A Voice for a King
Date posted: 07.01.2011
The King's Speech, the highly-acclaimed London-shot drama about King George VI's stammer, is out now in cinemas across the capital.
Colin Firth stars in the film as the reluctant Prince Albert 'Bertie' (the future King George VI and father of the present Queen), who is forced to take the throne when his older brother abdicates. If he is to succeed and gain his subjects' respect, he will need to correct the one thing that stands between him and his people - his strong stammer. With the help of Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) and his wife Elizabeth - the Queen Mother, played by Helena Bonham Carter -, the future King embarks on a journey to find his own voice.
Directed by Tom Hooper (The Damned United) the film created a buzz in last year's Toronto and London film festivals, received five BIFA Awards and is nominated for seven Golden Globes, which has sparked talk of BAFTA and Academy Awards® glory too.
Keeping It Real
Shot in and around London over seven weeks, the film is a dramatization of real-life events that took place in the 1930s. During the tense period right before WWII, the mighty British Empire - formed by 58 countries at the time - finds itself having to respond strongly to the rise of the Nazi threat. That moment coincides with the establishment of radio as mass media and the start of broadcast speeches, with the sovereign having to assume a new role as beacon of inspiration and unity.
The film was shot extensively in the capital and mostly on location apart from the interior of Logue's apartment, which was shot at Elstree Studios.
"It's a real London film, we used Lancaster House, Portland Place, we used Drapers Hall, the wonderful Guildhall. We actually shot out in Green Park opposite Buckingham Palace. I grew up in London and it was great having walked through Regents Park for ten years to finally film in it and get out of my head the way I always planned to shoot in it", explains Hooper.
Other London locations include Battersea Power Station and the legendary Harley Street, known as the centre of the medical profession in London since the 1800s and the place where speech therapist Logue had his bureau.
Shooting in the capital helped to keep the settings authentic and historically accurate. As Hooper explains, nothing beats filming at the real location: "It's been seven years since I've been able to shoot at home. I have recreated London in Lithuania, I have recreated London in Richmond, Virginia, I have recreated London in Budapest, Hungary, and it's quite nice sometimes to recreate London in London!"
For Geoffrey Rush, who was attached to the project since the early stages, London was another character in the film. "Most of the film happens inside rooms, behind closed doors. The story line happens mostly through the winter. Tom [Hopper] really wanted the authenticity; he got really intrigued when he kept on reading about the "pea-souper" fogs."
Hooper heard from his 90-year-old neighbour that sometimes the fog would be so thick in the 1930s that if you were in a taxi, you would have to get out and walk in front of it to show the taxi the way because the driver would only have two metres of visibility."Tom has really gone for that atmosphere. He wants the exteriors shrouded in a kind of gloom that is a metaphor for what is hanging over Bertie's life", elaborates Rush.
However, it's not all doom and misery. Hooper was insistent that the film not be dry and the end result is indeed infused with humour. "The film is very funny indeed and although a serious subject, it's told with humour. It's a very witty script but it's also very powerful and moving film - the best way to move people is to get them laughing first so they relax and they open their heart to the story."
The King's Speech is distributed by Momentum in the UK and is currently showing at cinemas across the capital.