Monday, February 21, 2011

The Writer Behind The King's Speech

I've been a bad blogger this past week as writing deadlines and a new lap top threw me into a vortex I have just spun out of. I'm catching my breath and will be coming back with a vengance as I treat you to a series of reviews and interviews.

By the way, just wanted to mention that I have fallen in love - hard (or hard drive). It's with my smokin' hot new lap top. It was love at first gigabite (or 500th) and though Apollo and I are still in the early stages of our relationship - discovering the 7 Windows into our new world - I believe we are destined to be inseparable...

This week you won't be able to escape the Oscar buzz as the Academy Awards will be feting the best films of the year on February 27th. My husband and I just saw The King's Speech this past weekend and have been talking about it ever since.

This intriguing film rules the Oscar race with 12 nominations. The most interesting aspect of this movie for me was it's exploration into the relationship between Bertie (King George VI played by Colin Firth) and his unorthodox speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).

As Bertie admits, members of the Royal Family don't have friends. But this relationship provides the King with a window into the life of a commoner, a man he has to trust with the private details of his past in order to be freed from his frustrating stutter.

Don't worry, I won't be giving away too much of the film here, but want to focus instead on David Seidler, the Oscar-nominated writer of the screenplay, and his amazing story.

Seidler had a stutter himself after he and his family faced death from a German U-boat attack during WWII. Seidler was not even three years old when his family was evacuated from Britain to the USA. It was as they were crossing the treacherous North Atlantic in a convoy of three ships, that the German U-boats closed in. One vessel sank, but the other two survived this terrifying attack. Seidler remembers the trauma and was left with a stutter until he was 16.

Seidler, now 73, grew up listening to King George VI's radio addresses. He was very aware of the King's speech impediment and remembers tensing up when the King would struggle to get a word out. In fact, he felt so much kinship with the King, that he only refers to him as Bertie, an affectionate family name the King was given as a young boy.

When Seidler was in university, he began researching Bertie's life. He entered a film career that started quite unceremoniously with the dubbing of Godzilla movies. But he moved on to some impressive film writing credits and great accolades. Throughout his career he continued his research on Bertie, only to stumble across a shadowy presence barely mentioned - Bertie's eccentric Australian speech therapist.

Very little was written about Lionel Logue, but Seidler found Logue's son, a retired brain surgeon living in London. Once contacted, the son was willing to give Seidler all his father's notes, detailing the work he did with Bertie. His one stipulation was that the Queen Mother had to approve.

Her response was, "Not during my lifetime...the memories are too painful."
Seidler didn't expect the Queen Mother to live to 101. He waited 28 years before he was able to see those notes.

Then, when he finally was ready to write the screenplay, he became ill with a serious form of cancer. He realized that if he didn't write Bertie's story now, he might never have the chance.

David Seidler beat his brush with cancer and has given us a courageous example of  'writer's mettle' - a lifetime of research, overcoming almost insurmountable obstructions, and finally creating a masterpiece that is nominated for an Oscar. One I believe, he deserves to win.

Have you seen The King's Speech? What did you think of the film? Do you have David Seidler's 'writer's mettle?'

I will be back on Wednesday with a review of Nicole Baart's latest novel and an interview with her. Then on Friday I will feature a behind-the-scenes interview with Baart's first draft editor, Methodius (Todd) Diakow.


  1. I loved the movie. I loved it because of some personal reasons (which I've just decided to email you about) but also because it's just a great movie. It shows the kings human-ness... and it also shows his character and integrity. He took on a position that overwhelmed him and that he didn't want - and he committed himself to doing the best job he could - and he did it well. I also loved how the woman we know now as the queen mother (King George’s VI wife) and the girls (Elisabeth and Margaret) were portrayed and developed.
    I had no idea of the background of the writer, Seidler, and really appreciate you bringing it to light. Isn’t it amazing to hear people’s stories and what they’ve gone through - and come out of? (I say that in relation to both the king’s story, and Seidler’s own.) I expect Sidler’s own experience with stuttering significantly increased the depth he was able to give the subject. And, as frustrating as it must have been to not be able to write the movie earlier, I expect the delay meant that Seidler had more writing (as well as life) experience behind him when he did finally write it. I’m glad he has lived to see his dream come true – and be recognized.

  2. I too loved how the Queen Mother was portrayed, Joy. Her obvious love for her husband and desire to help him were wonderful aspects of her character. And to see our current Queen - Elizabeth and her sister Margaret portrayed as young girls was also interesting. Their response after their father was crowned King was especially telling. Rather than run into his arms, as he wanted, they curtseyed. Life for them was forever changed.

  3. Delighted that David Seidler won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, Colin Firth for Best Actor, and The King's Speech won Best Film (and Best Director). Just Geoffrey Rush missed out.