Lionel refuses to let Bertie smoke during their speech sessions, saying "sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you." King George VI, who often smoked 20-25 cigarettes a day, died from complications of lung cancer surgery on February 6, 1952, at age 56.
The role of King George VI was written with Paul Bettany in mind. Bettany declined in order to spend more time with his family, and later admitted that he regretted his decision. Colin Firth was cast instead and received an Oscar for his performance.
David Seidler stammered as a child, and heard King George VI's wartime speech as a child. As an adult, he wrote Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (widow of George VI) and asked for permission to use the King's story to create a film. The Queen Mother asked him not to during her lifetime, saying the memories were too painful. Seidler respected her request.
The King's speech, as delivered in the movie, is only two-thirds of the original. The original speech has 407 words; the movie version has 269. Four sentences were deleted and four sentences were shortened.
While preparing the film, the production knew that having some key cast would help the movie get made. They convinced someone who lived near actor Geoffrey Rush to put the script in his letterbox, against industry practice. It included a note apologizing for the unsolicited delivery, and explained that they were desperate for him to know the script existed. Rush read the script and agreed to do the film.
After the abdication, Edward and Wallis (alias Duke of Windsor and Duchess of Windsor) were genuinely surprised to learn that they were banned from the United Kingdom, never to return. It's generally believed the ban was primarily due to the new Queen Consort (alias Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother). She hated Wallis, blaming her for throwing King George VI into a job he wasn't prepared for and, later, contributing to his premature death due to the stress of being king. Queen Mary, Edward's mother, never reconciled with her son, and refused to attend his marriage to Wallis in France. Edward was allowed to return to England for the funerals of his brother "Bertie" and his mother. Both he and Wallis were allowed to be buried on a Royal Estate by special permission of Queen Elizabeth II.
Lionel Logue is an actor turned speech therapist. To help develop his character's stammer, and the exercises used to overcome it, Colin Firth also turned to his sister Katie Firth, another actor turned speech therapist.
While talking about William Shakespeare, one of Logue's sons mentions 'the Scottish play'. That play is 'Macbeth'; according to a widely-held superstition, the play is cursed, and saying its title aloud brings bad luck.
The MPAA gave the film an R rating, due entirely to the scenes where Bertie curses as part of his speech therapy or preparation for the climactic address. Bob Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein appealed, but were denied. They later submitted a cut without some of the profanity, and got a PG-13 rating. However, the R-rated version is considered the Oscar-winning one, extending a string of R-rated Best Pictures from 2005 to 2010.
While arguing about the coronation chair, the King mentions the Stone of Scone (pronounced "skoon"), also called the Stone of Destiny, underneath the chair. Scottish and British monarchs have been crowned over the stone for centuries, although it has probably not been really the same stone all this time, as a few "switcheroos" are believed to have taken place over the centuries. It was still in Westminster Abbey at the time shown, but was returned to Scotland in 1996 to appease anti-English feeling that the stone was rightfully Scotland's. It will temporarily return to Westminster Abbey for future coronations.
At one point in the film, King Edward VIII makes fun of Prince Albert's stammer by saying: "Younger brother trying to push older brother off the throne. P-p-p-p-p-positively medieval!" Minus the stammer, this was an actual line written by the real King Edward (later Duke of Windsor) to his brother (later King George VI) when he was away from Great Britain for a time, having given a few responsibilities to Prince Albert in his absence.
The piece of music heard during the film's finale broadcast of King George VI's 1939 radio speech is the second movement Allegretto of Ludwig van Beethoven's 7th Symphony. It is often used in films to score a scene of carnage and sadness.
Scriptwriter David Seidler has said of King George VI: "Here was a stutterer who was a king and had to give radio speeches where everyone was listening to every syllable he uttered, and yet did so with passion and intensity."
Helena Bonham Carter appeared in two 2011 Academy Award winning movies: this film, which won 4 Oscars, and Alice in Wonderland (2010), which won 2. Bonham-Carter played a queen in both films: Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mum of Queen Elizabeth II) in this film and The Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland (2010). Ironically, Bonham Carter's Red Queen image was inspired by Bette Davis's Queen Elizabeth I in The Virgin Queen (1955).
With Colin Firth winning the Academy Award Best Actor Oscar for playing King George VI in this film, Best Acting Oscars have now gone to actors playing both Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren in The Queen (2006)) and her father, and awarded just four years apart.
According to EMI recording engineer Peter Cobbin, the original royal microphones had been in the EMI archives for over 70 years. The EMI Archive Trust granted permission for five of them to be loaned to Abbey Road Studios. Three were restored to good working condition and used for recording the film's orchestral score. The microphones, designed for His Majesty King George V, HM King George VI, Her Majesty Queen Mary, and HM Queen Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother), were adorned with silver and chrome details bearing royal coats of arms and other individual insignia. They were state-of-the-art in the 1930s, and excellent even compared to much modern equipment. Composer Alexandre Desplat and director Tom Hooper were both pleased with the result, and felt that the slight coloring of the sound caused by the older equipment gave the recordings an authentic "patina" of the time period.
Colin Firth won the Best Actor Academy Award (Oscar) for this movie on his second nomination. Firth was a consecutive nominee as he had been nominated the year before in the same category for A Single Man (2009), losing to Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart (2009). Bridges was also nominated in this same category the year Firth won, for True Grit (2010).
Colin Firth won the best actor Oscar for his performance as King George VI in this film. The next year, he presented the Best Actress prize to Meryl Streep for her performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (2011). Streep then subsequently presented Best Actor to Daniel Day-Lewis for portraying Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln (2012). So in a span of three years, lead acting Oscars were presented by the King of England to the British Prime Minister and then to the President of the United States.
When Princess Elizabeth meets Lionel Logue the first time, she says that the President for the Royal Society for Speech Therapists warned her that Logue's "antipodean methods were both unorthodox and controversial." Antipodean can mean the exact opposite of something, or it can refer to the collective region of Australia & New Zealand. The film makes use of both definitions: Logue was an Australian; he is portrayed as a rogue character whose treatments go against conventional wisdom. The director, Tom Hooper, played on Logue's Australian nationality and his unconventionality because he felt that the English have an aversion to therapy.
Though having had a large body of television work, director Tom Hooper won the Best Director Academy Award (Oscar) for this movie on his first ever nomination, the film being just Hooper's third ever film. The earlier two features Hooper had directed were Red Dust (2004) and The Damned United (2009).
When told to waltz in preparation for the King's final speech, Bertie sings part of his speech to the melody of the "Garland Waltz" from Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty" ballet. The tune is familiar to many listeners as 'Once Upon A Dream' from Disney's animated film "Sleeping Beauty," which adapted some of Tchaikovsky's ballet for its musical numbers and score.
The BBFC originally gave the film a 15 certificate, for 17 occurrences of the word "fuck." On appeal, it was reduced to 12A, with the information "contains strong language in a speech therapy context". This extended the controversy started a few weeks earlier when Made in Dagenham (2010) was given a 15 certificate solely for 19 occurrences of the word "fuck" in casual speech.
The real Winston Churchill was seen with a large cigar so frequently that a specific cigar size was named in his honor. Churchill-sized cigars are 7 inches long and 50/64-inch in diameter (or 50 ring gauge).
When Archbishop Cosmo Lang attempts to dismiss Lionel Logue as the King's speech therapist, he says that he found a "replacement English specialist with impeccable credentials." He overly stresses the word "English" in an apparent display of English elitism and as a snub to Logue's Australian background, but Archbishop Lang himself was Scottish.
Australian actor Guy Pearce has the distinction of appearing in consecutive Academy Award Best Picture winners: this film and the previous year's Best Picture winner, The Hurt Locker (2008). Max Glickman also worked on both pictures in the camera department.
Derek Jacobi previously portrayed a monarch who struggled with speech problems in the BBC TV miniseries I, Claudius (1976). Jacobi also played another stutterer, Alan Turing (an Allied genius in WWII), in the play/TV-movie Breaking the Code (1996). Jacobi also starred in Dead Again (1991), in which a character's stammer plays a role in the plot.
During their first meeting, Lionel shows Bertie a home phonograph recorder that he calls a "Silvertone." Silvertone was a brand name of the Sears-Roebuck department store and mail-order catalog company of Chicago, Illinois. Sears introduced the brand name for their wind-up phonographs in 1915, expanding it to include their radio, vacuum tube and radio battery lines in the mid-1920s. Sears renamed its musical instrument lines "Silvertone" in the 1930s, followed by their guitar amplifier lines in the late-1940s. The Silvertone brand name was retired in 1972.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Nine weeks before filming of the movie began, Lionel Logue's grandson, Mark Logue, discovered a large box in his attic that contained his grandfather's personal papers. The box held Lionel Logue's diary, his appointment book, notes from his speech therapy sessions with King George VI, and over 100 personal letters to Logue from the king. It also contained what is believed to be the actual copy of the speech used by George VI in his 1939 radio broadcast announcing the declaration of war with Germany (which he makes at the end of the film). Mark Logue turned his grandfather's papers, letters, and diary over to director Tom Hooper and screenwriter David Seidler, who used them to flesh out the relationship between Logue and the king. Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth also read through the material for insight into their characters. The exchange in the film between Logue and King George VI following his radio speech ("You still stammered on the 'W'." / "Well, I had to throw in a few so they knew it was me.") is taken directly from Logue's diary. Colin Firth insisted that it should be included in the film.