoing six weeks' worth of preparation.

"(The director) was like, 'Could you just type 'bread and butter, bread and butter'. I had spent six weeks (learning) so I was typing exactly what Gary Oldman as Churchill was saying and I was sort of able to keep up," she told Hello! magazine.

"Now I'm very proficient and even asked my mother for a typewriter for Christmas. It's very old school and I love it. But my boyfriend (actor Matt Smith) is like, 'You'll never use it.'"

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The 28-year-old also joined her fellow castmates on a private tour of the Churchill War Rooms in London, which were recreated for the movie.

"It was fascinating," she gushed. "We saw these videos of women recounting their time there. They didn't often see Churchill but they'd know he was there because a waft of cigar smoke would go by.

"There were all these secretaries who weren't allowed to tell their families where they were going. They'd pretend they were going off to Whitehall, but they'd be down in the War Rooms, working around the clock."

Layton, who served as Churchill's personal secretary from 1941 to 1945, wrote books about her time with the politician, and the last was published shortly before her death in 2007.

From her research, the Baby Driver star discovered Layton was "so dedicated" to Churchill and when she left her post in order to get married she felt "real guilt and loss".

Directed by Joe Wright and written by Anthony McCarten Darkest Hour stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, and follows his early days as Prime Minister, as Hitler closes in on Britain during World War II.