The King’s Speech will hit UK cinemas on 7th January 2011, but has already picked up nine nominations in the Moët British Independent Film Awards.
The film tells the true story of King George VI, known as Bertie, who had a stammer and subsequently underwent treatment with an Australian speech therapist. The screenplay had to wait for many years as the Queen Mother had requested David Seidler not to tell the story in her lifetime, as the memories were “too painful”.
The multi-award winning cast of the film includes;
- Academy Award nominee Colin Firth (A Single Man, Mamma Mia!) as King George VI,
- Academy Award Winner Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean, Shine), as speech therapist Lionel Logue,
- Academy Award nominee Helena Bonham Carter (Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter) as Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother),
- Guy Pearce as King Edward VIII,
- Michael Gambon (Harry Potter) as King George V,
- Derek Jacobi (The Golden Compass, I Claudius) as the Archbishop of Canterbury,
- Timothy Spall (The Damned United) as Winston Churchill,
- Anthony Andrews (Brideshead Revisited) as Stanley Baldwin,
- Claire Bloom (Crimes and Misdemeanors, Limelight) as Queen Mary,
- Jennifer Ehle (Pride and Glory, Pride and Prejudice) as Logue’s wife Myrtle.
Emmy-winning Tom Hooper (John Adams, The Damned United) directs from a screenplay by David Seidler (Tucker: The Man And His Dream). The film was produced by See-Saw Films’ Iain Canning (Control, Hunger) and Emile Sherman (Candy, Rabbit Proof Fence) and Bedlam Productions’ Gareth Unwin (Exam).
Tom Hooper said of the casting of Colin Firth as King:
“Everything I read about King George VI showed that the King had this indestructible core of niceness at the centre of his being – I feel the very same way about Colin, he has this extraordinary moral compass, humility and kindness that I strongly felt made him perfect for Bertie. And going right back to Colin’s role in “Tumbledown”, his extraordinary performance of a physically and emotionally damaged veteran of the Falklands war, I had been a long term admirer of his ability to dramatize vulnerability with compelling force. He also immediately brought to bear his remarkable intelligence on the role, taking on the complexity of the history with great flair.”
Such was Hooper’s casting rigour that the shoot had to be rescheduled to allow Helena Bonham-Carter to play Queen Elizabeth I. She was filming for Harry Potter at the time:
“The number of things that got in the way and made it practically impossible to cast her you wouldn’t believe. We had to completely reschedule the shoot, work weekends in order to make it work but we did everything we could and I am so pleased because she is so brilliant in it.”
The film opens with a scene from 1925, when King George V asks his second son, the Duke of York to give the closing speech at the Empire Exhibition in Wembley Stadium, London. Faced with addressing the empire in his first ever radio broadcast, Bertie can barely produce a sound. In the early days of radio, pre-recordings were not possible. It was clear that help would have to be sought. A string of medical remedies ensued before the Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, (later Queen Elizabeth I and then Queen Mother), intervened to find a cure.
The screenplay was re-written when a descendent of speech therapist Lionel Logue was found to be living in London. Mark Logue handed over a diary, medical report card and autobiography belonging to his late grandfather. It was revealed that photos of King George VI, as he became, performing radio addresses in full naval regalia were staged. Letters revealed that the real addresses took place at an old school desk with the window open and without a jacket.
King George VI served in the Royal Navy during World War I and the film is set at a time of royal decline when many expected that the British Royal Family would cease public duties as many other European royal families had done following “the war to end all wars”. The dimming prospects of the monarchy were compounded by a constitutional crisis when Bertie’s elder brother insisted on marrying a divorcee. He later abdicated, which put a great deal of pressure on the “most reluctant king in history”, who became King George VI.
The timing of the release of The King’s Speech will fuel a monarchy-fest for fans of the British Royal Family who are already in a frenzy following the announcement of the engagement of Prince William to Kate Middleton. However, the film demonstrates the immense suffering as well as the pride of those who have to endure the yoke of royal lineage. It may yet give credence to those quarters who are calling for an end to the constitutional duties of the monarchy, to save remarkably ordinary people from an inheritance for which they may be ill-suited.