The King’s Speech is a 2010 British historical drama film directed by Tom Hooper and written by David Seidler. Colin Firth plays King George VI who, to cope with a stammer, sees Lionel Logue, an Australian speech therapist played by Geoffrey Rush. The men become friends as they work together, and after his brother abdicates the throne, the new King relies on Logue to help him make his first wartime radio broadcast on Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in 1939.
Seidler read about George VI’s life after overcoming a stuttering condition he endured during his youth. He started writing about the relationship between the monarch and his therapist as early as the 1980s, but at the request of the King’s widow, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, postponed work until her death in 2002. He later rewrote his screenplay for the stage to focus on the essential relationship between the two protagonists. Nine weeks before filming began, Logue’s notebooks were discovered and quotations from them were incorporated into the script.
Principal photography took place in London and around Britain from November 2009 to January 2010. The opening scenes were filmed at Elland Road in Leeds, which stood in for the old Wembley Stadium. For indoor scenes, Lancaster House substituted for Buckingham Palace, and Ely Cathedral stood in for Westminster Abbey. The cinematography differs from that of other historical dramas: hard light was used to give the story a greater resonance and wider than normal lenses were employed to recreate the King’s feelings of constriction. A third technique Hooper employed was the off-centre framing of characters: in his first consultation with Logue, George VI is captured hunched on the side of a couch at the edge of the frame.
Released in the United Kingdom on 7 January 2011, The King’s Speech was a major box office and critical success. Censors initially gave it adult ratings due to profanity, though these were later revised downwards after criticism by the makers and distributors in the UK and some instances of swearing were muted in the US. On a budget of £8 million, it earned over $400 million internationally (£250 million). It was widely praised by film critics for its visual style, art direction, and acting. Other commentators discussed the film’s representation of historical detail, especially the reversal of Winston Churchill’s opposition to abdication. The film received many awards and nominations, particularly for Colin Firth’s performance; his Golden Globe Award for Best Actor was the sole win at that ceremony from seven nominations. The King’s Speech won seven British Academy Film Awards, including Best Picture, and Best Actor (Firth), Best Supporting Actor (Rush), and Best Supporting Actress (Helena Bonham Carter). The film also won four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Hooper), Best Actor (Firth), and Best Original Screenplay (Seidler).