Sunday, November 28, 2010

David Seidler's Screenplay for "The King's Speech" Written from Experience

This is a wonderful story about life becoming art...about how one can use painful life experience to reinvent one's self....

"The King's Speech" is winning Audience Awards at festivals like Toronto and Aspen, and for screenwriter David Seidler, it is a happy ending to the heartbreak and struggle that inspired this film.

Seidler, now 73, was born in England but was raised in Long Island after his family fled the German bombings during World War II.  He recalls being inspired by the wartime radio addresses of King George VI (played in the film by Colin Firth), with whom Seidler shared the problem of stuttering.  After years of therapy, Seidler "found his voice", turning his self-pity into rage at his condition, and eventually brought the stuttering under control by age 16.

Seidler began his writing career doing TV scripts, as well as propaganda-writing for the Prime Minister of Fiji, before his old college friend Francis Coppola asked him to create a screenplay for what would eventually become "Tucker: A Man and his Dream". The film was finally produced, but released to indifference.  So he continued cranking out a variety of scripts, ranging from the biographies of Aristotle Onassis and The Partridge Family to animated films (The Quest for Camelot).

It was during the 1980's that Seidler began his dream project about King George and his Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (played by Geoffrey Rush).   While developing the project, he located Logue's last surviving son Valentine, who agreed to lend his father's notebooks on the condition that Seidler obtain permission form the Queen Mother (played by Helena Bonham-Carter) to tell the story.  She refused immediate permission explaining that the story was still too painful.  She granted permission to complete the work upon her death-- at age 101, 28 years later!

Seidler, under guidance from Director Tom Hooper, created about 50 drafts of the screenplay, in an effort to eliminate any sense of theatricality or inauthenticity. 

During his research of the notebooks, Seidler learned that the "cure" was effected through Logue's amateur Freudian-style analysis, which he practiced successfully on traumatized Australian soldiers.  In a coincidental development, which strengthened Seidler's connection to Logue and the King's story, he found out that his own uncle, also a stutterer, took the cure from Logue as well. 

At the Toronto festival this past September, as an audience of two thousand rose to their feet to applaud the film at a gala performance, Seidler "was overwhelmed.....there I was blubbering, the mucus and the tears coming down! This has been a very cathartic experience!"

David Seidler is, to his amazement, a hot property.  After channeling the frustration and difficulty he experienced in his early life into the creation of screen characters, based on actual historic figures, with which he shared an intimate understanding, it now looks as though Seidler has, shall we say, written his own ticket.  At 73 years old, he has a newly-invented career ahead of him.

The movie has since received 8 nominations for the British Independent Film Awards.

In an upcoming post, I'll look at the actual speech the King delivered that moved the world, along with a look at an early Colin Firth performance in a delicious 1988 thriller.

Check out the trailer for "The King's Speech" below. 


  1. Interesting. Who would've though that a writer for Quest for Camelot would have Oscar buzz?! Ah, the season... I remember watching the Queen Mum's funeral on TV. I'm sure Seidler paid his respects, but still...I wonder if he thought, "Oooh!" I'm sorry, but I would have, especially if I was pushing 70!

  2. Walter, I think you are dead on in Seidler's possible reaction to the Queen Mother's death...maybe a sigh of relief. I think his story is us all hope, and encouragement that age makes no difference to success.