Interview: David Seidler
January 27, 2011 3:13 p.m.
KPBS film critic Beth Accomando.
Related Story: Interview: David Seidler
KPBS-FM Radio Film Feature: David Seidler and "The King's Speech"
By Beth Accomando
Air date: January 28, 2011
"The King's Speech" topped the list of Oscar nominations with 12. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando speaks with David Seidler (Side-luhr) about writing the nominated script.
SEIDLER (ba).wav SOQ 3:59 (music out at 5:03)
(Tag:) "The King's Speech" is still playing at select San Diego Theaters. The Oscars will be given out on February 27th.
As a child, David Seidler used to stutter. So his British parents encouraged him to listen to the speeches of King George VI.
KING GEORGE VI: In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our history…
The king had to overcome a stammer and you can still hear hesitations in his famous 1939 speech to rally the nation to go to war.
KING GEORGE VI: … for the second time in the lives of most of us we are at war.
DAVID SEIDLER: He was doing this as King with the whole world listening at times critically to every syllable he uttered. And I realized if he can do that maybe there's hope for me.
Writer David Seidler uses this speech as the climax for his screenplay "The King's Speech."
CLIP: King George: … for the second time in the lives of most of us we are at war.
The film focuses on how Prince Albert - before becoming King George VI -- overcame his stammer by working with speech therapist Lionel Logue.
DAVID SEIDLER: Logue was a phenomenon, he was untrained. He didn't have a doctor's degree, he had no certification. He was just an intuitive.
CLIP Logue: I can cure your husband but for my methods to work I need trust and total equality here in the safety of my consultation room.
DAVID SEIDLER: He would absolutely convince his patients that they could do the work.
Logue also convinced the Prince to trust him and an unexpected friendship developed. Seidler wanted to focus his script on this bond of trust but it took this suggestion from his wife to fine tune the idea.
DAVID SEIDLER: Why don't you just as an exercise write it as a stage play because the physical restrictions of the stage will force you to focus on your key elements, which is basically two men in a room and if you get that tent pole upright you can then hang everything else off of it like Christmas tree ornaments.
One of those ornaments is the notion of the social contract, something Seidler says Bertie's brother David had little respect for.
DAVID SEIDLER: With position, privilege, power, comes responsibility and duty. And David, Edward the 8th, absolutely did not sign on to the social contract. His attitude is, "I'm a divine right king and I can do jolly well what I please."
David was supposed to be king but famously abdicated to marry an American divorcee, leaving Bertie to take the throne. But taking the throne meant not only more public speaking but also public broadcasts to millions of British subjects.
CLIP Announcer: This is the BBC National Program and Empire Services.
DAVID SEIDLER: The radio then really changed everything. You had to come into the home of the people and speak to them directly.
Radio and newsreels were also capturing the dynamic speakers on the other side of the political coin says Seidler.
DAVID SEIDLER: You had Mussolini who was absolutely a magnificent speaker. You had Hitler who was mesmerizing.
CLIP Elizabeth: Papa, what's he saying?
Bertie: I don't know but he seems to be saying it rather well.
Poor Bertie felt enormous pressure to cure his stammer. So too did Seidler. So how did Seidler manage to overcome his stutter?
DAVID SEIDLER: I did that by the scene that got us the R rating.
CLIP Logue: Vulgar but fluent you don't stammer when you swear do you know the F word?
Bertie certainly does and this scene shows a breakthrough in his therapy. Bertie's ability to take charge of his own fate is one of the reasons Seidler thinks the film has caught on with American audiences.
DAVID SEIDLER: It's a man who ultimately through his friendship with Logue realizes that he is not trapped by his destiny, he can change who he is.
And that, Seidler says, is a very American concept.
For KPBS News, I'm Beth Accomando.