Lionel refuses to let Bertie smoke during their speech sessions, saying "sucking smoke into your lungs will kill you." King George VI died from complications of lung cancer on February 6, 1952, at age 56.
David Seidler stammered as a child, and heard George VI's wartime speech as a child. As an adult, he wrote the Queen Mother 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.
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. 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.
The role of King George VI was written with Paul Bettany in mind. Bettany declined 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.
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).
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.
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.
Helena Bonham Carter, as Duchess of York and Queen, is seen talking to Winston Churchill (Timothy Spall). Her grandmother, Violet Bonham Carter, was a good friend of Churchill's, and her great-grandfather was Prime Minister H.H. Asquith.
After the abdication, Edward and Wallis (now Duke 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 Elizabeth, the queen mother. She hated Wallis, blaming her for throwing Bertie 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 mother and his brother, Bertie. Both he and Wallis were allowed to be buried on a Royal Estate by special permission of Queen Elizabeth II.
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.
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.
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 HM George V, HM George VI, HM Queen Mary, and HM Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother), were gilt 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.
Australian actor Guy Pearce has the distinction of appearing in back-to-back 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.
Colin Firth won the Best Actor Academy Award (Oscar) for this movie on his second nomination. Firth was a consecutive back-to-back 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).
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.
The Kings of Great Britain are successively portrayed by an Irishman (Michael Gambon plays King George V), an Australian (Guy Pearce plays King Edward VIII) and an Englishman (Colin Firth plays King George VI).
The fascination of Geoffrey Rush's character with Shakespeare is noteworthy, as Rush himself played Shakespeare's friend in Shakespeare in Love (1998). Colin Firth also appeared in that movie, as Shakespeare's rival.
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."
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.
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 to his brother 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.
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.
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 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 Australia and New Zealand. The film makes use of both definitions: Logue was an Australian; and he is portrayed as a rogue character whose treatments go against conventional wisdom. The director played on Logue's Australian nationality and his unconventionality because he felt that the English have an aversion to therapy.
Derek Jacobi previously portrayed a ruler who struggled with speech problems in the BBC TV miniseries I, Claudius (1976). Jacobi also played Alan Turing on the West End, Broadway, and a television movie. Turing also had a stammer, and was an important figure in the Allied victory in World War II. Jacobi also starred in Dead Again (1991), in which he played a character that had a stammer as a child.