|The film is about how Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist, was retained by the then Duke of York (later King George VI) to help him to overcome his stammer in the years before, during and after the Abdication crisis.|
|Links to miscellaneous
articles of note
The quack who taught the King George VI to speak
The British Stammering Association's interview with Colin
|Talk of the town: Colin Firth discusses
(Variety, Nov 11, 2010, by Sam Thielman)
At least two-thirds of Monday's starry audience at the Ziegfeld whipped out their cell phone cameras to photograph Colin Firth, looking every inch the heartthrob that Tom Ford made him in "A Single Man," at the Weinstein Co.'s "The King's Speech" preem.
At the Royalton after-party, Helen Bonham Carter remained stuck in her queen role. Firth, on the other hand, was much more the commoner. He took the opportunity not to talk about royalty or Ford grooming tips but rather "the issue" of his new pic, which focuses on King George VI's stuttering problem.
"It's one of the last legitimately pastiched disabilities," Firth began. "You don't really get away with poking fun at people who are in wheelchairs, you know, or who are blind. I'm not saying we have to be po-faced about tragedy or hardship, but it's pretty rare, I think, that the issue's been dealt with as an issue."
Firth said that he looked to Brad Dourif's perf in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and to "Speech" co-star Derek Jacobi in "I, Claudius" for inspiration. "It's very rare that you see an attempt to portray just how debilitating (stuttering) is."
|An agile indie
sector: 'King's Speech' came together without a Hollywood major
(Variety, Nov 6, 2010, by Pamela McClintock and Diana Lodderhose)
Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech" offers a case study in how the indie film sector can harness opportunity in the global film biz and move quickly, even in times of economic hardship and without the help of a major Hollywood studio. Those involved with the historical drama, toplining Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, give much of the credit to Iain Canning and Emile Sherman, who run the Australian and U.K. production company See-Saw Films. See-Saw put together the financing and produced the film by striking deals with two key distribution partners and hiring Glen Basner's FilmNation to sell the rest of the world.
"The King's Speech" came together with lightning speed; See-Saw closed financing in October 2009, after having the script in hand for a year. Hooper started principal photography in November 2009 and turned in a final cut of the movie at the end of August this year, in time for the Telluride and Toronto film festivals.
Behind the scenes, there were intense moments along the way. See-Saw faced a crucial decision when Fox Searchlight came knocking at its door earlier in 2009. The specialty division was keenly interested in "King's Speech," but there was a catch: Searchlight, owned by a studio with a sprawling international operation, wanted worldwide rights. But that would have meant cutting out See-Saw's partners, led by Momentum Pictures in the U.K. Australia's Transmission also took an early stake in the film. See-Saw has a first-look deal with Momentum, while Transmission is a sister company. See-Saw decided to stick to its initial plan and go the indie route to retain control.
In summer 2009, the U.K. Film Council put up a chunk of financing, while the Weinstein Co. acquired domestic rights. FilmNation, which launched the project at AFM a year ago, pre-sold most of the globe by the end of Berlin. The production budget for "King's Speech" came in at $12 million. Tim Smith and Paul Brett's Prescience Film Finance also injected cash into the pic.
Momentum topper Xavier Marchand said it wasn't difficult selling the project because of Hooper, a driving force, and screenwriter David Seidler. Seidler related profoundly to the film's subject, King George VI, since he had a debilitating stutter as a child and remembered empathizing with the British monarch.
The See-Saw, Momentum and Transmission teams were all on hand Friday night for an AFI gala screening of "King's Speech" at Grauman's Chinese in Hollywood, along with Harvey Weinstein and his entourage. TWC releases "King's Speech" domestically in select cities on Nov. 26, followed by a release in Australia on Boxing Day and in the U.K. in January. Momentum will distribute the pic in Blighty while its parent company, Alliance, will distribute pic in Canada.
|The Production: How 'The King's Speech'
found its voice
(Los Angeles Times, Oct 31, 2010, by John Horn)
It all began with a screenwriter who'd overcome a stutter and wanted to write about George VI's. Fast forward to chance attendance at the resulting play reading and discovery of the therapist's notes.
It's a peculiar person—if not an unabashed sadist—who takes pleasure in someone's stuttering, particularly at a public event. Yet when filmmaker Tom Hooper heard that Colin Firth couldn't stop stammering while accepting an acting honor for "A Single Man," Hooper couldn't hide his delight.
For "The King's Speech," opening Nov. 26, Hooper had cast Firth as King George VI, the World War II-era English monarch who was nearly rendered a silent sovereign by a crippling speech impediment. Derek Jacobi, who costars in the film as the Archbishop of Canterbury, had warned Firth that affecting a stutter would be a hard habit to shake—Jacobi having learned the hard way after his tongue-tied performance in "I, Claudius."
"So Colin went to an awards thing for 'A Single Man' in the midst of production, and he completely stammered. He couldn't speak," Hooper says. "And I said, 'That's fantastic news.'"
That Firth was able to transplant King George's faltering diction onto his own tongue meant that audiences could see, and hear, how disabling a speech impediment can be. But if "The King's Speech" were to become meaningful drama instead of medical monologue, it was crucial that the monarch's relationship with his unorthodox speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), feel even more authentic.
"Their friendship," says Firth, "is the biggest part of the healing story."
American moviegoers, and more than a few British patrons, may know little about the former Duke of York, who was elevated to the throne after his older brother, Edward VIII, abdicated because he wanted to marry a twice-divorced American socialite. But any number of royal historians—and a young British boy named David Seidler—understood that King George VI was nearly paralyzed vocally. The disability was exacerbated by his wartime duty: to speak regularly to his subjects, urging solidarity as bombs rained down on England.
As a child, Seidler had been evacuated to the United States before the Blitz. The voyage—in which a convoy ship had been sunk by a U-boat—traumatized Seidler. "I was quite a profound stutterer," he says. He followed the war's progress on the radio, listening to King George, who by then could manage his stammer. "I heard these wonderful, moving speeches, and had heard that he had been a terrible stutterer," Seidler says. "If he could cure himself, it gave me hope."
Seidler went on to overcome his stutter and become a screenwriter but never forgot about the king. He was particularly interested in how the king was treated by Logue, an Australian who earlier had counseled World War I soldiers suffering from shell shock, a version of what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder. Logue, who was not a trained speech pathologist, would briefly surface in biographies—"Blips on the radar screen," Seidler says—but details of his treatments remained secret. "The royal family does not like talking about the royal stutterer," Seidler says. "It was swept under the carpet."
In the mid-1970s, Seidler wrote the king's widow, Queen Elizabeth, asking permission to tell the story. She wrote back saying that "The memory of these events are still too painful" and that she wouldn't accede in her lifetime. "I thought, 'How long am I going to have to wait? One or two years?' She wasn't that young," Seidler says. But the Queen Mother famously lived until age 101, 28 years after Seidler had made his inquiry.
In the intervening years, Seidler had cowritten Francis Ford Coppola's "Tucker: The Man and His Dream," but his credits in television had slowed to a trickle. What's more, he had lost contact with Logue's son, who had his father's papers. Rather than write "The King's Speech" as a movie, he penned it as a play—and that's when his luck took a dramatic turn for the better.
A staged reading of the play was presented in the London borough of Islington, and in the audience was Hooper's mother, Meredith, who is Australian. "She'd never been to a play reading in her life and didn't expect it to be much good," Hooper says. But as soon as she left the theater, she rang her son, who was finishing the HBO miniseries " John Adams." "I've found your next movie," she told him. It took Hooper several months to read the play, but when he did, he called his mother back to say, "You were right." Says Hooper: "I thought it was one of the most personal films I could make."
Around the same time, producer Joan Lane, who had helped organize the Islington reading, decided the part of Logue would be perfect for Rush, who had won the lead actor Oscar for 1996's "Shine." Seidler says he had been rebuffed by the actor's Australian agent, so Lane dispatched an Australian associate to get the actor the script through any means possible.
"It was literally in a brown paper bag on my doormat," Rush recalls. He read it and called his Los Angeles agent. He didn't want to be in the play, but if it were turned into a movie, Rush was in. The film's producers flirted with casting Robert Downey Jr., Ralph Fiennes or Paul Bettany as the king before Firth jumped in and started learning how not to speak. Then, just weeks before production was set to start, art director Leon McCarthy located Logue's diaries, notes and letters—"Like the Dead Sea Scrolls," Firth says.
It took three decades, but "The King's Speech" finally had found its voice.
The $15-million movie, produced by a number of British entities and the Weinstein Co., opens in 1925 as the second son of King George V (played by Michael Gambon) is set to speak before the enormous British Empire Exhibition, the remarks from Wembley carried around the globe via wireless. The microphone looms in front of the soon-to-be emperor like a hangman's noose, and death might have been a more pleasant option, as the then Duke of York can blurt only a few jagged syllables to his global audience.
Nine years and many failed treatments later, the future Queen Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) drags her husband to Logue's office, as unconventional in appearance with its collapsing couch and arty wallpaper as the therapist's techniques are in practice. Logue insists on referring to the king by his nickname, Bertie, and makes small wagers with him over minor accomplishments.
Even though Logue gives his patient all kinds of vocal exercises, including a memorable scene where he encourages George VI to swear like a royal rapper, it's clear that what he is really doing is becoming the king's therapist-friend as a means to repair the emotional wounds that tie his tongue in knots.
"What Logue is doing is psychotherapy by stealth," Firth says. "It's not so much 'Face your demons and you'll be healed.' It's that he recognizes that this man has no friends, and isolation is his problem."
Firth, Rush and Hooper say they benefited tremendously from Logue's papers, which influenced not only the relationship between the principals but also gave the movie a few lines of dialogue.
"A lot of biographies and researchers wrote about him as dull-witted," Firth says of the king. But in Logue's papers, "You saw his sense of humor, irony about himself and self-mockery."
Adds Rush: "I think there's a greater metaphor at work. You could see this film and not think it's a film about someone who stammers but about how do we present the best versions of ourselves.
c-c-course the king can curse
A movie about George VI’s battle to beat his stammer, starring Colin Firth, depicts a speech therapist goading him into swearing
(Sunday Times, Sept 26, 2010. by Richard Brooks)
It is the king as he has never been heard before—at least in public. George VI, the Queen’s father, utters a string of four-letter expletives in a new film about the monarch’s battle with his chronic stammer. The swearing is depicted as part of the efforts of Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist, to cure the king’s impediment.
The story of George VI and his struggle against the stammer is told in a new film starring Colin Firth, screened next month at the London Film Festival. His difficulties in speaking became a problem of national importance when he unexpectedly came to the throne in 1936, following the abdication of his brother Edward VIII and then when his broadcasts helped rally the nation during the second world war.
The film is based partly on Logue’s own diaries and letters, newly discovered by his grandson Mark. The story will also be told in full in a book, which will be published in November and like the film will be called The King’s Speech.
The swearing does not appear in the diaries or the book, but was introduced by the screenwriter, David Seidler, based on his own experiences. “Seidler was treated this way in his own therapy as a bad stammerer,” said Iain Canning, producer of The King’s Speech. “It was quite a common practice because it encouraged verbal liberation.”
Initially, the future king—then known as Prince Albert, Duke of York, or Bertie to his family—is shown as only able to say “bloody bugger” after Logue tells him to swear. The therapist then taunts him that even a “prig can do better than that”, prompting the tirade of f-words. While neither Canning nor Seidler knows if this actually happened, they argue it is valid in the film.
Asked if the Queen might be shocked by her father uttering expletives, Canning replied: “She is probably used to such things”. He added: “We’re also trying to show that it became very much a male friendship as well as therapy.”
The film, which last Sunday won the audience award at the Toronto Film Festival with critics tipping both Firth and Geoffrey Rush, who plays Logue, as strong Oscar candidates, portrays the relationship between the king and Logue as chummy and intimate. There is a scene in which the duke, the duchess—the future Queen Mother—and Logue are all lying on the floor, touching each other while doing breathing exercises, ostensibly to help the stammer.
The book relates how the monarch’s speech problems, which began when he was about eight, stemmed from the impatience of his father George V telling him to “get it out”. Logue was employed after Bertie suffered excruciating public embarrassment when he gave a halting speech at the closing of the British Empire Exhibition in 1925. Logue saw him in 82 appointments at his Harley Street surgery or his home in Chelsea from October 1926 to December 1927. The bill came to just under £200, about £9,000 in today’s money.
The stammer gradually improved as a result of Logue’s therapy. However, on coming to the throne in December 1936, the king called on him again, worried that he might stumble over his words at the coronation and in a speech on BBC radio that evening. Logue wrote that after a practice run, the king was “almost hysterical”. He added: “He’s a good fellow, but he needs careful handling.”
Sometimes, the king was able even to joke with Logue about his problems, which, though alleviated, never went away. Just before the opening of parliament in November 1940, he wrote: “Logue, I’ve got the jitters. I woke up at one this morning after dreaming I was in parliament with my mouth wide open and I could not say a word.”
In 1944 the king delivered a speech about the disbanding of the Home Guard in which he made only one error, over the word “weapons”. Logue congratulated him, but asked why he had a problem with “weapons” when usually his stammer occurred on words beginning with the letter k, q or g. The king replied that he had done it on purpose. “On purpose?,” queried Logue. “Yes, because if I don’t make a mistake, people might not know it was me,” replied the monarch.
|The King's Speech: Toronto and the Lust for Oscar
(Time, Sept 11, 2010, by Richard Corliss)
Roy Thomson Hall, home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and, for 10 days each September, the Toronto International Film Festival, may be the world's worst place to see movies—the sightlines in this severely curved auditorium make every image look distorted, as if shot with a wide-angle lens—but it's an excellent venue for a surprise party. Last night, introducing The King's Speech, director Tom Hooper mentioned that it was the 50th birthday of the film's leading actor, Colin Firth. Without prompting, a couple thousand members of the audience regaled the star with a chorus of "Happy Birthday," and Firth, who in the film plays the British monarch George VI, bowed to his subjects.
Harvey Weinstein had to be hoping that, 2,200 miles away, the members of the Motion Picture Academy somehow heard the Toronto chorale. Co-honcho of Weinstein Films with his brother Bob, Harvey was the champion of Oscar campaigning back when he and Bob ran Miramax Films. Eleven years in a row, from 1993 to 2003, Miramax secured at least one Best Picture nomination and snagged two wins of the top Oscar: The English Patient and Chicago. The brothers left Miramax in 2005 and have had less luck with their new company; Nine, their expensive try for Oscar gold last season, was a critical, commercial and Academy disaster. But Harvey can still be a brilliant, indefatigable entrepreneur, and The King's Speech could propel him on stage for one more Oscar night.
That's the early word on the movie, which had a sneak peek at the Telluride Film Festival last weekend, then played Toront —the all-but official launch pad for the awards season—and will open in real movie houses Nov. 26. Every news story on the picture felt obliged to use the money word "Oscar" in its lede. [sic] "Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are sure-thing nominees," wrote Deadline Hollywood's Pete Hammond from Telluride. "The film itself is a strong Best Picture prospect to say the least. Harvey is back in the Oscar game with this one, no doubt." The Wrap's Steve Pond, who correctly picked The Hurt Locker as the top Oscar winner this time last year, and who hasn't seen The King's Speech, proclaimed it next March's Best Picture recipient.
Toronto earned its Oscar stripes in 1999, when it premiered American Beauty, an original drama of no special pedigree that went on to win the four top Academy Awards (for picture, director, writer and lead actor). Four of the last five Best Picture winners played the Festival, and amped up their Oscar buzz here. When American Beauty opened, the critic Dave Kehr remarked that it was "just bad enough to win the Oscar for Best Picture." He meant the right kind of bad—ostensibly bold, cannily earnest, hammering home big themes—the kind that Academy members are susceptible to. For they are no less immune to clichés in self-important dramas than 14-year-old boys are to zombie apocalypses and puke jokes; and smart moviemakers know how to angle their preferences and prejudices. The "Oscar genre" has as many rigid conventions as the action adventure or bromance comedy.
For instance, whereas almost no recent box-office hits have been set in the historical past, nearly 60% of the films nominated for best picture from 2000 to 2009 were—at least two of the five nominees every year, and sometimes four or all five (in 2009: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader and most of Slumdog Millionaire). Fifteen of the 50 films nominated in that decade had historical figures as their subjects, from Howard Hughes to Ray Charles, Edward R. Murrow to Harvey Milk. Six of the 50 were set in Britain, and seven took place during World War II or the years leading up to it, with Hitler's shadow looming menacingly and conveniently. (The Academy voters still love to hate the Nazis.) It also helps to focus on a British monarch, as in The Queen, or on a character with a severe physical or emotional disability A Beautiful Mind, Ray, Benjamin Button) that he learns to live with or conquer through the help of those who love him.
The King's Speech adheres to every rule in the Oscar playbook. It's a fact-based drama about a British monarch with a crippling vocal handicap, set in the years 1925 to 1939 and climaxing with Britain's declaration of war against Nazi Germany. Firth plays the Duke of York, known to his family as Bertie, who since youth was derided for his stammering by his father King George V (Michael Gambon) and his elder brother David (Guy Pearce), later King Edward VIII. Bertie's been through dozens of speech therapists—one tells him that smoking cigarettes "calms the nerves and gives you confidence"—before his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) engages the services of an outsider. Worse, an Australian.
Lionel Logue (Rush) is a speech teacher with unorthodox methods. He insists on a first-name intimacy with his patients, instructs them to sing "Swanee River" and use vigorous profanity, probes their childhoods for the trigger to their infirmity. He's Henry Higgins and Helen Keller's Annie Sullivan and Sigmund Freud in a single, smilingly efficient body. It's his job to prepare Bertie, when he becomes George VI after his brother's resignation of the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, to go on the radio and speak to his subjects about Britain's determination to survive and win the war. (Archive: Toronto's Increasing Influence.)
Since most of the movie takes place in two locations (Buckingham Palace and Lionel's digs), the question arises: Why is this a film and not a play? Well, in part because a film can summon a full retinue of Brit acting royalty—Claire Bloom, Derek Jacobi, Timothy Spall, Jennifer Ehle and Anthony Andrews also show up—at their ease in this stately-homes, Masterpiece Theatre atmosphere. And David Seidler's script is a marvel of dramatic point-making: Bertie's sad good nature (telling an autobiographical bedtime fable to his daughters Elizabeth and Margaret), his domination by family and teachers (who made the natural left-hander write right), his discomfort at being addressed as an equal by his Australian tutor and his slow realization of the bond they have forged. ("What are friends for?" asks Lionel lightly, and Bertie replies, "I wouldn't know.") The Duke's breakthrough sentence—"I have a voice!" — has an emotional impact as genuine as it is obvious.
Obvious, though, is the word for Hopper's direction. It amplifies to rock-concert level every pained plosive in Bertie's speech, forces certain characters dangerously close to caricature (so we know who are nature's nobles and who the knaves). This straining for the obvious reduces The King' Speech to an experience that forces sensitive viewers, who prefer nuance over rib-poking, to juggling their response: tsk-tsking the florid directorial gestures even as they want to surrender to the poignant story and acute performances.
Last year, Firth earned an Oscar nomination as another George in another Weinstein drama: he played a homosexual teacher close to suicide in Tom Ford's film of the Christopher Isherwood novel A Single Man. That was a delicate, muted mood piece—a terrific film, but far too subtle and downbeat for the Academy, which ignored it in the top-10 list of Best Picture nominations. The King's Speech makes none of A Single Man's mistakes. The obviousness that makes critics squirm is just what may pound the message into Oscar voters' heads that this one truly is worthy. It's early days just good enough—and, by Dave Kehr's terms, bad enough—to win the big one, and recertify Toronto as the Festival that makes Oscars.
|Firth's 'King' looks
(Toronto Sun, Sept 9, 2010, by Jane Stevenon)
British actor Colin Firth, who was nominated for an Academy Award earlier this year for his stirring performance in A Single Man—but lost to Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart—appears to be headed for another.
His moving and often funny portrayal of the shy and stammering King George VI in his latest film, The King's Speech, is one of TIFF's most universally praised so far. In an interview on Thursday, a day before his 50th birthday, Firth addressed the growing buzz over his performance.
"I think I'm old enough to manage expectations, frankly," he said. "And those things are wonderful, but they are what they are. And I thinks it's entirely fine to bask in all of that as long as you don't lose sight of the fact that your film isn't measured by that. The answer is, let's hope it all happens, and it'll be disappointing if it doesn't, but I think the film will still be what it is. At the moment, that's where it's at, people are liking it and, on the whole, loving it—and it's a very, very gratifying thing to be a part of, obviously."
If the Oscar nod should come for Firth in The King's Speech, he says there was nothing that he learned from his Academy Award experience for A Single Man that will help him prepare for the Oscar red carpet again.
"Everybody I know who are veterans of those events say you never learn, you never get used to it," Firth said. "It's too giddy, too strange, too unreal, too unlike any other part of normal or natural life, so I went through it in a complete daze. I did have fun, actually, particularly because the tension had peaked earlier for me. There seems to be actually no question of winning, which takes a lot of tension out of it 'cause otherwise it's almost like sitting on a ticking time bomb."
In fact, Firth said this past January he hit the Golden Globes red carpet, which are staged earlier than the Oscars, literally 24 hours after he had filmed his last scene in The King's Speech. "I had to run for a plane, so that was a little bit hard to process," he said.
The story of what turned into a lifelong friendship between King George VI—or Bertie, as he's called in the film—and his Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, played by Geoffrey Rush, was unknown to Firth, although he was well aware of the King's stammering issues because they had been made so public.
And Firth, who met Rush when they were both in Shakespeare In Love, was thrilled to act opposite someone whose company he enjoyed so much in real life.
The cast—which also includes Helena Bonham Carter as the royal's wife—went into an intense three week rehearsal process before shooting began on the Tom Hooper-directed film.
"I think the fact that I take great joy in (Geoffrey Rush's) company was helpful," Firth said. "We had a lot of fun together. And humour is very much the basis of our relationship. And there was no way that we were going to allow Bertie and Lionel's relationship to not make use of that ... These men had a sense of humour."
Firth also felt it was important to show the well-documented love shared between King George VI and his daughter, the future Queen Elizabeth II.
Firth, whose next film will be an adaptation of the John Le Carre novel—Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, with Swedish director Tomas Alfredson (Let The Right One In)—has no idea whether the real Queen Elizabeth II has seen, or will see, the film.
"It's been offered. It's been shown to Prince Charles'—whatever they are, the private secretaries—and I think Tom (Hooper) was present at that, and I think verbally he got a very positive feedback. Whatever the official line is, I think the Royal Family would have to be quite careful. My line in the movie where I said, 'We are not a family, we're a firm,' that's a quote, that's Bertie's quote. And I have writtten to Prince Charles and he's written back, and he's expressed a curiosity to see the film—but whether he accepts or likes it, we'll have to see."
Speech" wins early Oscar buzz at Telluride
(The Hollywood Reporter, Sept 7, 2010, by Jay A. Fernandez)
Has Telluride done it again?
As the film festival wrapped its 37th year in Colorado's San Juan mountains Monday, the prevailing wisdom was that the event had launched yet another serious Oscar contender in the British royalty drama "The King's Speech."
The film, which stars Colin Firth, Helena Bonham-Carter and Geoffrey Rush, had its world premiere as a sneak peek on Saturday morning, five days before its higher-profile screening at the Toronto Film Festival.
After several additional screenings and a rare standing ovation Sunday night as part of a companion tribute to Firth, who plays King George VI struggling to overcome a stammer to rally his nation for war, the film has provoked talk of widespread awards recognition.
While other films also attracted partisans, "The King's Speech" was seen as having the broadest support across a broad array of awards categories.
Firth rode a similar wave last fall when Tom Ford's "A Single Man" rolled through Venice and Toronto, and the Weinstein Co. picked it up for distribution in December. The company plans a similar late-November release for "Speech," which was directed by Tom Hooper ("The Damned United").
|The King's Speech's' eloquent oratory
(LA Times blog, Sept 6, 2010, by John Horn
As a young English child with a terrible stammer, David Seidler would listen to radio broadcasts of King George VI, who also had an almost incapacitating speech impediment. The king’s World War II addresses reminded Seidler that if the monarch could overcome stuttering, so could he: The king was his elocutionary inspiration.
Seidler grew up to become a screenwriter, writing “Tucker: The Man and his Dream” and numerous television programs, but he never forgot what he heard over the wireless so many decades earlier. He eventually adapted the story of the king and his relationship with his unconventional speech therapist, Lionel Logue, into a play, and the play has now become the movie “The King’s Speech,” which had its world premiere at Labor Day weekend's Telluride Film Festival.
Even though the movie directed by Tom Hooper ("The Damned United") is about the royal family and unfolds around Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, “The King’s Speech” follows surprisingly common themes of friendship, perseverance and trust.
Logue (Geoffrey Rush) was indeed a talented language pathologist (the film was shaped by a trove of his unpublished papers, records and diary entries), but his true gift was companionship. Like any good shrink or comrade, the therapist was able to reveal and manage some of the things—an oppressive childhood, chiefly—that twisted the king’s tongue in knots. The film ends with the king (Colin Firth) addressing the nation just as the war with Germany is set to begin.
“What I felt the film was really about was that he was saved by friendship,” Hooper says. “Yes, it’s about a man with a stammer. But we all face blocks to becoming our better selves.”
The film is stuffed with period detail (“I’m obsessive about historical accuracy,” says Hooper, who also directed the miniseries “John Adams”).
One of the film’s most memorable lines comes not from biography, but from something Hooper’s father told the director. Educated in a heartless boarding school, the filmmaker’s dad suffered some of the same confidence-killing treatment as did King George VI.
So when Hooper told his father he was stuck on one scene, his father told him some the best advice he ever heard: “You don’t need to be afraid of the things you were afraid of when you were 5.”
It’s Logue’s line to the king now, and it’s part of what makes “The King’s Speech” so affecting.
|Interview with Colin Firth, Geoffrey
Rush and Tom Hooper
(Incontention.com, Sept 6, 2010, by Kristopher Tapley)
For actor Geoffrey Rush and director Tom Hooper, David Seidler’s script “The King’s Speech” came to them by serendipity. Still in stage play format, it arrived at Rush’s Melbourne residence with a note apologizing for a cold call avoiding the traditional agency pipeline. For Hooper, it came to him because his mother happened to be Australian.
“My mom was invited by some Australian friends to a fringe theater play reading of this unproduced play, having never been to a play reading in her life,” the director says, tucked into a booth with Firth and Rush at Telluride’s Rustico restaurant. “They were like, ‘We need some Aussies in the audience, would you come along?’ She called me up and said, ‘I think I may have just seen your next film.’ She sent it to me and it sat on my desk. Two or three months went by and I read it in one sitting. I rang her up and said, ‘You’re absolutely right.’”
Rush politely declined the offer to star in a play that was “trying to be ‘Henry V,’” but noted that the central idea of Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue assisting King George V with his stammer could make for quite the film. His copy of the script, by the way, was accompanied by a DVD of the very reading Hooper’s mother attended.
Hooper’s father lost his own father in World War II at the age of three and, as the director puts it, the story of Hooper’s childhood was his Australian mother unpacking some of the damage done to his English father so early in life. “In a way that childhood story is this story, because this is an Australian unpacking the damage done to an English king by his upbringing. I never realized how it related to my own childhood until I finished the film. In a weird way I think it’s the most personal piece of work I’ve ever done.”
Hooper filmed the proceedings quite uniquely. Choosing to place the camera very close to his actors with a wider lens, he captures an intimacy that is only assisted by the lived-in performances from Firth and Rush.
“I used Stanley Kubrick’s favorite lens, the 18 mil,” he says. “I worked with Larry Smith, who worked for Stanley for years and years, and I learned a lot from him about how Stanley used to work. I chose it for this film because I like the way it means people are always in relation to their space. It pulls the world right into you and people are always framed in an architectural environment. I was interested in faces in relation to negative space here. I just had a feeling that I wanted to be incredibly intimate and close with the actors. There’s a strong sense of exposed scrutiny that happens when the camera’s that close.”
Firth, the only member of the trio to come by the script through conventional means, got to know Rush during the east coast promotion of John Madden’s “Shakespeare in Love.” In Hooper’s film, the two have a chemistry that would suggest they’d worked together much more than the brief interaction they encountered on that Oscar winner. By design, however, the shooting schedule called for the filming of George VI (known affectionately as “Bertie” to friends and the Royal Family) and Logue’s first meeting on the first day of shooting, and one of the most important scenes of the entire film.
“I’ve often started a job where the first day is you walk down a corridor and look out a window,” Firth says. “You feel the thing is sort of being held at bay from you and you’re not sure what you’re committed to. I did a film once where weeks went by before I got into the meat of it, and I began to lose connection with it. I knew this thing was taking place, but I had no foothold.”
“The King’s Speech,” on the other hand, couldn’t have been more different. It wasn’t just that the production started out with an essential scene, but Hooper started with a shot that had a way of committing the actor as well.
“He didn’t start with a big master shot of the room,” Firth says. “It was the single of me on the sofa, which means I’m up now, you know, I’m not going to sort of find my way via, ‘This is how I walk into the room. I can mess it up a little bit here and then finesse it in the close up.’ This is it. I’m on.”
The script’s beginnings go way back to the early 1980s, when screenwriter Seidler, who himself had overcome a stammering impediment earlier in life, wanted to tell Bertie’s similar story. He found Logue’s grandson, Valentine, and asked for diary material to inform the script. But when he wrote to the Queen Mother asking for permission to proceed, she preferred it to be not in her lifetime. The events were still too fresh. Nearly 30 years later, in 2005, he finally sat down to write it, having lost contact with Logue unable to include that extra touch of authenticity.
Fortunately enough, Hooper and the production were able to obtain the diaries when the film started percolating, a veritable treasure trove of material for Firth and especially Rush to play with.
“We spent three weeks in pretty serious script analysis and development,” Rush says. “We’d just received the diaries and were trying to incorporate some really fascinating ideas that were alluded to in the screenplay but weren’t concrete. Tom’s thing was why fabricate a dramatic narrative drive when the real facts are actually that much more interesting? It deepened and got many more grace notes and subtleties.”
Rush, himself an Aussie, was disheartened early on with some of the casting ideas for Bertie.
“People started bandying about names and I’d say, ‘No, you can’t have an American playing George VI.’ People will always say to me, ‘You played Trotsky,’ who is Russian. But there’s a quintessential Anglo-Australian conflict, which is its own thing.”
He also says he felt the material would have been undercut if Logue wasn’t handled with particular aversion to modern stereotypes. “I thought we would really cheapen this story if we over-Australianized for an international audience what an Australian speech therapist might have been like in the 1930s, if we made him like a Paul Hogan figure. The Crocodile Dundee figure didn’t really emerge until the 1970s. There would have been much more of an absorption into English culture. I really feel it’s a kind of attitude and energy and a nobility to stomp on stuffy orthodoxies of British culture just by a natural Australian sense of how you enter a room.”
Firth chimes in, noting, “And also it would have been so reductive because it would have been Royal vs. Crocodile Dundee instead of two men.”
For his part, Firth says he was wary of falling into an arena of self-pity with his character’s somewhat emotional childhood story. “There’s a precipice here,” he says. “It’s a very thin line. There’s a device at heart that protects you from it, which is just self-awareness. There’s an Englishness in there. Whatever you’re talking about, there’s a wryness that accompanies it. That’s what I hoped was the tool that would save it from that with a lot of these tales of woe. As long as there was a way to say, ‘I’m detached enough to be able to tell you what I’m telling you. I’m not just opening my veins here.’ And that’s in the real character of Bertie.”
There were some post-therapy audio recordings of Bertie for Firth to go by when it came to developing the stammer, but mostly it was a contrivance of his own. He had plenty of touchstones, however, beginning with his sister.
“My sister is a voice therapist,” he says. “She deals with psychology as it’s related to speech. It doesn’t have to be about impediments so to speak. It can be about people feeling compromised about how they come across. Logue is kind of psycho-analyzing by stealth, you know, give him a brandy and see if we can draw something out. And that was a very progressive way of thinking at the time.”
Another reference was Derek Jacobi, who “wrote the book” on stammering in movies, as far as Firth was concerned. The film he’s referencing, of course, is “I, Claudius,” but the story gets interesting. Firth once worked with production designer Bruce Macadie, who himself had a stammer. The actor used Macadie as a source of sorts on the film. Jacobi, meanwhile, was on the set of “The King’s Speech” one day and told Firth about his source on “I, Claudius,” a young painter by the name of…Bruce Macadie. So Claudius and Bertie are forever linked on screen, it seems.
And of course, Seidler himself had plenty of insight, given his history with the affliction.
“He said you would just hit this self-perpetuating loop,” Rush says, “where if people knew you were going into any sort of therapy, socially you’d be like, ‘I’ve learned a few techniques to get myself through. Now everyone’s looking at me waiting for me to be abnormal,’ and the mind game, you know, it’s eating its own tale.”
Says Firth, “He’d also say you’d end up ordering something different because you don’t want to say the word of the thing you want. If you have trouble with ‘f,’ you decide not to have the fish. You go for the steak. So you’re actually getting yourself around things and saying things you don’t really want to say. And he said this, and it was very useful to me, he said, ‘It’s all you think about.’”
Peripheral to the stammering was simply the nuance of speaking like the Royals, which was its own challenge.
“There was a key figure who had nothing to do with the stammering, Neil Swain, who put us on the calendar in terms of how people spoke then, people of that class,” Firth says. “When you listen to recordings of people in the 1930s, it’s a different tambour, a different pace. But if you hear the royalty, it has almost become an entirely different dialect that the same class of people speak now who did of that generation.”
In Firth’s research he discovered a story of particular influence when it came to understanding a potential need for a friendship like the one that developed with Logue. It began when one night, a gentleman caretaker took off Bertie’s leg splints (which were meant to assist in correcting his bow legs).
“Bertie had to wear them to sleep as well and they hurt like crazy,” Firth says. “He felt such sympathy for the agony that this boy was going through to sleep. It was a real gift to do that and George V found out about it the next day and gave him a real dressing down. That’s an interesting story. What it meant to me was, who was looking after him? It wasn’t his mom. It wasn’t his dad. It wasn’t even the nanny [who is documented as insufficiently feeding Bertie for some three years].”
And ultimately, that was the most important dramatic thrust needed to bring the script alive in ways that could connect with most viewers, the idea of friendship getting you through the tough spots.
“I think the thing that took longest to develop was that, in the end, the thing that saved him was the friendship between the two men,” Hooper says. “That wasn’t in the script. At the end, he doesn’t lose his stammer. He’s not cured. What helps him in that moment [when Bertie delivers an important wartime speech] is his friend.”
Bonham Carter and Colin Firth's The King's Speech has a real chance of
winning an Oscar
(The Daily Mail, Sept 3, 2010, by Baz Bamigboye)
A movie about the personal agony of how the Queen's parents coped with the Abdication Crisis—which the Queen Mother decreed should not be made during her lifetime—is expected to become a major contender at the Oscars in March.
The picture, which stars Colin Firth as George VI and Helena Bonham Carter as his forceful wife Elizabeth, details the bravery of how George VI (or 'Bertie', as he was known before he took over the throne from his brother Edward VIII) conquered a crippling stammer with the help of Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist from Perth, played by Geoffrey Rush.
Called The King's Speech, the film, directed by Tom Hooper, makes one relate to the Royals as human beings and not as if they come from another, more rarefied, planet.
David Seidler, who wrote the screenplay, started researching the story back in 1981. He discovered how the Queen Mother tracked down Logue, who was working in London in the 1920s, and beseeched him to help Bertie, who froze every time he was called upon to make a speech.
'I wrote and asked her permission to tell the story in a film,' Seidler told me. 'But it was still so raw for her—the whole business of having to relive what her husband and her family went through, with the Abdication and him becoming King. It was too much, and still painful, so she wrote and asked that the film not be made until after her death.'
The King's Speech shows how Bertie and Logue formed an unlikely friendship as they worked to enable the new King to, if not eradicate his stammer, at least complete a speech. The therapist insisted on 'total equality' during their sessions together. 'Do you know any jokes?' Logue asks his royal client. Bertie waits a beat and responds: 'Timing isn't my strong point.'
Firth's portrait of a king in waiting, who has been treated with disdain his whole life by his older brother and his powerful father, is delicious. Bonham Carter plays the Queen Mother as a lioness in fine silks, while Rush plays a republican from the ' far colonies' who comes to respect the royal couple.
Hooper directs with a sure hand and the result is a film that's enthralling. It's being screened over the weekend at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado and next week it's being shown at the Toronto International Film Festival. The first public screening on this side of the Atlantic will be a special Amex Gala at the BFI London Film Festival. It will open here on January 7.
Firth, who will surely be nominated for a best actor Oscar, told me Bertie had a 'terror' of speaking publicly. 'It was an irrational fear, like claustrophobia. It never occurred to me the enormity of what he was up against. But he had inner steel, and that's what I had to bring out.'
|Actor Colin Firth takes on
royal role as King George
(The Canadian Press, Apr 25, 2010)
...Firth, in Toronto to accept an environmental award for a retail business he runs with his wife's family, recently completed "The King's Speech," in which he plays the Queen's father, George VI. The film focuses on the period when George took over the throne for his abdicating brother, Edward VIII, in 1936....
He speaks enthusiastically about "The King's Speech," calling it an "extraordinary story" about George VI's struggles to overcome a bad stutter when his older brother unexpectedly abdicated the throne to marry a divorced widow, pushing the ill-prepared younger son of George V onto the throne on the eve of the Second World War.
"I knew about his speech difficulties, I knew who he was, I knew about the abdication—the stuff everybody in England knows," says Firth. "I didn't know about the speech therapy he was getting, which is what our film deals with. I didn't know he went to see this unorthodox Australian guy. It turned into a very unusual friendship."
The film also stars Geoffrey Rush as speech coach Lionel Logue, Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth (better known later as the Queen Mother), Guy Pierce as Edward VIII and Michael Gambon as George V.
Directed by Tom Hooper, "The King's Speech" also reunites Firth with Jennifer Ehle, his co-star in the much-loved 1995 miniseries "Pride and Prejudice." She plays Logue's wife.
Firth says he found the story of George, the current Queen's father, tragic.
"I think he had a very, very vulnerable quality. He was a frightened man who had, I think, suffered abuse in his life in all sorts of ways and was not groomed for this job and was not expecting it.
"His only job was to speak for the nation, on live radio—I mean, how cruel was that?" says Firth.
"There is no recording yet, there is no editing for radio—this is live to the empire. You've got a war coming as well. You're the guy who has to reinforce us all and lead us into (war). Your adversaries are the best in the business—Hitler, Mussolini.
"So that's what he was facing and the stakes were very high. And because he was senior royalty he didn't have any friends."
Was it intimidating playing the father of the current Queen?
"I wouldn't say it was an easy film to make," he says. "I couldn't imitate this man. But I used some characteristics I spotted in him. I don't look like him, really, but the essential qualities are what you are chasing."
Is he worried what the Queen will think about his interpretation?
"It crossed my mind. She appears in the film as a child. But you can't be hostage to those thoughts.
"This is a film about them as human beings.... There was a tremendous amount of love between that father and those girls. His parents had been rather distant, to put it mildly, but he adored those children. When you look at pictures of the Royal Family operating, you see his parents standing there very rigid. He's always looking at the girls. He's holding them, he's smiling, he's taking pleasure in them."
Firth is obviously moved by the circumstances of George's life, talking about the "gut-wrenching" footage that exists of Elizabeth and her father saying goodbye for the last time in 1952, as she heads off on a royal tour to Africa. A lifelong smoker, he died of lung cancer while she was gone.
"He saw her off at the airfield and she gets on the plane and you know he is not going to see her again. He said to somebody, take care of Lillibet, and that was the last of it," recalls Firth.
"There was a very strong little family unit there."
|The King Is Dead—Long Live The
(Feb 1952 by M. John Rolles, Colin Firth's grandfather), reprinted with permission
John Rolles, a British subject of Kamalapuram, South India, and president of the senior class was asked by the Editor to express his feelings relative to the death of the King of England.
“The King is dead.” A fellow student was the first to give me this news which was so unexpected and hard to believe. For these words hold for the Englishman a significance that is difficult to express with any real meaning to those who are not a part of the British Commonwealth. King George VI had come to mean far more than a symbol to his period, and his death means to many millions the loss of a friend.
I have been deeply moved by the spontaneous expression of sympathy among the people of the United States and by the notices appearing in editorials and magazines. For everywhere the king was recognized as a good man. Standards of greatness vary, and it is unlikely that historians will remember George VI as great, as we understand that term. Yet in an indefinable sense, he had the greatness of simplicity, and that is why he was greatly loved by all who knew him.
He loved his home and his immediate family, and for that reason he was able to reach out into the homes of his people and speak the common language without presumption. He had a deep concern for the worker and his problems and for young people and their activities. His Christian character and his moral influence will continue to have their effect for a long time on those who, as one writer put it, “hunger for the good.”
When I sailed from England in 1947, King George was on the throne; when I return this year, Queen Elizabeth will be reigning; but the continuity remains unbroken, “The King is dead; long live the Queen.” Our Queen brings to her task those personal gifts which hold great promise and which characterized her father. As he won the affectionate allegiance of his people, we are confident that she also will win that affection. She has dedicated her life to high calling, and she will go forward in these uncertain times in the knowledge that she has the loyalty of her subjects to support her.
|Exclusive: The Men Behind The King's
(chiswickw4.com, Jan 21, 2010)
Although Firth's new film gives therapist credit there was another man who helped George VI with his speech
Chiswick actor Colin Firth has begun filming The King's Speech in which he plays Queen Elizabeth's father, King George VI. The film tells the poignant and uplifting true story of the unorthodox relationship between England's reluctant King George VI, plagued by a nervous stammer, and the irreverent Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue who cures him.
Although Logue is given the credit, there was another man who was instrumental in helping King George VI with his speech.
"My father, David Martin, worked for the BBC all his life, ending his career at the BBC film studios in Ealing," explains Chiswick resident Jane Martin. "Back in 1941 he was working in radio, and that year to the King (George VI) to speak to the country, then in a state of despair, in his annual Christmas Day broadcast."
In a letter to his grandchildren, David wrote "Unfortunately, the King had a very bad stutter, and his nervousness on 25th December 1941 was only too apparent. We recorded the speech because it was due to be broadcast at intervals throughout the world, and it was my job to look after the broadcasts over the next 18 hours or so. If we had broadcast the speech just as the King had delivered it, it would have given a very bad impression of what things were like in the Mother Country, as it was called.
"Soon after the live broadcast from Sandringham on Christmas Day, an instruction was passed down the line that the speech was to be ‘doctored’ to make it sound good. The instruction eventually landed in my lap, and I was told later on that the message had come direct from the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
"We didn’t have tape in those days and all recordings were made on metal discs which made the whole exercise rather tricky. It all went well and the final result sounded pretty good, and no one would have known that the King had a stutter, for I was able to cut all the stuttering out, and to close up all the pauses that came at the wrong places.
"I didn’t go to bed for 24 hours. I was 19 years old at the time. I also learned later that the Queen was at the King’s side trying to encourage him, and to help him get over his stutters when he made the live broadcast at 3.00p.m. It is difficult to explain how the job was done, but perhaps it helps if I say that I had six turntables and two recordings of the speech, and went from one to the other to close up the gaps. The speech was on four discs, so I had eight discs altogether.
David ended the letter by saying, "I don’t think that this story has even been written about since then, so in a way I am giving you privileged information. How wise of the Prime Minister to have given his instruction at that time in our history!"
As the second son of George V, Prince Albert "Bertie" was not expected to ascend to the throne, but when his brother Edward chose to abdicate to marry Wallis Simpson, Bertie was his successor and in 1936 he became King George VI. Thrust into the international spotlight, he engaged Lionel Logue who helped him find a voice to lead the nation.
Colin Firth plays Prince Albert alongside fellow Chiswickian Michael Gambon as King George V.
The film's producer Iain Canning came across The King's Speech when it was an unproduced stage play by David Seider.
It is set to be released later this year.
|Colin Firth says ‘A Single Man’ has
given him his best role yet
(Kansas City Star, Jan 14, 2010, by Robert W. Butler)
Firth’s next, “The King’s Speech,” finds him going back even further in time. He plays another George—King George VI—“the father of our present queen. He’s kind of a shadowy figure, and not even many Englishmen know much about him.”
George ascended to the throne with the abdication of his older brother, Edward, who retreated to private life to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
“You always hear about Prince Charming who gave up the crown for love, but you don’t hear about the uncharismatic guy who had to step up in his place. And poor George had his work cut out for him—he’s crowned during a massive constitutional crisis when monarchs all over Europe are being assassinated or going into exile.
“Worse, he was horribly shy and had a terrible stutter. These were the years when radio was coming in, and the king was expected to make public radio addresses live. There was no recording and editing.”
The film, expected in theaters later this year, centers on the monarch’s sessions with an Australian speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush.
“He was never really cured,” Firth said, “but he was helped.”
A heavy smoker, George died of lung cancer in the early 1950s, and his daughter Elizabeth ascended to the throne. His widow, who lived until 2002, became Britain’s beloved “Queen Mum.”
“It’s been quite nice to get to know George,” Firth said. “He was thrown into a terrible situation for which he was ill-suited and yet led his country through World War II. There was a sincerity and vulnerability to the man. I quite like him.”
|A majestic opportunity as glory beckons
for King Colin the Firth
(Daily Mail, Jan 15, 2010, by Baz Bamigboye)
Once upon a time, movies about British royals used to be unctuous, forelock-tugging affairs. Not any more.
Stephen Frears's The Queen, with Helen Mirren, broke the mould and now Tom Hooper's film The King's Speech, which has been shooting in and around London—snowstorms be damned—offers a fascinating snapshot of how our present Queen's parents went through one of the most extraordinary periods of the nation's history.
George VI ascended to the throne after his brother Edward VIII abdicated, after less than a year, to marry twice-divorced Wallis Simpson. Hooper's 'subversive view' looks at the abdication crisis through the prism of how George VI, or 'Bertie' as he was known before he became King, coped with a crippling speech impediment.
Colin Firth portrays Bertie, Helena Bonham Carter is his forceful wife Elizabeth (better known to us, of course, as the Queen Mother), and Geoffrey Rush plays Lionel Logue, the Australian-born speech therapist who helped Bertie and insisted he and his royal patient treat each other as equals. Guy Pearce portrays the vain and selfish Edward VIII.
Even one of the film's main locations is somewhat subversive. The central London mansion, close to Broadcasting House, being used for various purposes—from Logue's consultation room to Bertie and Elizabeth's suite of rooms—has other, less regal, uses in real life.
During one visit to the set, Firth gave me a mini-tour of some basement rooms. 'This is where they give pole dancing lessons,' the actor told me, as he indicated a series of ceiling-to-floor steel poles. 'Of course, the daytime activities of this house are very different.'
Producer Iain Canning came across The King's Speech when it was an unproduced stage play by David Seider. Canning saw its potential as a feature film and, like director Hooper, was keen to make a movie featuring royals that wouldn't come across as deferential. Indeed, some very unregal words are emitted from Bertie's mouth as he fights with Logue over his treatment.
'Most people don't have to speak publicly, and some who are called up to do it have a terror of it,' Firth told me. 'It's an irrational fear, like claustrophobia. It never occurred to me the enormity of what he was up against. Not only was he not groomed for it (the throne); he came from a family which can only be described as dysfunctional. He had harsh schooling, he was very lonely, his parents were distant and remote. He was beaten for being lefthanded. And he stammered. His brother was famously very charming and Bertie was considered the dull-witted one with little charisma.'
But Firth was won over by Bertie's inner steel. 'It must have been utterly overwhelming. Whatever one feels about the monarchy, I found there to be something very much to be admired about this man as an individual. There's something heroic about the fact that he took on his worst fear.
'He saw a little bit of action in World War I, so he didn't lack physical courage. In fact, he would rather have been seeing action as a naval officer than standing in front of a microphone.'
Firth shoots his last scene today, and tomorrow flies to Los Angeles for Sunday's Golden Globe Awards ceremony, where he's in the running for a best actor honour for his role in Tom Ford's film A Single Man. The part won him the best actor prize at the Venice Film Festival and he's strongly tipped to garner an Oscar nomination. The same could happen again next year for The King's Speech—for Firth and the movie.
|After a long, cold day on set, a moment
of kindness warms the tired heart
(Yorkshire Post, Dec 24, 2009, by Tony Earnshaw)
The rolling fog is fake but the biting cold is very, very real.
Among the multitude filming The King's Speech on the concrete terraces of Leeds United's Elland Road ground is a lonely policeman. Muffled in uniform, cape, helmet and gloves, he stamps his feet in a futile attempt to fend off the winter chill.
That policeman is me, and he is fighting a losing battle against the cruel blast of an icy December. Emoting madly ten feet away is Colin Firth, he of TV legend as the hunky Mr Darcy in a soaking wet shirt.
Alas, the reflected glory of a close proximity movie star can do nothing to stoke my fading embers and, after four hours on location, I'm barely mobile.
I rarely see Firth's face. He emerges from a spectators' tunnel, stands at a microphone and delivers a halting speech that, as history tells us, was a pivotal moment in the life of the young Bertie, Duke of York—later King George VI—in 1925.
It's a constant, seemingly never-ending process. Bertie takes his position, closely followed by Helena Bonham Carter (as Princess Elizabeth) and Sir Derek Jacobi (as Archbishop Cosmo Lang), and begins a speech punctuated by stammer and stutter.
Watching him is a crowd of 250 extras who have a far better view of Firth's acting abilities. Me, I get the back of his head and, occasionally, the weary look he gives to the watching throng as director Tom Hooper orders yet another take.
As Hooper switches camera angles and moves around crew and crowd, I find myself sitting alongside the stars as all of us seek even the most meagre form of heat. Firth rarely gets the chance to sit and talk. Instead he's continually being asked to repeat the scene.
The few extras not needed for one take complain about the weather and worry about the snow forecast for later in the day. One wag dubs Hooper "Tommy Twelve Takes" for the amount of time he dedicates to covering every aspect of this crucial scene.
Then it's back to the terraces as the nervous young prince once again addresses the nation. By this time only a resilient few remain. Bonham Carter, Jacobi, supporting actors and 200 background artistes have been discharged.
Just 60 hardy souls, including myself as PC 752 (a last-minute change to my original role as a soldier), stay on for Firth's close-up. By now everyone is struggling. It's been a long day and energy is rapidly dissipating. Glamorous it ain't.
As we leave after the final shot of the day, Colin Firth is given a standing ovation in recognition of his tenacity in presenting a performance despite the chill, and then he is mobbed by extras, mostly adoring females.
He poses for snapshots on sundry mobile phones and, despite frozen fingers, scribbles a few autographs.
Everyone goes away delighted. After half a day spent standing in the bitter cold, sometimes a moment of kindness and a smile is all it takes to warm a tired heart.
|Colin Firth on playing the stuttering
King George VI
(Orlando Sentinel, Dec 17 2009, by Roger Moore)
[T]he always charming Colin Firth took a little time off from the set of his new film, The King’s Speech, to talk about that film and the second-time- around blast of attention he’s earning for A Serious Man. [sic]
George VI, Britain’s “second choice” king during World War II, wasn’t the dapper lady’s man his older brother, Edward VIII was, the fellow who abdicated so he could marry Mrs. Wallis Simpson. Unprepared for the limelight, George was a stutterer, and Firth, famed for his plummy voice, is playing him in The King’s Speech. If you remember your movie history, that speech is what we hear George VI making on the radio as World War II begins in John Boorman’s great coming of age dramedy Hope and Glory. People, gathered round the “wireless,” hoping their stuttering king will pull it off, be inspiring.
“It’s a complex story, really. “Bertie,” he was, before he became king. He was a man with an acute problem. His role as monarch in 1937 was not a constitutional one. He couldn’t appoint a prime minister or levy a tax or declare war, anything like that. His role was symbolic. Rhetoric was important in that job. When he spoke, the nation felt he spoke to and for them. Yet he felt that he couldn’t speak.
“Live radio had just come into being, which magnified the problem infinitely. Previous kings, it didn’t matter whether they could make a speech or not. But George had to go in front of a live microphone in the days before they pre-recorded and edited things. He had to go out there and speak and be listened to all over the empire, all over the world.
“It was mortifying to him. He was a figurehead about to lead the country into war, a man whose adversaries with famous for their rhetorical skills. Hitler and Mussolini were no slouches for speeches.”
And the former Mr. Darcy, who inspired swoons, vast viewing audiences all over the world with the definitive Pride & Prejudice, and even inspired the creation of Bridget Jones’ Diary, is a bit more sober minded about all the media fuss, this time around. A Single Man Oscar buzz? He’s trying not to hear it.
“It’s different this time, I think.”
But there’s already a Golden Globe nomination, isn’t there?
“The Hollywood Foreign Press have just given me a time out from my 20 year midlife crisis. My heartfelt thanks to them.
“I’m thrilled by the way people are reacting to this film, partly because this film is small, personal and I didn’t feel like I was part of some big scene, some huge film. This was a very personal story for Tom Ford and he put it in my hands. To be given a whole day in the life of a man, playing a character who is never off-screen, and be working with such a small group of people and do it in just 21 very intense and intimate days, and then have people love it? That’s as good as it gets.
“From the moment people first saw it in Venice, it’s been extremely gratifying.
“Having said that, this is happening as I continue my day job. I’m filming another movie that’s just as intense, with just as long hours, right now.
“So while I’m glowing from the fact that people are saying lovely things about this film, I’m in the middle of working on the next one and getting on with my job.
“Pretty tiring, but a good place to be when people are reacting to the last one.”
|The King's Speech: Colin Firth and
Bonham Carter in Ely
(BBC News, Dec 4, 2009)
Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Derek Jacobi have been filming scenes for a forthcoming movie, The King's Speech, at Ely Cathedral. Due for release in 2010, the film follows the reign of George VI who assumed the throne following the abdication of King Edward.
Ely Cathedral is a favourite location for filming historical dramas. It has featured in Elizabeth: The Golden Age and The Other Boleyn Girl, starring Scarlett Johansson.
As the cream of the British and Hollywood acting fraternity descended on Ely, the star-spotters came out in force, together with the paparazzi.
Colin Firth, who takes the lead role of King George, was spotted arriving on set in a black Range Rover, on a very wet and windy December day. Also filming at the cathedral were Derek Jacobi and the legendary Geoffrey Rush - best known for playing Captain Hector Barbossa in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Rush plays the part of Lionel Logue, the unorthodox speech therapist who helped King George ('Bertie') to overcome his stammer and so lead his country through the war years.
|Cathedral starring again in
(Cambridge News, Nov 25, 2009)
Hollywood stars are returning to Ely, the News can reveal.
Scenes for a new blockbuster starring Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Guy Pearce are being shot in Ely Cathedral. The stars are set to arrive in the city tomorrow (Thursday, 26 November) when filming for The King's Speech begins. Cathedral staff had hoped to keep the filming quiet in a bid to keep paparazzi at bay, but information was leaked earlier this week. It has also been confirmed that filming will last for approximately a week.
The film, to be released next year, tells the story of the relationship between England's reluctant King, George VI, plagued by a nervous stammer, and the irreverent Australian speech therapist who helped him. It is based on the true story of the present Queen's father and his friendship with speech therapist Lionel Logue.
Firth stars as George VI, with Carter playing his wife, the former Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Guy Pearce will be playing Edward VIII. The King's Speech also stars Sir Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall, Derek Jacobi and Jennifer Ehle.
It is the fifth time in four years that Ely has been used as a location for a major movie, with Elizabeth: The Golden Age, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Other Man and a recent Bollywood film also shot at the city's historic cathedral. The cathedral has been nominated as the Best Film and TV location in the East of England in the past.
Lesley Ann Thompson, the cathedral's marketing manager, said: "It is always exciting when the cathedral is used in hit movies and this is no exception. This is now the fifth screening we have had recently, which really does say something about the cathedral's appeal."
It is also thought that some Ely residents may be chosen to be extras in the film.
Scenes for the movie will also be shot at Bradford Bulls Stadium and Battersea Power Station.
|Jennifer Ehle to be reunited with her Mr
(Daily Mail, Nov 13, 2009, by Baz Bamigboye)
Jennifer Ehle, who captivated the nation when she starred as Elizabeth Bennet in costume drama Pride And Prejudice opposite Colin Firth, is to be reunited with her Mr Darcy. The actress has just signed to join Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter in a new movie called The King's Speech about how Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist, was retained by the then Duke of York (later King George VI) to help him to overcome his stammer in the years before, during and after the Abdication crisis.
The two will be in scenes together—but they're married to other people. Colin Firth will portray George VI, Helena his wife Elizabeth, who later became Queen and then the Queen Mother. Jennifer has been cast to play Myrtle Logue, and Oscar-winning Rush will be her screen husband.
Director Tom Hooper held a read-through of the script on Wednesday with the company, including Guy Pearce as Edward VIII, Michael Gambon as his father George V, Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill and Derek Jacobi as Dr Cosmo Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury. However, Jennifer was filming the lavish HBO drama Game Of Thrones and couldn't meet Hooper and his cast at the rehearsal.
Producer Iain Canning said although the former Jane Austen heart-throbs are not playing a couple in The King's Speech 'it's a wonderful thing to bring together two people that, in the British public's memory, are so part of a moment in time'. He explained that Hooper's film aims to explore an 'unorthodox friendship' between the royal and his therapist. Over the years they became good friends.
'Everyone knows the story of the Abdication, but this is another way of looking at it and how George had to prepare to become a public figure,' Canning explained.
|New cast announced as The King’s Speech
(Screendaily, Nov 13, 2009, by Sarah Cooper)
Helena Bonham Carter, Jennifer Ehle, Guy Pearce, Derek Jacobi and Michael Gambon have joined the cast of Tom Hooper’s historical drama The King’s Speech, which started shooting today (November 13).
Based on the screenplay by David Seidler, the film is about the unorthodox relationship between England’s King George VI, to be played by Colin Firth, and his Australian speech therapist—Geoffrey Rush—who helped him to overcome his stammer. Firth and Rush had already been announced.
See-Saw Film’s Iain Canning and Emile Sherman and Bedlam Productions’ Gareth Unwin are producing.
The Kings Speech will shoot for seven weeks, taking in UK locations such as Lancaster House, the Bradford Bulls Stadium, Ely Cathedral, Harley Street and Battersea Power Station.
The Weinstein Company and FilmNation handling international sales and has picked up the US rights to the project as well as licensing rights in Germany, France, China, Hong Kong, Latin America, Benelux and Scandinavia. Momentum has picked up UK rights, whilst Transmission Films will distribute in Australia and New Zealand.
The project is also being supported by the UK Film Council, Aegis Film Fund, and Molinare London.
|Interview With Tom Hooper
(AWFJ Women on Film, Sept 24, 2009, by Jenny Halter)
"As a director one’s greatest challenge is finding good enough material to direct. One of the myths is that there are brilliant writers sitting in attics writing great screenplays—if only the system would allow them to be made. The King’s Speech, the next film I’m about to make, is a good example. It was a stage play, and my mother who’s Australian was invited to a fringe theater reading in London because she’s part of the Australian community. The play’s about the relationship between King George the Sixth and his Australian speech therapist. She came back and said “you’ve got to read this play,” and I read it and it was brilliant, and a year later it’s a film starring Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush which the Weinstein Company is financing which will start shooting November 12th. That’s the first time that’s happened to me—I found a script no one knows about."
|Bellatrix will cast her spell as the
(Daily Mail, Sept 18, 2009, by Baz Bamigboye)
Helena Bonham Carter, better known as Bellatrix Lestrange to Harry Potter movie fans, is in negotiations to portray the Queen Mother in a film about how she helped her husband overcome his stammer.
The actress will star with Colin Firth—as George VI—and Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush in the film The King's Speech, which Tom Hooper will direct.
Firth told me Bonham Carter would be 'sublime as the Queen Mum'. 'The film takes place before she took on the cuddly Queen Mum mantle, when she was much younger, making Helena ideal.
'This was when her husband—then the Duke of York—was going through the Abdication crisis and had to prepare himself for public speaking.'
The King's Speech starts shooting in London this autumn....is about Lionel Logue (played by Rush), an Australian speech therapist who later became a sought-after Harley Street consultant.
In 1926 the Duchess of York, as the Queen Mother was before her husband assumed the throne in 1937, encouraged the Duke to visit Logue, and then helped him with breathing exercises and tongue-twisters. Later, Logue coached George VI for the formal language of the 1937 Coronation, telling him to 'take it quietly, Sir'—and that slow, measured speech later became a reassuring feature of the King's wartime radio broadcasts.
|Interview with Colin Firth
(collider.com, Sept 15, 2009, by Steve 'Frosty' Weintraub)
So what are you getting ready to start up on?
It’s called “The Kings Speech”. It’s a beautiful story about King George the VI who had to become kind unexpectedly when his brother abdicated over the Wallace Simpson scandal. It takes place just before the second World War. The king just abdicated because he couldn’t marry a divorced woman. And the brother, who hadn’t been groomed at all, suddenly had to step up. That would be the part I would play. He was not only not groomed for it, he had a terrible speech impediment. He stuttered very badly. And this was an era when live radio was critical. There was no recorded and edited radio yet, and no previous king had to use live radio but he did. And he had to lead the nation into war etc. etc., etc. So with enemies like Hitler as your rival and the rhetoric. So it was a huge crisis—constitutionally and for him. He ended up going to a speech therapist and it’s about that relationship. It’s actually a friendship as much as anything else. Because there is a five pace rule around the royals…don’t come close. You’re not allowed to, you have to call them highness and all the rest of it. But this guy (Geoffrey Rush) is not having any of it. We have to work together and we can’t do that. So there is no possibility of friendship, really. I would say for someone like George the VI, you can’t have that exclusion zone around yourself. And this is about a relationship which ends up breaking that zone. It’s a great story. Tom Hooper is the director.