Oscar win achieved on tight budget

The King’s Speech was a labour of love, passed over by the usual big investors, that has turned into one of the British film industry’s finest two hours.

The King’s Speech was a labour of love, passed over by the usual big investors, that has turned into one of the British film industry’s finest two hours.

Writer David Seidler had long been inspired by the story of the king who overcame his debilitating stammer to address the nation – not least because it was a tale which had helped him to overcome his own problems.

In the film, Colin Firth plays King George VI, unexpectedly forced on to the throne by the abdication of his brother Edward VIII.

He had long suffered with a speech impediment and struck up a relationship with an unusual speech therapist Lionel Logue.

But his need for a cure is given fresh urgency when he ascends the throne and is forced into a new world of public speaking – exacerbated by the dawn of broadcasting – as he prepares to address his subjects as war is declared in 1939.

Made for a trifling £10 million – chicken feed for most box office hits – the worldwide gross for The King’s Speech has now hit the £150 million mark.

Seidler, who developed a stammer of his own as a child, took an interest in the story in the 1970s and spent many years trying to research the relationship between Logue and the monarch.

At one stage, the therapist’s son agreed to turn over his father’s notebooks if the Queen Mother agreed, but she would not allow it in her lifetime. British-born Seidler, who has spent much of his life in the US, returned to the project in 2005 while being treated for cancer.

Things fell into place gradually. At a read-through of the finished script was the mother of director Tom Hooper who immediately phoned her son to tell him she had found his next project.

A copy of the script was also personally delivered to Geoffrey Rush, who was so impressed that he eventually signed on as executive producer, as well as taking the role of Logue.

Shot at breakneck speed in less than 40 days, Rush fit the production between other filming projects while Helena Bonham Carter – who plays the Queen Mother - was available only on Saturdays and Sundays.

The script also underwent an overhaul only weeks before filming when more of Logue’s diaries came to light, with some lines of the screenplay said to come directly from his notes.

The subsequent success of the film should have put the UK Film Council in line for a £12 million-plus payout but the industry body was abolished last year by the coalition Government.

The decision sparked outrage with many Hollywood stars, including Clint Eastwood, making their opposition to the decision public.

But the Government went ahead anyway and has transferred many of the organisation’s powers to a revamped British Film Institute.

Such was the attention to detail that Alexandre Desplat’s soundtrack was even recorded on vintage microphones used at the time, found in the EMI vaults.

The King’s Speech earned early publicity with a dispute over its certificate last year.

The British Board of Film Classification initially gave the film a 15 certificate because of the strong language used as part of his therapy, but after criticism – and an appeal from the distributor – it was dropped to a 12A.

Awards have come thick and fast, with Golden Globes and Baftas aplenty.

The movie’s success may now prove to be one in the eye for the Government.

The film’s initial £1m funding investment came from the UK Film Council, the body now being axed in the ’bonfire of the quangos’.

The film also saw a reunion of sorts for Firth with his co-star from Pride And Prejudice – the role that made him a national heartthrob in the mid-90s - Jennifer Ehle, who plays Myrtle Logue.

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