The King's Speech is a 2010 British historical drama film directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler. The film won the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival People's Choice Award and was nominated for fourteen BAFTAs, of which it won seven; twelve Academy Awards; and seven Golden Globes, with Colin Firth winning for Best Actor.
Firth plays King George VI, who, to overcome his stutter, is introduced to Lionel Logue, an unorthodox speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush. The two men become friends as they work together, and after his brother abdicates, the new king relies on Logue to help him make a radio broadcast at the beginning of World War II.
David Seidler began reading about George VI after overcoming his own stutter during his youth and, using informed imagination, wrote about the men's relationship. Nine weeks before filming, Logue's notebooks were discovered and quotations from them were incorporated into the script. Principal photography took place in London and other locations in Britain, in December 2009 and early January 2010. The film was released in the United States on 24 December 2010 and in the United Kingdom on 7 January 2011. It was initially classified with a "12A" rating in Britain, due to strong language in a speech therapy context.
The King's Speech was the highest earning film for three weekends in a row at the British box office until Tangled took over. The film has been widely praised by film critics for its visual style, art direction and acting. Other commentators discussed the film's representation of the historical events it portrays, in particular the reversal of Winston Churchill's opposition to abdication.
The film opens with Prince Albert, Duke of York (played by Colin Firth), the second son of King George V, speaking at the close of the 1925 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium, with his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) by his side. His stammering speech visibly unsettles the thousands of listeners in the audience. The prince tries several unsuccessful treatments and gives up, until the Duchess persuades him to see Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an Australian speech therapist in London. In their first session, Logue requests that they address each other by their Christian names, a breach of royal etiquette. He convinces Albert to read Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy, while listening to the overture from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro on headphones. Logue records Albert's reading on a gramophone record, but convinced that he has stammered throughout, Albert leaves in a huff. Logue offers him the recording as a keepsake.
As King George V (Michael Gambon) makes his 1934 Christmas address, he explains to his son the importance of broadcasting for the modern monarchy. Later, Albert plays Logue's recording and hears an unbroken recitation of Shakespeare in his own voice. He returns to Logue, and they work together on muscle relaxation and breath control, while simultaneously probing the psychological roots of his stammer. The Prince reveals some of the pressures of his childhood: his strict father; the repression of his natural left-handedness; a painful treatment with metal splints for his knock-knees; a nanny who favoured his elder brother - David, the Prince of Wales, deliberately pinching Albert at the daily presentations to their parents so he would cry and his parents would not want to see him; and the early death in 1919 of his little brother Prince John. As the treatment progresses, the two become friends and confidants.
|Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter as the Duke and Duchess of York|
January 20, 1936 when George V dies, David, the Prince of Wales accedes to the throne as King Edward VIII (Guy Pearce), but he wants to marry Wallis Simpson (Eve Best), an American divorcée socialite, which would provoke a constitutional crisis. At a party in Balmoral Castle, Albert points out that Edward cannot marry a divorced woman and retain the throne, Edward angrily accuses his brother of a medieval-style plot to usurp his throne, citing Albert's speech lessons as an attempt to ready himself for power. Albert is tongue-tied at the accusation, and Edward resurrects his childhood taunt of "B-B-Bertie". At his next session, the Prince has not forgotten the incident. In an attempt to console him, Logue insists that Albert could be king and says the shilling of their wager should bear the Duke's head as monarch. Albert accuses Logue of treason and, in a temper, he mocks Logue's failed acting career and humble origins, causing a rift in their friendship.
When King Edward abdicates to marry, Albert becomes King George VI. He needs Logue's help and he and the Queen visit the Logues' residence to apologise. When the King insists that Logue be seated in the king's box during his coronation in Westminster Abbey, Dr Cosmo Gordon Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Derek Jacobi), questions Logue's qualifications. This prompts another confrontation between the King and Logue, who explains he began by treating shell-shocked soldiers in World War I. The King had served in the Royal Navy during the Great War. When Logue sits in St Edward's Chair and dismisses the Stone of Scone as a trifle, the King's clear remonstration of Logue's disrespect for the relics leads him to realise that he is as capable as those before him.
Upon the September 1939 declaration of war with Germany, George VI summons Logue to Buckingham Palace to prepare for his radio speech to the country. As the King and Logue move through the palace to a tiny studio, Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall) reveals to the King that he too had once had a speech impediment but had found a way to use it to his advantage. The King delivers his speech as if to Logue, who coaches him through every moment. As Logue watches, the King steps onto the balcony of the palace with his family, where thousands of people assembled for the speech applaud him.
A final title card explains that, during the many speeches King George VI gave during World War II, Logue was always present. It is also explained that Logue and the King remained friends, and that, "King George VI made Lionel Logue a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1944."
Colin Firth as Prince Albert, Duke of York / King George VI
Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth, Duchess of York / Queen Elizabeth
Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue
Guy Pearce as Edward, Prince of Wales / King Edward VIII
Michael Gambon as King George V
Timothy Spall as Winston Churchill
Jennifer Ehle as Myrtle Logue
Derek Jacobi as Cosmo Gordon Lang (Archbishop of Canterbury)
Anthony Andrews as Stanley Baldwin
Eve Best as Wallis Simpson
Freya Wilson as Princess Elizabeth
Ramona Marquez as Princess Margaret
Claire Bloom as Queen Mary
Tom Hooper cameo as Radio Engineer
"Not a great deal was written about His Majesty's speech therapist, Lionel Logue, certainly not in the official biographies. Nor was much published about the Royal stutter; it appeared to be a source of profound embarrassment."
— David Seidler
David Seidler, the writer, had himself developed a stammer as a child, due, he believes, to the emotional trauma of the war, which had included the murder of his grandparents during the Holocaust. As a child, Seidler was inspired on finding out that King George VI had overcome a stutter. “Here was a stutterer who was a king and had to give radio speeches where everyone was listening to every syllable he uttered, and yet did so with passion and intensity,” Seidler recalled. When Seidler became a writer as an adult, he resolved to write about King George VI. During the late seventies and eighties he voraciously researched the King, but found a dearth of information on Logue. Eventually, Seidler contacted Dr. Valentine Logue, who agreed to discuss his father and make his notebooks available, if the Queen Mother gave her permission. She asked him not to in her lifetime and Seidler abandoned the project.
|The film's producers broke etiquette by hand-delivering Geoffrey Rush the|
script, but he liked it and eventually performed in and produced the film
In 2005, Seidler suffered from cancer, and returned to the story during a bout of creative work it inspired. His research, including a chance encounter with an uncle whom Logue treated, indicated he used mechanical breathing exercises combined with therapy probing the underlying causes of the condition. Thus prepared, Seidler imagined the sessions. He showed the finished screenplay to his wife. She liked it, but pronounced it too "seduced by cinematic technique" and suggested he re-write it as a stage play to focus on the essential relationship between the King and Logue. After he had completed it, he decided he quite liked it and sent it to a few people for feedback.
In early 2006, one of the people Seidler sent his play to passed it to Joan Lane, of Wilde Thyme, a production company in London. Lane saw the script as a potential screen drama as well as stage play, and showed it to Simon Egan of Bedlam Productions, who recorded the first rehearsed read-through. Together Lane and Bedlam organised a reading of the play in Pleasance theatre, a small house in north London, to a group of Australian expatriates, among whom was Tom Hooper's mother, who called her son immediately and said, "I've found your next project". With a view to mounting a stage production, Wild Thyme sent the script to Geoffrey Rush for his interest, simultaneously championing film director Tom Hooper for any future screen adaptation; and Bedlam Productions passed the script to Iain Canning at See-Saw Films, who saw its potential as a feature film. Hooper liked the story, but thought that the original ending needed to be changed to reflect events more closely, "If you hear the real speech (made by the King on the outbreak of war in 1939), he’s clearly coping with his stammer. But it’s not a perfect performance. He’s managing it."
The UK Film Council awarded the production £1 million in June 2009. A script read-through was held on 11 November, ahead of the beginning of filming on 13 November. Principal photography, scheduled to last seven weeks, concluded on 17 January 2010.
Location and design
|Thomas Hooper operating a camera on location at at Queen Street Mill Textile Museum, Lancashire. |
The camera is a Arricam studio with a 1000 ft magazine, the lens is a 14 mm T1.3 Zeiss Master Prime
The set design presented a challenge for the film-makers, since as a period drama, the film relied to an extent on the quality of its production, but the budget was a relatively limited £10 million. At the same time, the film had to be authentic, combining regal opulence and scruffy, depression-era London. On 25 November 2009, Rush and Derek Jacobi took part in filming at the Pullens buildings in Southwark. On 26 November, a week's filming with Firth, Rush and Jacobi began at Ely Cathedral, the location used for Westminster Abbey. Though Lincoln Cathedral is architecturally a closer match to the Abbey, the crew preferred Ely, a favoured filming location. Its size allowed them to build sets which showed not just the coronation but the preparations before it. Lancaster House, an opulent period house in London, was used for the interiors of Buckingham Palace when the King walks to make his speech and for the official photograph afterwards; it cost £20,000 a day to rent.The crew investigated Logue's former consultation rooms, but they were too small to film in. Instead, they found a high, vaulted room in 33 Portland Place not far away. Eve Stewart, the production designer, liked the existing wallpaper so much that she recreated the effect across the entire room.
The opening scene, set at the closing ceremony of the 1925 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Stadium, was filmed on location at Elland Road, home of Leeds United and Odsal Stadium, home of the Bradford Bulls. Elland Road was used for the speech elements of the prince stammering his way through his first public address, and Odsal Stadium was selected because of its resemblance to Wembley Stadium in 1925. The crew had access to the stadium only at 10pm, after a football game and filled the terraces with inflatable dummies dressed in period costumes. Actors, who move and shout, are interspersed to give the impression of a crowd and additional crowds, as well as more ranks of soldiers on the pitch, were added in post-production through VFX. An open casting call for extras was put out ahead of an expected filming date of 16 December 2009.
Other locations include Cumberland Lodge, Harley Street, Knebworth, Hatfield House, the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, Queen Street Mill Textile Museum in Burnley, and Battersea Power Station, which doubled as a BBC wireless control room. Elstree Studios provided sound-stages for some interior filming. The final cut of the film was completed on 31 August 2010.
Hooper employs a number of cinematic techniques to evoke the King's feelings of constriction. Manohla Dargis thought the feeling of entrapment inside the King's head was rendered overly literal with a fisheye lens, though Hooper denied this, saying he had simply used wider than normal lenses photographing the film. Roger Ebert noted that the majority of the film is shot inside, where oblong sets, corridors and small spaces manifest constriction and tightness, in contrast to the usual emphasis on sweep and majesty in historical dramas. Hooper used wide shots to capture the actors' body language, particularly Geoffrey Rush who trained at the L'École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris and "is consequently brilliant in the way he carries his body". Hooper widened his scope first to capture Rush's gestures, then full body movements and silhouettes. The approach carried over to Firth as well. In the first consultation scene, the Duke is framed against a large wall squeezed against the end of a long couch, "if to use the arm of the sofa as a kind of friend, as a security blanket?". Martin Filler praised the "low-wattage" cinematography of Danny Cohen, as making everything look like it has been "steeped in strong tea".
The film's score was composed by Alexandre Desplat. In a film about a man struggling to articulate himself, Desplat was wary of overshadowing the dramaturgy. He characterised the challenge: “This is a film about the sound of the voice. Music has to deal with that. Music has to deal with silence. Music has to deal with time.”The score is a sparse arrangement of strings and piano (with the addition of oboe and harp in one cut), intended to convey the sadness of the King's muteness, and then growing warmth of friendship between him and Logue. The minimalist approach emphasises the protagonist’s struggle for control in the story. Desplat used the repetition of a single note to represent the stickiness of the King's speech. As the film progresses growing banks of warm strings swaddle the deepening friendship between the two leads, to a climax in the coronation scene. Hooper originally wanted to film the scene without music, though Desplat argued that it was the real climax of the story, the point when the friendship was ratified by their decision to trust each other. "That is really rare", said Desplat, "Mostly you have love stories" .To create a period sound the score was recorded on microphones which had been specially made for the royal family, extracted from the EMI archives.The score was nominated for several awards including "Best Original Score" at the Oscars, Golden Globes and BAFTAs. The music played during broadcast of the 1939 radio speech at the climax of the film is from the 2nd movement (Allegretto) of Beethoven's 7th Symphony.
According to screenwriter David Seidler, director Tom Hooper insisted on being as historically accurate as possible, the two of them working together for four months to get the best from the script, and ensure its authenticity. According to a BBC interview with Lionel Logue's grandson, the film team became aware of a diary containing Logue's original notes on his treatment of the duke only some nine weeks prior to shooting. They then went back and re-worked the script to reflect what was in the notes. Hooper said some of the film's most memorable lines were direct quotes from Logue's notes.
However, certain changes were made for artistic or dramatic reasons. Professor Cathy Schultz pointed out that the film-makers tightened the chronology of the events to just a few years. The Duke of York in fact began to work with Lionel Logue in October 1926, ten years before the abdication crisis. The improvement in speech was apparent in months rather than years as suggested by the film. In a 1952 newspaper interview with John Gordon, Logue said that "Resonantly and without stuttering, he opened the Australian Parliament in Canberra in 1927"; i.e. just seven months after the Duke began to work with Logue. Hugo Vickers, a royal adviser, agreed that altering historical details to preserve the essence of the dramatic story was sometimes necessary. The high ranking officials, for instance, would not have been present when the King made his speech, nor would Churchill have even been involved at any level, "but the average viewer knows who Churchill is; he doesn't know who Lord Halifax and Lord Hoare sc. Sir Samuel Hoare are."
Robert Logue, a grandson of Lionel, doubted the film's depiction of the speech therapist, stating "I don't think he ever swore in front of the king and he certainly never called him 'Bertie". Historian Andrew Roberts claims that the severity of the King's stammer was exaggerated and the characters of Edward VIII, Wallis Simpson and George V made more antagonistic than they really were, in order to increase dramatic effect.
Christopher Hitchens and Isaac Chotiner challenged the film's portrayal of Winston Churchill's role in the abdication crisis. It is well-established that Churchill encouraged Edward VIII to resist pressure to abdicate, whereas he is portrayed in the film as strongly supportive of Prince Albert and not opposed to the abdication. Hitchens attributed this treatment to the "cult" surrounding Churchill's legacy. In a smart, well-made film, "would the true story not have been fractionally more interesting for the audience?" he wondered. They also criticised the film for failing to indict the appeasement of the era. While the film never directly mentions the issue, Hitchens and Chotiner argue that it implies that George VI was against appeasement, especially in the final scene portraying "Churchill and the King at Buckingham Palace and a speech of unity and resistance being readied for delivery". Hitchens states that George VI was pro-appeasement in the "private letters and diaries of the Royal Family". The Guardian corrected the portrayal of Stanley Baldwin as having resigned due to his refusal to order Britain's re-armament, when he in fact stepped down as "a national hero, exhausted by more than a decade at the top".
Martin Filler agreed that smaller liberties were mostly justified artistic licence, indeed, the probably imagined scene when George V lectures his son on the importance of broadcasting makes a valid point. George VI would never have tolerated Logue addressing him casually, nor swearing, he probably understood German and in reality was lukewarm towards Churchill until later in the war because of the latter's support for his brother during the abdication crisis.
|French version of the alternative theatrical poster for The King's Speech|
The film had its world premiere on 4 September 2010 at the Telluride Film Festival in the United States. It was screened at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, on Firth's 50th birthday, where it received a standing ovation and won the People's Choice Award. The theatrical release poster was re-designed to show an extreme close-up of Firth's jaw and a microphone after Hooper criticised the first design, as a "train smash".
The film was initially given a 15 rating by the British Board of Film Classification for its release in the United Kingdom, due to scenes where Logue encourages the King to shout profanities to relieve stress. At the London Film Festival, Hooper criticised the decision, questioning how the body could certify the film "15" for bad language but allow films such as Salt (2010) and Casino Royale (2006) to have 12A ratings despite their graphic torture scenes. Following Hooper's criticism, the board lowered the rating to "12A", allowing children under 12 years of age to see the film if they are accompanied by an adult.Hooper levelled the same criticism at the Motion Picture Association of America, which gave the film an R rating, preventing anyone under the age of 17 from seeing the film without an adult.This rating was not appealed. In his review, Roger Ebert criticised the R rating, calling it "utterly inexplicable", and said, "This is an excellent film for teenagers". In January 2011, Harvey Weinstein, the producer, said he was considering having the film re-edited to remove some profanity, so that it would receive a lower classification and reach a larger audience. Tom Hooper, however, refused to cut the film, though he considered covering the swear words with bleeps. Helena Bonham Carter also defended the film, saying, "The film is not violent. It’s full of humanity and wit. It's for people not with just a speech impediment, but who have got confidence ."
The film is distributed by Transmission in Australia and by Momentum Pictures in the United Kingdom. The Weinstein Company is the distributor in North America, Germany, Benelux, Scandinavia, China, Hong Kong and Latin America. The film was released in France on 2 February 2011, under the title Le discours d'un roi. It was distributed by Wild Bunch Distribution.
In the UK and Ireland, the film was the highest earning film on its opening weekend, it took in £3,510,000 from 395 cinemas. The Guardian said that it was one of the biggest takes in recent memory, compared to Slumdog Millionaire (2008), which, for example, two years earlier earned £1.5 million less. It continued a "stunning three weeks" atop the UK Box office, and earned over £3 million for four consecutive weekends, the first film to do so since Toy Story 3 (2010).
In the United States The King's Speech opened with £206,851 in four theatres, averaging £51,713 per theatre. It holds the record for the highest per theatre gross of 2010. It was widened to 700 screens on Christmas Day, and 1,543 screens on 14 January 2011. It made £4.81 million in North America during the New Year's Day weekend, and £7 million during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend.
In Australia, The King's Speech made more than £4 million in the first two weeks, according to figures collected by the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia. The executive director of Palace Cinemas, Benjamin Zeccola, said customer feedback on the film was spectacular. "It's our No.1 for all the period, all throughout the country. ... I think this is more successful than Slumdog Millionaire and a more uplifting film. It's a good example of a film that started out in the independent cinemas and then spread to the mainstream cinemas."
"As the actor of the year in the film of the year, I can't think of enough adjectives to praise Firth properly. The King's Speech has left me speechless."
— Rex Reed, New York Observer
The King's Speech has received widespread critical acclaim. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 95% based on reviews from 187 critics, with an average score of 8.6/10. It summarised the critical consensus as: "Colin Firth gives a masterful performance in The King's Speech, a predictable but stylishly produced and rousing period drama." Metacritic gave the film a weighted score of 88/100, based on 41 critiques, which it ranks as "universal acclaim". Empire gave the film five stars out of five, commenting, "You’ll be lost for words." Lisa Kennedy in the Denver Post also gave the film full marks for its humane qualities and craftsmanship, "It is an intelligent, winning drama fit for a king — and the rest of us", she said. Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun-Times, also awarded the film a full four stars, commenting that "what we have here is a superior historical drama and a powerful personal one." Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave four stars out of five, stating, "Tom Hooper's richly enjoyable and handsomely produced movie... is a massively confident crowd-pleaser."
Manohla Dargis, in the New York Times, whilst generally ambivalent toward the film, called the lead performances one of its principal attractions. "With their volume turned up, the appealing, impeccably professional Mr. Firth and Mr. Rush rise to the Acting occasion by twinkling and growling as their characters warily circle each other before settling into the therapeutic swing of things and unknowingly preparing for the big speech that partly gives the film its title.", she wrote. The Daily Telegraph called Guy Pearce's performance as Edward VIII "formidable...with glamour, charisma and utter self-absorption". Bradshaw said that Pearce's dispatch of the role "with some style" replaced the memory of Edward Fox playing the part. Empire said he played the role well as "a flash harry flinty enough to shed a nation for a wife." While the New York Times thought he was able to create "a thorny tangle of complications in only a few abbreviated scenes".
Allociné, a French cinema website, gave the film an average of four out of five stars, based on a survey of 21 reviews. Le Monde, which characterised the film as the "latest manifestation of British narcissism" and summarised it as "We are ugly and boring, but, By Jove!, we are right!", nevertheless admired the performances of Firth, Rush and Bonham Carter. It said that, though the film swept British appeasement under the carpet, it was still enjoyable.
Queen Elizabeth II, the reigning monarch of the Commonwealth realms and the daughter of King George VI, was sent two copies of the film before Christmas 2010. The Sun newspaper reported she had watched the film in a private screening at Sandringham House. A "palace source" described her reaction as "touched by a moving portrayal of her father". Seidler called the reports "the highest honour" the film could receive.
Awards and nominations
|Tom Hooper and Colin Firth in January 2011. Both have received multiple |
award nominations for their work on The King's Speech
Accolades received by The King's Speech
The film won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010. The King's Speech received twelve nominations at the 83rd Academy Awards, more than any other film. It received nominations for Best Picture, Director (Tom Hooper), Cinematography (Danny Cohen) and Original Screenplay (Seidler), and three for the principal actors (Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Rush); as well as two for its mise-en-scène: Art Direction and Costumes. It was nominated for fourteen BAFTAs, more than any other film, and came away with seven awards including Best Film and Best Actor for Firth. The King's Speech earned seven Golden Globes nominations; Colin Firth won for Best Actor. He also won the same award from the Screen Actors Guild of America, where the entire cast won "Best Ensemble", meaning Firth went home with two acting awards in one evening.
The film also won the 2011 Goya Award of the Academia de las Artes y las Ciencias Cinematográficas de España (Spanish Academy of Cinematic Art and Science) for the Best European Film.
Hooper won Best Director from the Directors' Guild of America, ahead of, among others, David Fincher, who made The Social Network; making Hooper the favourite for the Academy Award for Best Director.The film won the Daniel F. Zanuck award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture at the Producers Guild of America annual awards, ahead of nine other nominees including Inception,