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Image of Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech wearing period clothing surrounded by bunting

Harley Street in The King's Speech

Date posted: 01.01.2011

Set and shot extensively in London, the film tells the story of the years leading up to the coronation of King George VI when the future King, played by Colin Firth, is hampered by a speech impediment and deemed unfit for public speaking and therefore undermining his position as future King of England.

With all standard treatments exhausted, a last attempt to find a solution is suggested by Princess Elizabeth, the King's wife and future Queen Mother, played by Helena Bonham Carter. Elizabeth contacts Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), an unorthodox Australian speech therapist who has the promise of a cure. Directed by Tom Hooper (The Damned United), the film gives a humourous yet sensitive portrayal of a man overcoming his fears and the pressure of having to meet the expectations of a nation.

One of the key exterior locations is outside Logue's consulting rooms on Harley Street. The scene, which sees the first meeting between the future King and Logue, is crucial as it establishes both the London location and the 1930s period.

Having looked extensively for comparable architecture around London, the UK and Dublin, Location Manager David Broder returned to Harley Street for more research. It was then he found a section of the Street which had no modern architecture or additions and no current buildings works. Harley Street in 2010 could convincingly be Harley Street in 1936 and the production shot at the actual location.

In securing access, Broder started with the Facilities Manager of the Harley Street clinic. He explains "I discovered that they owned most of the block as they had knocked through the buildings but retained the front doors and original exteriors. The clinic was very positive about the film and within 30 minutes I was in the office of the PR and Marketing Director who gave permission in principle for the shoot".

For maximum control to re-create the period, the production applied for a road closure which was duly given by Westminster Special Events Team for a quiet Sunday in January 2010. From the Special Events Team's perspective there were some interesting challenges aside from controlling the road. Nigel Gale at Westminster reveals "we had some fun removing trees that were planted out of character with the period architecture - but both David and Tom worked tirelessly to ensure everything was done seamlessly."

With the road closure in place, the film's production team, namely the art department, had the freedom to make temporary changes to create an authentic 1930 setting. These included dirtying buildings, covering the roads with grit - which also concealed the road markings - and crucially re-creating a "pea-souper", pumping smoke into the street to emulate London's notorious 1930s smog.

Situated in the heart of the City of Westminster, Harley Street has been noted since the 19th Century for its large number of private specialists in medicine and surgery. The number has steadily increased over the years, with 20 doctors in 1860 to around 1,500 when the NHS was founded in 1948, which has since risen with up to 3,000 people employed in this capacity in the area today.

The King's Speech
is distributed by Momentum in the UK and opens on 7 January 2011.

For filming enquiries at Harley Street: Contact the Special Events Team: speciale@westminster.gv.uk / 020 7641 2390.

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