The King’s Acceptance Speech
So, the Oscars and the BAFTAs of 2011 have been and gone and proved themselves mostly unsurprising.
This isn’t a negative. The buzz surrounding The King’s Speech was generated from a combination of script, direction and acting which further proves the credentials of the UK Film Council (Jeremy Hunt, take note) and acts as a nice umbrella for the quality of British film as a whole. Tom Hooper’s individual style, quickly developing into an auteurship supported by previous work (The Damned United springs to mind, with cinematography that strongly echoes The King’s Speech), was married with icons of British and international cinema in a way that benefitted financially and (very much so) creatively.
And then there’s the script. There’s screenwriter David Seidler.
There’s Seidler’s acceptance speeches.
It has been well documented that Seidler suffered from a stammer as a child, that George VI was a personal hero and that The King’s Speech began life as a play, seen by Tom Hooper’s parents as a staged reading in Islington. They told him to send it to their son and the rest, as the uncreative say, is history.
Fast forward to 2011 and Seidler is on two world stages, first at the BAFTAs and then at the Oscars, accepting awards for Best Original Screenplay. Though Seidler “cured” his stammer as a teenager (with copious bouts of swearing, words he would eventually put into the mouth of his childhood hero) the fact remains that these speeches were steady, considered and fluent.
Acceptance speeches are usually imbued with a certain edge–what will they say–how will they say it–will they cry?–but in knowing the parallel stories of Seidler and the King this speech was almost a throwback to the climactic ending of the film. Here was a man, a stammerer, addressing an audience of unimaginable size and doing it live. It’s a sentence that could describe Seidler or George VI in equal measure.
Seidler has been quoted as saying “I decided I deserved to be heard,” and he has been, though for most of his life he’s been putting the words into other people’s mouths. Now it’s his own voice out there for the world to witness, and the stammer has definitely not been invited.