I finally got down to listening to Jeff Goldsmith’s interview with David Seidler, the screenwriter for The King’s Speech. The reason for my prolonged delay in listening to this episode is because I like to listen to the podcast after I’ve seen the movie. So I saw the movie then listened to the podcast. What struck me most about the podcast was how long it took to green-light the project, how much research was invested in The King’s Speech and also how personal the story was for David Seidler.
This project must have taken more then 20 years to get under way. For his research Seidler found Logue’s last surviving son, Valentino ( an elderly brain surgeon retired from Harley Street) who would let Seidler have access to his father’s notebooks, only if the screenwriter got written permission from the Queen Mother to write the script. After writing to her, she responded a couple of months later from Clarence House stating she did not want the project made during her lifetime because the memory of the events were still too painful. So he decided to wait. 25 years later she passed away at the age of 101, and he started writing.
The drive to complete the project arose from Seidler’s own personal experiences. At age three he had a severe stutter of his own and Bertie was a childhood hero for him. Through listening to Bertie’s wartime radio addresses and through undertaking his own therapy he learned he would be able to overcome his own stutter. In effect his goal was to one day write something about Bertie.
Another thing fascinating about The King’s Speech was how Seidler got Geoffrey Rush involved with the project. When he started writing the first draft of the screenplay he couldn’t see anyone else playing Logue aside from Geoffrey Rush. He tried contacting Rush’s person in Melbourne but they completely neglected him. So one of his friend’s did the most ludicrous thing you could possibly ever do! They popped a synopsis for The King’s Speech, only five pages (just a breakdown and photographs) through Geoffrey Rush’s postbox. After an initial email that Geoffrey wanted to see the script, there was no response for six months. So Seidler gave up – maybe Geoffrey wasn’t interested at all. Then on a routine fishing trip in New Zealand, Seidler got a text message that Geoffrey would do the film, but not if it was a play! The important question; how do you celebrate such news in a wet tent at 2 in the morning?
It really is unbelievable how much time and commitment Seidler put into The King’s Speech. The research he done for the project was staggering – at times he found new stuff which he didn’t even want to know about. For example, just as he was finishing his rewrites, 25 years later after first getting in touch with Valentine Logue and two weeks before filming was about to start, Mark Logue, Lionel Logue’s grandson appeared with his grandfather’s notebooks! Everyone associated with the film was thrilled and excited, Seidler was not. More research material therefore more re-writes! Apparently it took 57 drafts before the film finally began shooting!